One can only assume that while Eric Mangini may have inherited some of
his mentor's tertiary skills, such as post-season game preparation and homewrecking, it remains undetermined whether the young protege has fully cultivated them. Success in the NFL is hard enough, but to bust out of the gate at 10-6 in his first year, and with THE FUCKING JETS for Pete's sake, suggests that the primary and secondary lessons in Football Awesomeness from Bill Belichick were well-studied.
These resurgent Jets, were it not for post-Katrina Saints, would have been a lock for team of the year. Is this large-market franchise, with incompetence cascading down its hull like toilet water in a porcelain urinal, on the verge of a organizational renaissance? Or has the blind squirrel stumbled upon its acorn? Today's game should be a good indication of which stance leans closer to fact.
Throughout the campaign, Mangini has managed to believe in two things that virtually no one else could: heavy carbs after 7 pm and Chad Pennington. The latter won the Comeback Player of The Year award, which will be renamed in 2008 as the Ford Mustang One Sliver Of Partial Glory Among A Legacy Of Dog Shit And Broken Dreams award. Mangini's initial burst of Football Awesomeness was expected to be stifled with Pennington in the lineup, returning from off-season surgery on a rotator cuff that was already weaker than the elastic in Janet Jackson's bra strap. And yet the Jets won games, including 5 of their last 6.
Across the field from this garage-sale-quality signal caller stands the pride of the National Football League. The Technicolor Dreamboat, relatively fresh from being expelled from both the Pro Bowl and Bridget Moynahan's beaver, faces his first playoff game with a wide receiver corps with no postseason experience. Tom Brady is Tom Brady, the obese Caucasian pundits will say, while expecting the young'ns to show no signs of pressure as The Dreamy One launches touchdown after touchdown while The Autumn Wind Is A Pirate is filtered into the pressbox speakers.
But, as the cool kids quip, this is why they play the game.
Mangini will have his team ready to play today, that is, after enjoying one last Chicken Marsala with extra club sauce and napping to situational footage of the Patriots offense on 3rd-and-long. And when the smoke clears and post-game foolishness commences, look for revitalized exuberance and New Football Awesomeness to have conquered the team that's been there one too many times.
Jets 21, Patriots 20.