New York Jets – Todd Bowles Already Making His Mark

Dan Marcus on the early impact of New York Jets Head Coach Todd Bowles

The NFL is a fickle temptress. The proverbial economic pie has become so big that owners are willing to swing that Black Monday Axe earlier in their quest to find their franchise’s Bill Parcells or (despite what happened Sunday), Bill Belichick. The stink of losing has become so great that most owners look to distance themselves as far as possible from the prior regime; If the former Head Coach was a defensive specialist, you can bet the next one will be an offensive guru; if the last Head Coach was a loud, boisterous braggart, then the next one will be serving the team and the fan base a healthy portion of humble pie.

So when Woody Johnson made the decision to part ways with his good friend, Rex Ryan, the man who brought swagger back to an organization and to the doorstep of the Super Bowl in his first two years, the feeling was that the organization would attempt to go in a different direction. Most Jets fans  assumed (or at least hoped) that the next “HC NYJ” would have an offensive background and know how to assess and develop talent on the side of the ball that had been neglected for so many years.

However, unlike previous Head Coaching searches the organization has conducted under Woody Johnson, the Florham Park think tank enlisted the help of actual football people instead of “white shoe” corporate head hunting firms. Thus, guided by the sage wisdom of football lifers, Charley Casserly and Ron Wolf, the Jets organization was saved from falling into the all-too-familiar trap of making the “reactionary” hire. No longer were the Jets trying to compete with their hated division rivals by picking the low-hanging fruit off of their coaching tree nor did they feel the need to wrest the back pages of the local tabloids from the Giants by hiring a “bigger than life” personality to serve as the de facto mascot.

This time around the only focus was to build a foundation for sustained success. Focus on building a winner from the ground up; no more half measures and hangers on who somehow were able to continue to collect a paycheck from One Jets Drive despite being a central figure in the demise of prior regimes.

In tapping Todd Bowles to be the guy, Woody Johnson and his football brain trust opted to go right to the source, the man who planted the seeds of success for their two biggest rivals, the NFL’s “Giving Tree”, Bill Parcells. In NFL circles, an endorsement from Parcells is equivalent to divine ordination and thus it was no surprise that Bowles, a disciple of the Big Tuna, was given the “keys to the kingdom.” However, because Rex the person (as opposed to Rex the coach) was such a hit with the fans and media alike, the mild mannered Bowles was left with sizable shoes to fill.

It was obvious right away that if nothing else, the Todd Bowles Jets were going to be a resilient bunch. I know our esteemed Editor In Chief went in depth about the alchemy that is trying to identify a “season-defining moment” but I would argue the moment that will come to define the 2015 New York Jets will be one that happened Week 1. Gang Green found themselves down 7-0. After getting the ball back with 11 minutes left in the second quarter, Ryan Fitzpatrick was intercepted on a criminally under thrown ball to Brandon Marshall and what happened next would set the tone for the rest of the season.

Instead of simply trying to tackle the defensive back and send the defense out of on the field for another series, Marshall fought for that ball like a man possessed, as if his life depended on it, and ripped out of the defenders hands, turning what would have been a costly turnover into a 1st and Goal that would set up the eventual game-tying score en route to a 31-10 drubbing.

Although we didn’t realize at the time, Marshall’s heads-up play has become a microcosm for this season and embodies what has become the signature of this Todd Bowles: unfailing resilience. There have been plenty of opportunities where this team could have folded in the face of adversity but much like Marshall, this team has refused to allow anyone to simply take the proverbial ball from their hands. What’s more, this Jets teams has taken on the personality of their coach, a quiet confidence and humility that has kept them from getting complacent.

Whether the team’s recent success is a function of superior coaching or a by-product of greater organizational stability that comes with a thorough house cleaning is still up for debate. But you would be hard-pressed to convince me that Rex Ryan would be capable of rallying this team and winning games the way this team has this year. Fifteen games isn’t an ideal sample size and some may argue that much of the “adversity” that this team has overcome was self-inflicted, a product of some flat starts and costly mistakes.

However, the big difference between a Rex Ryan-coached team and a Todd Bowles coached-team is that although Bowles teams have a tendency to start slow, they always find a to make a game of it whereas Ryan teams have games where they don’t show up at all, usually after a big win. Even in his two best seasons with the organization, Ryan’s Jet teams delivered some pretty memorable no-show clunkers in big spots, including a 45-3 debacle against New England.

Perhaps the one area where Bowles has distanced himself the most from Ryan, aside from his demeanor with the press, is his ability to coach and manage both sides of the football.  I am very curious as to the extent of Bowles’ involvement with the offense but the results are undeniable: Ryan Fitzpatrick is set to break the franchise single-season touchdown record, courtesy of Brandon Marshall setting all sorts of records of his own. We could be seeing the result of a perfect storm set in motion by Maccagnan’s decision to acquire a legitimate play-making receiver and a savvy veteran QB.

Bowles was confronted with adversity in regards to his offense almost immediately. Despite the fact that it was a moment that had the potential to reignite the “Jets Circus” narrative, perhaps the most important moment of this season was IK Enkempali’s infamous right hook to Geno Smith’s jaw. People may forget that at the time, Bowles was set on Smith the starter and given how hopeless he looked during his first two seasons with the team, who knows what kind of debacles would await.

Tongue in cheek jabs at Geno Smith aside, we are all left to wonder whether the tenor of this article would be dramatically different if it were not for Smith’s immaturity and Enkempali’s quick temper. Even in the face of such a potentially catastrophic event for a Rookie Head Coach with a dubious Quarterback situation, Bowles was able to handle the moment with poise.

Not only is this offense competent, it is arguably the best unit on this team. Ryan’s teams were so defense-centric that his offenses were built in such a way that they would be just good enough not to lose the game for the defense, a strategy we saw backfire time and again. So it’s pretty ironic that Ryan’s best unit on his disappointing Buffalo squad is his offense, which is probably more of a testament to how underwhelming his supposedly vaunted defense has been as opposed to an acknowledgment of the Bills offensive prowess.

Obviously the jury is still very much out on the young coach but one thing is for certain, with this turn-around highlighted by the win over the Patriots, Bowles has put his stamp on this team. It’s only fitting that the one obstacle standing in between him finishing off a potentially tenure-defining run that would end the Jets’ four-year playoff drought is a date with Rex Ryan. Everybody knows that nothing gets Rex more riled up than a good ole fashioned vendetta game. Maybe it’s fate or a cruel joke by the Football Gods but this will be a classic battle of wills: old vs. new, brashness vs. humility, style vs. substance; a game that represents not just a chance to make the playoffs but an opportunity create a legacy and prove once and for all that actions speak much louder than words.

Photo Credit: NewYorkJets.com

  • Dan in RI

    The Jets turnaround this season has been dramatic. That the drama has centered on the 100 yards between the goal lines, and not on the coaches or dumb things said by the players is the greatest testament to Todd Bowles steady demeanor. What a refreshing change from Rex.

  • GT

    Agreed. Jets under Bowles are a more disciplined, professional outfit. I grew weary of Rex’s showboat antics. Buffalo is finding out about the Two Rex’s: Rex the Showman ( very funny, entertaining ) and Rex The Coach ( not especially good. )

  • John C

    Ik’s KO aside, this Bowles’ team seems so much more controlled, focused and disciplined than any Rex team, that it is night and day difference. Yes, Breno and Brian W. and before him Colon (the Penalty Brothers), seem to have an inordinate percentage, overall the team plays cleanly and efficiently.

    This matchup was probably fated. If the Bills were still in it, it would be even more like a Hollywood film, but this is pretty close. With Rex and his ex-Jet coaches (and a couple players as well), and the Jets with Gailey and Fitz, the ex-Bills, this is like an incestuous Hatfield and McCoys. A Shakespearian soap opera of the highest order.

    I don’t mean to read too much into any thing as trivial as a football game 🙂 , but, I believe that if there is any hope that good will ever win over evil in this world, the JETS winning this game would be a start!! Rex’s sideline celebration, and “the old girlfriend wants me back” comments, after the first victory, must be avenged!! We did not get this far, with 5 straight wins, including OT wins over two rivals (that alone make the season a bit of a success), to lose now! The boastful braggart must be defeated, by the quietly confident. If there is a God, and if he wears a Jets jersey (which he should), the Jets (Good) will win out over the Bills (Evil)!!

  • Joey

    What is it with Jets coaches and first year success? Mangini, Rex, and now Bowles.

    Bowles deserves tremendous credit for keeping this team together after the IK/Geno incident, and after the stumble to 5-5. Nonehteless, the constant comparisons to Rex are annoying and ignorant. Yes, as the article indicated Rex’s teams put up stinkers…but so has Bowles’ teams (oakland, houston anyone?) Just last week we almost lost to a terrible Dallas team as well. We’ve also benefited from the easiest schedule in football and the best roster we’ve had since maybe 1998. Lets’ keep things in perspective…Bowles has done a great job but lets not canonize him just yet. Rex went 11-5 once too…and won 4 playoff games with lesser talent.

  • Joey

    From 2009-2014 Jets committed the 9th fewest penalties in football. Can we stop pretending we were so undisciplined under Rex and just enjoy the season?

  • Jeff

    The immediate success can always be attributed to a bottom shelf schedule against other terrible teams that should at least guarantee a rebound season. Also a new regime change and different perspective usually energizes the locker room.

    I also do see that you are correct in that we have no-showed for a few games (At least.) Though, I’m not surprised by the success we have considering the veteran roster we have at key positions- QB, DB, LB, WR, OL. Though its specifically the consistency at quarterback that has stabilized the team. Though I agree, Bowles still has a lot to prove, though he has shown us quite a bit already. Though he has shown us his mistakes (not kicking field goals against Buffalo that cost us the game)

  • John Hunter

    Annoying & Ignorant is a bit harsh especially coming from Rex’s #1 cheerleader. You sir Joey was the first and the last to rub the good old days of Sexy Rexy in our faces when Bowles was going through his rookie mistakes. Now that it’s clear as day who is the better HC, you want to downplay the comparison. Sorry Charlie, it’s Bowles Believers time to shine. Don’t be a sore loser, and accept the fact you was dead wrong.

  • John Hunter

    Notice how he said nothing about penalties? That’s your own bone to pick with. Rex is undisciplined himself, with his blabber mouth. Too many players has stepped up and told the truth about the undisciplined locker room Rex allows to run rampant. Your denial of this fact makes you look foolish.

  • GT

    Wins and losses matter most. Rex did well with a team he inherited from Eric Mangini. He deserves credit for that. After that two year run, the team was mediocre at best, awful at worst. His mouth routinely wrote checks his teams couldn’t cash. I give him one more year, and he’ll be gone in Buffalo.

  • Steve Sc

    Joey, guess who leads the league in penalties this season? None other than Rex and the undisciplined Bills. Where as the Jets are at number six in the league for the least penalized team. Coincidence? I think not. Coaching has a lot to do with it.

  • Joey

    The biggest change for the Jets was at GM and at personnel. We got rid of that bum Idzik and brought in some players. Smart Jets fans knew they could win with Rex, we’ve seen it before. but no coach is turning chicken shit into chicken salad. Fitzpatrick, Revis, Marshall, Skrine, Gilchrist, Carpenter, Cromartie, etc…all werent here last year. The talent level is night and day. You’re the one who continues to be dead wrong.

  • Joey

    spot on post Jeff. Bowles has done a good job but we havent had this consistency at QB in a long time and we’ve never had a talent like Marshall on offense. Throw in the acquisitions in the secondary and its easy to see why this team is better.

  • Joey

    Steve, guess who led the league in penalties last year? Is it coaching, or is it the players?

  • Joey

    The team became bad because Tannebaum traded away our draft picks. I actually don’t blame tannebaum for going for it, but it did leave us in a bad spot. I think Rex’s worst year was 2011….you have to make the playoffs after you’re 8-5. 2012, 2013, and 2014, Rex didn’t have the horses to make this into a playoff team.

    The “Rex inherited Mangini’s team” is always my favorite criticism of Rex because it’s so ignorant and baseless that Im left with a good laugh.

  • John Hunter

    If that’s your ammo to keep Bowles down and refusal to give him credit, then you’re not as smart as I thought. Just the mere fact Rex was handed the loaded roster he’s coaching now and still failed is pure evidence against the case you’ve failing to make since day 1. Even Rex bragged about the team he had at his disposal week 1. He convinced the so-called experts and obviously you they would actually be contenders. And they probably would’ve been if they had a decent freak’n HC!!!!!!!

    It’s no longer worth going back and forth with you on this because you’re obviously the annoying & ignorant one.

  • John Hunter

    The picture is much bigger than that of a consistent QB. How about the hire of a competent OC made by Bowles. How about the balls to cut Coples made by Bowles. How about the lack of loyalty to Geno made by Bowles. How about the ability to learn from his mistakes and manage the clock made by Bowles. How about keeping the team’s attitude even regardless the wins or losses made by Bowles. How about not making idiotic guarantees not made by Bowles. How about recognizing who needs to sit and who needs to play more made by Bowles. How leading the 53 men by example made by Bowles.

    I’m officially equipped to make you look foolish whenever you try to down Bowles and lift Rex.

  • GT

    Look at his current team. The Bills went 9-7 under Marrone last year. Jim Schwartz had that defense in the top five in the league. They completely shut down the Packers last year. That defense has crack talent everywhere; Mario Williams, Dareus, Kyle awilliams, Hughes. They even have a ROY candidate in Darby. Joey, that defense stinks. The reason the Bills hired Rex was they thought he could take a good team to the next level. Instead, he’s taken a good team and made it worse.

  • John Hunter

    100%

  • Joey

    The Bills were 9-7 because the patriots rested tom brady, etc. final game of the year. They were more of an 8-8 team against a last place schedule. They weren’t THAT good…their qb was ej manuel LOL. There is no excusing Rex for the defense he put on the field this year. For whatever reason the players did not buy in. But they were better offensively despite playing with mccoy and watkins for a few games…..go figure!

    We know at the very least Rex can coach defense. I mean, we had an average at best defense talent wise last year and even Rex made them into a respectable unit…finished 8th overall i believe. Rex will get rid of the players that need to go in buffalo and lets see if he turns the defense around.

  • Joey

    you’re spewing complete nonsense right now. You’re equipped with false convictions and complete lunacy. did you not forget we won 4 playoff games with Rex? FOUR. How many Jets coaches won 4 playoff games? Clearly when he had talented he did something right. Take your mic, and shove it you know where. You are just an ignorant football fan.

    Chan Gailey was certainly a nice hire and i agree that its fair to get on rex for his OC hires. NONETHELESS, when you add an elite WR like Marshall, and a competent QB who doesnt kill you with turnovers, the OC is going to look a lot better. Not many OC’s were going to do much with geno smith and a hobbled Eric Decker. I actually liked Marty M…he just had nothing to work with. You obviously keep leaving out the MASSIVE TALENT UPGRADE that Mikey Mac gave Bowles to make this team better.

  • John Hunter

    Lmao your nose is bleeding, left eye swollen, jaw broke, and you need assistance to stand up straight.

    The fight is over.

    And Still…….the heavy weight champion of the world…….John Hunter!!!!!!!

  • GT

    He’ll only get next year. I doubt the Bills ownership will tolerate another 7-9 or 8-8 season.

  • Joey
  • John Hunter

    Insecurities? LMAO about what? who? where? please enlighten me Sir Joey. You’re just too easy to slap around when it comes to your defense of Sexy Rexy. There is no defending that glorified DC disguised as a HC. You need to read my comments over and over again so you can learn something.

  • RONBO19

    Joey, Come on bro, did you read what you wrote before posting it? Hey, I’m in holiday mode in great spirits as our Jets prepare for the biggest game in years. But Bro, your initial praise for Bowels is immediately followed by a very predictably transparent “But” we all knew was coming. John Hunter’s comment to you is spot on and at this point the rest of us have moved on from Rex so why bring him up? Dude, I get you have a Jones or Bromance with the dude, but that ship has sailed so lets move on to more relevant discussions!
    Happy New Year Bro!

  • RONBO19

    Joey, Again, your vastly over rating the talent on our roster. Yes Marshall, Revis, Fitz and Carpenter have played well. But Skrine and Gilcrest have been marginal upgrades at best. Cromartie has been brutal so I don’t think you want to bring that name up! I know you don’t place any credence in it but PFF rates them both slightly below average. If Rex were here we would have seen Geno instead of Fitz and Coples would still be wasting everybody’s time masquerading as an OLB. And we would have probably lost at least three or four more games because instead of being the second least penalized team we are now we would be the second most penalized team that Rex’s Bills are now!

  • RONBO19

    I have no idea what point you were trying to make?

  • RONBO19

    Joey, Spot on? What the hell did he say? Made about as much sense as most of your Rex nonsense!

  • RONBO19

    Joey, Ron Jaworski over on ESPN did a nice piece on Chan Gailey’s excellent use of the limited talent on hand. Maximizing the O-line deficiencies by getting the ball out quickly and limiting the reads to that confuse the players which helps to avoid sacks.

  • RONBO19

    Joey, your posting a Manesh (confidential source (that I just made up) Mehta to be in your corner? That’s hysterical bro! He is probably the least respected Jet writer in history! Nobody gives a crap what he says or thinks! Hysterical bro! If your resorting to that to save your argument that’s pathetic!

  • RONBO19

    They were an 8-8 team that kicked the crap out of us the last three times Rex Coached us against them. They beat us by 80 points in those three games! This year, with Rex on their side they only beat us because Fitz played like he did much of his time in Buffalo throwing two picks and completing 44% of his throws Had he played even decently we would have won that game!

  • Joey

    We had practice squad players last year in the secondary!! Whether or not Skrine and/or Gilchrest have been good, they’re still tremendous upgrades! Cromartie has actually played well in recent weeks too! Again, he’s an upgrade over Darren Walls, that’s not really debatable.

    And newsflash- Macc and Bowles were ready to go with Geno too as a starter….thank god for IK!

  • Joey

    Happy New Year Bro! You can root against Rex and the Bills like I do, but your anger should be directed at slap dick Idzik and Tannenbaum! Rex is probably the 2nd or 3rd best coach in Jets history! Not sure why so many hate him now.

  • Joey

    Gailey’s been great! Not denying that. Just pointing out that Im not THAT surprised considering we added an All-Pro in Marshall and upgraded at QB. Last year we were running out Greg Salas and Jeremy Kerley!

  • Joey

    We didnt have a team last year! Worst QB in football, practice squad players in the secondary, lack of WR depth. Don’t be mad at Rex, blame IDZIK!!

  • John Hunter

    LMAO @ slap d!ck Idz!k

  • RONBO19

    John, I just wanted to wish you and your family a safe and Happy New Year! Yeah, you to Joey!

  • RONBO19

    Joey, No problem. There is some truth regarding Idzik and Tanny! Both of them were poor fits as GM’s.Fortunately there both in sunny Florida now so they are the Dolphins and Jag’s problems!
    Happy and safe New Year to you buddy!

  • John Hunter

    Likewise my friend!!

  • VonDarkmoor

    Could not agree more with you Joey. All the Rex hatred is unwarranted. Bowles has not shown that he is a better coach than Rex in any way shape or form considering the schedule and talent he had this year.

  • Joey

    Bowles and his team laid a complete egg today.