BY KEN BERGER STAFF WRITER January 16, 2006, 8:22 PM EST On the eighth day of their search for a new head coach, the Jets decided late this afternoon to offer the job to Patriots defensive coordinator Eric Mangini, a person with knowledge of the situation told Newsday. The team is expected to finalize details on a contract that is likely to make Mangini its next coach as early as Tuesday. Barring any contractual hang-ups, Mangini, who would become the youngest head coach in the NFL at 34, is likely to accept the job. "It looks like he will," said the person, who spoke only on the condition of anonymity. "It's about as likely as anything could be." The situation remains fluid and unfinished, the person cautioned, especially since the Jets finished interviewing their final candidate, former Vikings coach Mike Tice, at 4 p.m. this afternoon. "There's still things that would have to happen and details that would have to be worked on," the person said. "But my perception is that by tomorrow morning, the Jets will have a new coach." Their choice is Mangini, the Hartford, Conn., native who has spent 10 of his 11 years as an NFL assistant with Patriots coach Bill Belichick, including the 2005 season as his defensive coordinator. "It appears as if the job will be his and the club was in the process of putting an offer on the table today," the person said. A second person connected to the Jets' search confirmed that the Jets were leaning strongly toward Mangini, but did not have first-hand knowledge that an offer was made. General manager Terry Bradway and assistant GM Mike Tannenbaum did not immediately respond to calls seeking comment. Earlier in the evening, Bradway issued a statement through a team spokesman. "No other candidates are expected at this point," Bradway said. "At this point, we are going to huddle up and review our process to this point and decide what our next plan of action is." Bradway and Tannenbaum interviewed Mangini on Sunday in Massachusetts, dined in Providence, R.I., and returned to Long Island late last night to prepare for the final interview of the week-long search, with Tice, the former Vikings head coach from Central Islip. All along, team officials had set up interviews with Mangini and Tice on back-to-back days because they viewed them as the top two candidates. Their intuition was true, especially with Tice, who "knocked it out of the park," according the second person connected to the interview process. Tice's interview was so good, the person said, that it caused the Jets' hierarchy to reassess the situation late this afternoon. But in the end, there apparently wasn't enough to dissuade the team from taking a chance on Mangini, who will turn 35 Thursday and is viewed by the Jets' hierarchy as an up-and-coming version of Belichick.