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Is Eric Mangini ready to be an NFL head coach?

Eric Mangini was born to be a head coach. Forget his age (35 as of Thursday). He's wise beyond his years. Anyway, coaches have told me that you're never completely ready for your first job, whether you're 35 or 55. It's trial and error until you develop your system and organizational philosophy. Everything is in place for him to succeed with the Jets. One of his best friends is Jets capologist Mike Tannenbaum. He can hire Rob Ryan, whose contract expired in Oakland, as defensive coordinator. There's not much rebuilding to be done. Unless he's been promised the Patriots job in a year or two, taking this job would be a no-brainer.

Sure. Take Eagles head coach Andy Reid as an example. He's done OK for himself, but when he was hired in 1999, he had exactly zero years as an NFL coordinator on his resume. It's not so much holding the coordinator position as much as it is being an integral part of a successful system. Just as Reid was part of the successful Mike Holmgren coaching tree, Mangini has learned from one of the best coaches in the game, Bill Belichick. Ten years under Belichick has to count for something. While it won't necessarily make Mangini a great head coach, it certainly qualifies him as ready if the Jets offer him the job.

Why not Mangini? It's not as if he'll be following Amos Alonzo Stagg in Jetland. Other teams no doubt want to take a piece of the Patriots' magic; we saw it with Romeo Crennel and Charlie Weis getting head jobs last year. Same with Scott Pioli. None of us knows whether Mangini is ready, but a lot of guys who are supposed to be ready manage to fail in the NFL. This won't be the last time rivals try to harvest New England's brainpower. Think how much Patriots assistants would be in demand if they were allowed to speak.

It is impossible to know how effective any coach will be once he ascends to a head position in the NFL. Mangini is considered one of the brightest young minds in coaching, but his lack of experience running a full operation would complicate the job's inherent difficulties. So it might well be a bit too soon for him to take that step. Having said that, it should be noted that in 1969 a 32-year-old guy with no head coaching experience in the NFL or at a major college program named John Madden became head coach of the Oakland Raiders. In his first year, he went 12-1-1 and won a division title and Coach of the Year honors.

Without question, Eric Mangini isn't ready to be an NFL head coach. After one year leading a defense, he hasn't been in charge long enough to be ready to face the challenges a head coach does on a daily basis. Plus, he is such a good coach that taking his hands off, which is what will happen as a head coach, wouldn't be the best use of his skills. That said, ready or not, Mangini will do well as a head coach. It'll take him some time to get accustomed to the position, but he's a smart guy, he knows how to get effort from players, and he has had the best example of how to get it done by working next to Bill Belichick for so long.

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