NFL notebook

Mangini feeling the heat

Associated Press / December 27, 2008
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Eric Mangini realizes he's not winning many popularity contests these days.

With the Jets struggling down the stretch and on the outside of the playoff picture, frustrated fans are flooding sports talk shows and message boards with heavy criticism of the coach.

"It's inherent with what we do," Mangini said yesterday. "I appreciate the fans' passion and interests. I get that.

"What I'm trying to do and what we're always trying to do is moving forward and beat the next opponent. That's what we focus on."

The next opponent, the Dolphins, could be the last for Mangini and his staff this season - or beyond. After a wild offseason spending spree, the acquisition of Brett Favre, and an impressive 8-3 start, a poor performance at home tomorrow and a second straight year not making the postseason would damage Mangini's chances of returning for a fourth year.

Owner Woody Johnson has not spoken publicly on Mangini's future. Mangini, who's 23-25 in his three seasons, said he has managed to insulate himself from the criticism.

"We'll assess things after the season," Mangini said. "We just focus on what's ahead of us."

Jones backs coaches

Cowboys owner Jerry Jones made it clear that Wade Phillips will be back as coach next season and Jason Garrett will remain in charge of the offense, regardless of whether the team makes the playoffs.

"I've said that our coaching staff, as far as I'm concerned, is in place," Jones said. "I just want to make the statement rather than answer questions, because your questions imply certain things that I don't want to imply.

"I'm saying that when I look at where we are coaching staff-wise and when I look at where we are personnel-wise, I see a team that is in place to compete for several years."

Phillips said quarterback Tony Romo seems to be over the midweek illness that caused him to miss a day of practice.

"I think he's feeling all right now," Phillips said. "He was maybe a little weak [Thursday], but he's doing a lot better. I think he'll be ready to go [tomorrow against Philadelphia]."

Mum on Martz
49ers interim coach Mike Singletary, who is widely expected to get the permanent job early next week, was noncommittal when asked if offensive coordinator Mike Martz would return to the team next season.

Singletary has been outspoken in his desire for a powerful, run-based offense, which probably runs counter to the pass-happy Martz's strengths. Singletary acknowledged he had spoken to Martz about the future, but didn't share what they had discussed.

"We've had too much of a distraction from it already this week," Singletary said.

Bears lose Brown
The Bears will be without one of their defensive leaders tomorrow against Houston, losing safety Mike Brown to a calf injury. Brown would also miss the playoffs should Chicago advance . . . Giants cornerback Aaron Ross will not play against Minnesota tomorrow because of a concussion, and at least four other starters are 50-50 for New York's regular-season finale: Tight end Kevin Boss (concussion, ankle) is doubtful and halfback Brandon Jacobs (knee), offensive tackle Kareem McKenzie (back), and defensive tackle Barry Cofield (knee) are questionable . . . Dolphins linebacker Channing Crowder expects to play against the Jets, despite a knee injury that limited his practice time this week . . . The Panthers could be without both starting defensive tackles against New Orleans tomorrow. Damione Lewis missed practice for a third straight day with a shoulder injury and is doubtful. Maake Kemoeatu practiced on a limited basis and is questionable with a sprained right ankle.

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