This is the second Bills/Jets matchup of the year, so as far as the interviews we usually run, we have a little shake-up. (OK, it wasn't by design - Jetfighter from NY Landing Strip decided that a vacation from the Jets was prudent given the team's struggles.) So this week, we got lucky - Brian Bassett from The Jets Blog, a very fine and frequently updated source for Jets rantings, was kind enough pinch-hit last minute this week. Here's the interview in its entirety (my questions in bold):
At 1-6 and with a young, talented QB in the fold, why do you think Eric Mangini has been so committed to keeping Chad Pennington in the lineup?
TJB: Honestly, and this sounds cheesy, but it cuts right to the core of what Mangini's whole mantra to his players is ... if you work hard - and then harder still - you will be successful. Pennington is one of the first players in and last to leave. He knows Brian Schottenheimer's ever expanding playbook inside and out and embodies everything Mangini preaches -- intelligence, toughness, work ethic, loyalty, etc.
Pennington is everything that Mangini wants in a player ... minus the few untimely interceptions. If it doesn't work for Pennington, who will it work for? Mangini is affording him every chance he can, but most fans hope that sooner or later they give Clemens a shot to see if he can lead this team down the road.
The Jets have been playing a lot of close games, but finding ways to lose those games in the fourth quarter. What's the biggest culprit for this trend?
TJB: In my mind there are two major reasons for this - the fact that the Jets cannot play a game consistently for four quarters and their inability to stop the run. The Jets might have a good half or series during games, but they can't keep doing it for the length of the game. Some of it is the players' focus, but I think some of it is a lack of creative playcalling as well.
As far as stopping the run, the Jets haven't been able to do it for years now, and it's just getting worse and worse. Without the right personnel to play the 3-4, the team is just getting run over time and again. Teams know this and play it to perfection in the second half of football games.
Looking at the Jets' schedule, this Bills game may be one of the last games your Jets are "supposed" to win for quite a while. Does that, in your mind, elevate the importance of Sunday's Bills game?
TJB: I knew there was no way the Jets were going to go to the playoffs this year, so not really. At this point the team is 1-6, and when the Jets lost to the Bills in their first game of the season I knew the season was over. More than anything, I want the Jets to win, but at this point you have to start thinking about next season and knowing who the core players are for next year. Also, if you can get guys like Marshawn Lynch and Paul Poz because of a little heartbreak, it seems worthwhile to me.
What's the latest on the Jonathan Vilma injury? How does his (potential) loss affect an already-struggling defense?
TJB: Nothing's been confirmed, and Mangini doesn't say anything about injuries, but don't expect to see him play this weekend. Word on the street is that he's been going for MRIs this week and the news isn't good. He'll probably be shut down for the season at some point soon. Vilma might not fit the 3-4 well, but he's been the signal caller for the defense going on four years now, he rarely misses a snap and his loss will be noticeable. At the least, it allows rookie David Harris to get some experience.
Prediction Time: who wins this game, and what's the final score?
TJB: I do think that the Jets will get their act together, at least this week at home. Bills 19 - Jets 17
A huge thanks goes out to Brian Bassett for granting us this last-minute interview. Be sure to head over to The Jets Blog to see the reciprocating interview.