Today, in the second installment of a three-part series about the Eric Mangini era (2006-08), we’ll explore the Jets’ 2007 season. Image: AP
The Jets made two worthwhile selections in the 2007 NFL Draft. They chose CB Darrelle Revis with the 14th overall pick in the first round and LB David Harris 47th overall in the second round.
Harris continues to perform as part of Rex Ryan’s defense, and Revis is arguably the best CB in the NFL. After spending six seasons locking down the opponent’s top receiver for the Jets, Revis was traded to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers earlier this offseason.
Additionally, the Jets upgraded their running game. On March 6, Gang Green acquired RB Thomas Jones from the Chicago Bears. Jones had performed solidly during the Bears’ march to Super Bowl XLI. He attained 1210 rushing yards in 2006, the 11th most in the league.
Though New York qualified for the playoffs in 2006, the team was inefficient on the ground. Rotating RBs Leon Washington, Kevan Barlow, and Cedric Houston, the 2006 Jets ranked 30th in the NFL in yards-per-carry (3.5). Furthermore, Hall of Fame RB Curtis Martin missed the entire 2006 season with injury, and he officially retired prior to the 2007 campaign.
Week One: New England Patriots
The Jets opened the 2007 season with a home game against the New England Patriots. The Patriots, who had eliminated the Jets in the Wild Card round of the 2006 playoffs, had improved their roster during the offseason by acquiring the once-dominant WR Randy Moss from the Oakland Raiders.
The Patriots took a 14-7 lead on a five-yard TD strike from QB Tom Brady to TE Benjamin Watson 1:14 before halftime. The visitors then extended their edge to 21-7 when Ellis Hobbs returned the second half kickoff a record 108 yards to pay dirt. Hobbs’ record was broken just eight weeks later when then-Chargers CB Antonio Cromartie, returned a missed field goal 109 yards for a TD during a game at Minnesota.
Moss later reeled in his first TD of the season, and the Pats cruised to a 38-14 triumph.
To add injury to insult, the game marked the beginning of the end of QB Chad Pennington’s career with the Jets. The 2006 NFL Comeback Player of the Year injured his right ankle in the third period, and though he returned to lead a TD drive, he departed again. The fans at the Meadowlands cheered when backup QB Kellen Clemens entered the game. It was the beginning of a QB controversy that would last for the remainder of the season and beyond.
The decisive New England victory became a secondary story in the week following the contest. Jets’ Head Coach Eric Mangini notified NFL security to the fact that the Patriots were videotaping New York’s sidelines, a violation of league rules. This incident, which was given the moniker “Spygate,” was another episode in the feud between Mangini and his mentor, Patriots’ Head Coach Bill Belichick.
The severity of the Patriots’ actions, as well as the punishment these actions warranted, was widely debated in the media. Perhaps most importantly, the validity of New England’s success was called into question by some people, most notably legendary Miami Dolphins’ Coach Don Shula.
Regarding appropriate punishment, numerous options, including forcing the Patriots to forfeit their win over the Jets, were tossed around in the media. In the end, both Belichick and the Patriots’ organization received substantial fines, and the team was forced to forfeit its first round pick (31st overall) in the 2008 NFL Draft.
More '07 after the jump...
Week 2: At Baltimore Ravens
Clemens made his first NFL start the following Sunday at Baltimore. The game began poorly for the Jets, who trailed 20-3 when Ravens’ K Matt Stover drilled a 43-yard FG on the first play of the fourth quarter.
The Jets wouldn’t go quietly, however. After a Mike Nugent field goal brought Gang Green to within 20-6, Clemens finished off an 81-yard drive by firing a TD strike to TE Chris Baker with 3:17 remaining. Baker’s score cut Baltimore’s lead to 20-13.
The Jets’ defense then forced a prompt three-and-out to give the offense one more chance to tie the game. Clemens drove the Jets down the field, but the contest would end disappointingly.
The inability of the Jets’ receivers, namely WR Justin McCareins, to catch the ball killed the final drive. On the first play out of the two minute warning, McCareins dropped a sure TD. Then, with the Jets faced with a second-and-goal play with 1:10 remaining, McCareins tipped Clemens’ pass into the air, and LB Ray Lewis picked it off. Baltimore was then able to run out the clock for a 20-13 win.
On a side note, 2006 special teams stud Justin Miller suffered a season-ending knee injury in the Baltimore game.
Week 3: Miami Dolphins
With his team trying to avoid a 0-3 start, Pennington returned for the Jets’ ensuing contest, a home game against the Miami Dolphins. Pennington (15-22; 124 yards; 2 TDs) performed solidly, as did Jones (110 rushing yards). The Jets survived two late scores by Miami RB Ronnie Brown to earn their first victory of 2007, 31-28.
New York would complete a sweep of the season series against Miami with a 40-13 triumph in week 13. Under new Head Coach Cam Cameron, the Dolphins would finish the season with a league-worst 1-15 record.
The Jets didn’t build on the Miami win. Instead, they dropped their next six games to enter their bye week with a 1-8 record. The losing streak was disheartening because the Jets were close in nearly all of the six games—New York either lost by one score or held a double-digit lead in five of the contests. Regarding the blown leads, the Jets led 24-14 against the Giants, 23-10 at the Bengals, and 17-3 to the Redskins before falling.
The QB controversy also reared its ugly head during the stretch. Pennington was pulled during the string’s fifth game, a 13-3 home loss to Buffalo, in favor of Clemens. New York’s second round draft pick from 2006 was now the starting QB.
If there was one major bright spot during the skid, it was Leon Washington. The second year RB became the special teams force New York needed after the loss of Miller. Washington recorded two of his eventual league-leading three kickoff return TDs during the six-game skid.
Week 11: Pittsburgh Steelers
Coming off their bye week, the Jets earned only their second win of the season in week 11 against Pittsburgh.
As had been the case during the losing streak, the Jets took a double-figure edge. Clemens threw an early TD to Baker, before Nugent drilled a FG to afford the home team a 10-0 first quarter lead.
The Steelers rallied to take a 16-13 advantage, and the reeling Jets were backed up at their own 14-yard line with 2:23 remaining. Clemens, however, drove his team to the Pittsburgh 10, and Nugent hit on a 28-yard try to force OT.
In the extra session, Washington gave New York good field position by returning a punt 33 yards to the Steelers’ 26. Three plays later, the Jets clinched a 20-17 win on a 38-yard kick by Nugent.
Week 12: At Dallas Cowboys
The Jets followed up what was arguably their best performance of the season with a dreadful showing on Thanksgiving Day at Dallas. The offense struggled in the 34-3 defeat. Clemens only completed 12 of his 27 passes for 142 yards and an interception.
Week 17: Kansas City Chiefs
Gang Green’s disappointing season culminated with the team’s fourth victory, a 13-10 triumph in overtime over the Chiefs. Led by former Jets’ Head Coach Herman Edwards, Kansas City entered the game 4-11—the Chiefs were mired in an eight-game skid following a 4-3 start.
This contest can well be used to demonstrate the NFL’s parity. The Jets and Chiefs were the AFC’s Wild Card playoff teams in 2006, yet they both ended 2007 with 4-12 records.
This season finale marked the coaching return of Edwards to the Meadowlands—he left the Jets for Kansas City following the 2005 season. Because of the drama surrounding Edwards, NBC-TV originally scheduled Jets-Chiefs as the network’s final Sunday Night Football game of the season. However, as allowed for by the television contracts that commenced with the 2006 season, NBC later decided to air the Tennessee Titans at Indianapolis Colts game instead due to that game’s playoff ramifications; the Titans won, 16-10, to clinch a playoff spot..
In spite of some solid contributions from individual players, most notably Jones (1119 rushing yards) and Washington, the 2007 season was a disappointment for Gang Green.
The QB question was a disconcerting conundrum because Pennington appeared to be finished, and Clemens (3-5 record; 5 TDs, 10 Int) had been inconsistent. Things got worse for the organization when the Giants, the Jets’ crosstown rivals, won the Super Bowl.
The Jets had to find a way to substantially improve for 2008. For better or worse, they found a potential Hall of Fame answer to their problems awaiting in Green Bay.