Tom Petty was right. (Tom Petty’s always right.) The waiting is the hardest part.
I’ve been a part of these head-coaching waits when I was on the outside looking in (Little Anthony was right, too) as a Jets beatwriter from 1994-2006. But as a beatwriter, to be more accurate, the waiting wasn’t the only hard part.
The other equally difficult element of an NFL head-coaching search is going to sleep at night thinking you’ve got that day’s story nailed, then waking up the next morning to find you didn’t quite have it nailed, or someone else nailed it differently and perhaps better.
My first head-coaching watch I remember being an easy one. Then-Jets owner Leon Hess removed Pete Carroll as the Jets’ head coach after only one year. But there was no dog-and-pony interview process in early 1995. Hess knew who he wanted from the beginning and that was Richie Kotite, who Hess remembered "busted a gut" trying to get plays down from his coach’s box to the field when he was a Jets assistant.
Two years later Kotite "stepped aside" after his two Jets teams went a combined 4-28, and again there wasn’t much of coaching search intrigue. Hess, who as a kid used to go clamming on the shores of Asbury Park, N.J., knew what he had to do: reel in the Big Tuna.
But there was intrigue, and it had to do with the New England Patriots not wanting to let Bill Parcells go to their division rivals. This all led to some great NFL theater on Feb. 3, when Bill Belichick was introduced as the Jets’ new head coach alongside a microphone on the table next to him, which was connected telephonically to the team’s new consultant, Parcells, at a remote location.
Eight days later, Hess, Pats owner Bob Kraft and then-commissioner Paul Tagliabue hammered out the matter in a New York City office. The Jets gave up four draft picks, the Pats gave up any hold to Parcells.
Hess before he died went 1-for-3. He probably should’ve kept Carroll. Kotite didn’t work out. But Parcells was Parcells.
The BP era of Jets football was too short, three seasons. Then as Woody Johnson was about to come aboard as the new owner in early 2000, Parcells announced his retirement and was attempting to contractually turn the football controls over to Belichick. But BB had other designs than to become the H.C. of the N.Y.J. And the hunt was on again.
I recall writing, once Belichick resigned after one day as Jets head coach, that many good candidates were available, among them Marty Schottenheimer, Gary Kubiak and Jets assistants Dan Henning, Maurice Carthon and Al Groh.
Parcells listened to the new owner and decided to stay on as general manager for a year, and recommended to Johnson that it was time to Groh. So that coaching search didn’t take long.
But it was good for less than a year, until I broke the story in the days after the end of the 2000 season that Groh was leaving the Jets after one season to coach at the University of Virginia.
On to the next coaching search, this time with Terry Bradway as the Jets’ new GM. Bradway interviewed four candidates: Carthon, Ted Cottrell, Dom Capers and Herm Edwards. Even though the search was on for three weeks, Edwards was the frontrunner from the beginning, in part because of his previous relationship with Bradway in Kansas City and in part because of the incredible energy he brought to his first head-coaching job.
"I heard him on the radio while I was driving in my car,” wide receiver Wayne Chrebet said at the time. "He made me want to strap on my helmet, stop on the side of the road and start hitting things. It was a ‘Remember the Titans’ kind of motivational speech.”
Five years later, in early 2006, Edwards had moved on to Kansas City and Bradway and assistant GM Mike Tannenbaum began an ambitious search for a replacement. The list contained Jim Haslett, Mike Tice, Tim Lewis and Joe Vitt, along with Jets assistants Mike Westhoff, Mike Heimerdinger and Donnie Henderson.
But the frontrunner this time was Eric Mangini, who had decade-long ties with Tannenbaum, and so after another three weeks of interviews and dinners and discussions, Mangini took over the Green & White reins. And we had no coaching searches for three years. Until now.
This is the first one that I’ve been behind the scenes for, and no question the view from here is better. There are some things that the reporters have gotten right, some they’ve gotten wrong. I don’t have to be mixing it up in that arena anymore, especially since the arena has inexorably changed from an AM/PM news cycle into a 24/7 cycle, during which anything you’ve written about, blogged, said or thought is in danger of momentarily becoming yesterday’s news. I don’t envy my former brethren.
Everyone’s entitled to his or her opinion, but I can say that those criticizing the direction or completeness or rigor of this search are out in left field. You may agree or disagree with who’s been interviewed or not, but from what I’ve seen there is no question that Woody Johnson and Mike Tannenbaum want to win and want to find the right man to help them and the Jets do that and they have been thorough and diligent in attacking this task. "Under every rock" doesn’t just apply to players.
And SOJ? That acronym means nothing. As Paul Newman repeated several times in "The Verdict," turning tired repetition into a mantra: "There is no other case. This is the case." For Jets fans, consider that there is no other search. This is the search.
And perhaps in a few days, or two weeks and a few days, it will be over. And the Jets, with a new skipper at the helm, will sail into the future.
Reports: Rams Hire Spagnuolo
According to reports out of St.. Louis this afternoon, the Rams have hired Giants defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo to be their new head coach. Spagnuolo had interviewed twice with the Jets, most recently Tuesday with Johnson and Tannenbaum at Johnson’s Manhattan offices.
Tags: Bill Belichick, Bill Parcells, Eric Mangini, Herm Edwards, Leon Hess, Mike Tannenbaum, Pete Carroll, Terry Bradway, Woody Johnson
Posted in Randy Lange | 85 Comments »