Back in April, longtime Jets center Nick Mangold took out a full-page ad in the New York Post to honor his close friend, former left tackle D’Brickashaw Ferguson on the day of his retirement. Mangold, one of the most accomplished centers in the NFL and one of the all-time Jets greats, may soon get his own ad in the paper as he was placed on the injured reserve last Thursday, putting his future with the organization in doubt and ending what has been an injury-plagued campaign having played in just eight games.
Mangold, a late first-round pick in 2006, has been the bedrock in the middle of the Jets offensive line for over a decade, but he isn’t getting any younger and he’s slated to make $6.1 million in 2017 with a $9.1 million cap hit. The Jets likely will try to get younger in the offseason and none of that money is guaranteed, which is why general manager Mike Maccagnan likely will part ways with the franchise stalwart after the season. The soon-to-be 33-year old could opt to retire rather than trying to play for another team. But Mangold doesn’t sound like a man ready to walk away.
“If anything, it makes me want to play more so I can keep going,” Mangold recently told reporters while nursing his injured ankle. “I miss being out there. It’s probably going to want to make me linger on more than my body wants me to. It [reminds] you this game can be gone at any moment, so you’ve got to enjoy the time you’re out there.”
The Jets offensive line has already been in transition with Ferguson retiring during the offseason. While Ferguson walked away from the game on his own terms, Mangold hasn’t shown many signs of decay in recent years. In his 11th season, Mangold continued to play at a high level. He is not the top center in the league anymore, but when healthy still resides close to the top.
Prior to this season, Mangold was one of the league’s ironmen, having missed only four games in his first ten seasons. He missed two games in the 2011 season and one each in 2014 and 2015. In the very few games that Mangold has been forced to miss, the Jets have struggled in particular. He was a Pro-Bowler last season and Pro Football Focus rated him the No. 1 center in the NFL in 2014. From 2007-2011, Mangold rated second, first, first, second, and second among centers, according to PFF.
There is no question that Mangold will go down as one of the Jets’ best offensive linemen ever and his place in the Jets Ring of Honor is already assured, but could the Centerville, Ohio, native also wind up in the Hall of Fame? It’s a rare event for a center to get in, and the ones who are in have had some postseason accolades as well. There have been eight modern-era pure centers selected into the Hall of and it’s rather odd that so few centers make it to Canton, considering how important that position is.
The list includes Dermontti Dawson, Frank Gatski, Jim Langer, Jim Otto, Jim Ringo, Dwight Stephenson Mike Webster and Mick Tingelhoff, who was inducted in 2015 after 32-years on the ballot. Dawson’s final season was 2000 and Webster’s was 1990, All of the other full-time center inductees retired before that.
Mangold has played in seven Pro Bowls (only four centers have ever been to more), and twice he was named to the All-Pro team. The seventh selection broke a tie with Kevin Mawae for the most Pro Bowl trips for any Jets center and is one shy of tackle Winston Hill’s franchise record of eight-all star games, although four of Hill’s appearances came when the Jets were still in the AFL. Mangold’s seven Pro Bowl appearances are two more than Stephenson and as many as Dawson.
However, Hall of Fame centers generally have at least four first-team All-Pro selections and there are 15 Hall of Fame-eligible players who have debuted since the AFL-NFL merger and made at least seven Pro Bowls without being selected for the Hall. Seven of those 15 players are offensive linemen. So Mangold would probably need one or two more strong seasons to safely pave his path into Canton.
Either way, Mangold has nearly universally been recognized as one of, if not the, best center in football over the past decade. To me, if someone is considered one of the best at their position in a generation, and that position is essentially the captain of a unit responsible for protecting the most important asset in the entire organization, that person should be considered worthy of enshrinement. But with Mawae struggling to get the voters support, don’t expect Mangold to make it.
Since 1998, all Jets fans have known under center are Mawae and Mangold. You can’t get much better than that. While Mawae finished career in a Titans uniform, seeing Mangold end his career in a different jersey would be a strange sight. But it happens. Larry Allen finished his days in San Francisco. Orlando Pace wrapped up his career as a Bear. And Jeff Saturday snapped his last football as a Packer.
Mangold has delivered snaps to Pennington and Favre, Sanchez and Vick, Tebow and Fitzpatrick, McElroy and Geno, Mark Brunell and Matt Simms, Kellen Clemens and Bryce Petty. Through it all, the one true thing that has endured is Mangold, who has survived Mangini, Rex and Bowles and 8 different starting quarterbacks. His time in New York may be coming to a close, but his place in Jets’ history is already cemented.