Scott: So Dalbin, it appears the feel good 2017 season isn’t without its challenges. Despite young players coming along and effort seemingly at a level far greater than 2016, Todd Bowles has had his mettle tested quite a bit recently.
First, there was Robby Anderson begging for pro bowl votes. I have to be honest here – I wasn’t really bothered by that in any way. I understand it is considered immature and selfish, but as far as I’m aware, it wasn’t disruptive to the team in any way, so I am happy chalking it up to an overenthusiastic young player getting caught up in the moment. Bowles made a quick comment about it and then moved on, which makes sense to me. As a side note, Anderson was a UDFA who makes very little compared to most others on the team, so this is a rare case where a pro bowl selection really could mean something (possible bonuses for pro bowl and/or future negotiating leverage).
Darron Lee is a different story. The second year linebacker has unfortunately been a bit of a knucklehead at times, something you chronicled well in the offseason. Bowles was right to bench him for being late, because a message needed to be sent that this type of behavior will not be tolerated. It is like when a parent establishes harsh discipline at an early age – they want to make sure the child is well aware early of the consequences that await if mischief occurs, so as to discourage said mischief from ever happening.
Unfortunately, for Mo Wilkerson, it appears those lessons were never taught. Maybe Mo behaved in his first few years because he didn’t want to jeopardize his payday. Maybe he did act up and the team covered it up. But whatever the case is, it is clear now that Wilkerson has a mentor, and it is Darrell Revis, who also seemed to disappear not long after getting paid. Wilkerson has spent the past two seasons giving little to no effort on the field most of the time while simultaneously acting as if the rules do not apply to him when it comes to being on time for meetings. If you read “Collision Low Crossers,” the warning signs were there and that is why the former Temple star went late first round instead of top ten. He even admitted during combine interviews that he often didn’t try his best.
The Jets hoped they could break Wilkerson of that habit and it looked like they had Cormier the first few years. But I suppose a Leppard never truly changes it’s spots. If the Jets think they can get something – anything – for him in the offseason, then I guess they can justify hanging onto him. But I’d just as soon see him cut from the roster tomorrow to send a message to the rest of the young locker room, that nobody is above the team.
What do you make of all of this Dalbin? Do you think Bowles handled himself well with these three? How do you think he should handle Wilkerson going forward?
Dalbin: Scott, I actually would like to give Todd Bowles credit here, but I think he has been the model of inconsistency on this and this is ironically consistent with his entire coaching resume here with the Jets. He has struggled to set a consistent benchmark for his players in regard to discipline, and it is no wonder his players constantly run afoul of him and his staff.
Take the aforementioned No Wilkerson, Trapping Lee, and Flash Anderson for example. It comes out recently from Connor Hughes that Wilkerson has missed meetings more than five times this season. FIVE TIMES! What did Bowles do? Praise him in the media, and dock him one quarter. Meanwhile, Lee is late for practice and he gets a full game. However, when Lee was caught on camera in a pretty compromising situation over the summer he wasn’t suspended at all. Then, you have Anderson publicly asking for Pro Bowl votes on live teevsion, and no consequence again. I get the adage that they all can’t be choir boys, but it’s either you’re setting a tone for everyone or you’re letting the players run the locker room sort of speak. It can’t be both.
This is where a lot of my complaints for Bowles come in: the in-game stuff, in my opinion, will improve, but what about his handling of the lockerroom stuff? When IK Enemkapali assaulted Geno Smith, IK was cut right away. I agree that that’s a more egregious incident, but Wilkerson has continued to make Bowles (and by extension, Mike Maccagnan) fools for bringing him back.
Let’s switch to Maccagnan for a minute, because it is exhausting seeing him get off scotfree. The players we are mentioning are players drafted, signed, and re-signed by him. Do you have any concerns about Maccagnan’s penchant for ignoring red flags on players? With such an important offseason looming, do you feel comfortable with this duo being the guys leading the rebuild where structure is almost just as badly needed as talent?
Scott: Can’t argue with you at all on the inconsistency re:Wilkerson and Lee. With Lee, I suspect Bowles realized he made a mistake by doing nothing to him this offseason, so the Coach was attempting to rectify that now and let his former first round LB know that the time for fun and games is over. But only benching Wilkerson for a quarter – especially if Connor Hughes’ report is true – indicates a bit of a double standard. And to make matters worse, Wilkerson is a repeat offender, so punishing Lee much more harshly than Big Mo makes no sense. You are not wrong when you say Wilkerson has repeatedly made Bowles and Maccagnan look foolish. Macc may be on the hook for the decision to sign Wilkerson, but how the big man is disciplined falls squarely on Bowles and he failed big time here, if you ask me.
As for Anderson, again, I’m not really that concerned. What he did wasn’t a big deal, and Bowles addressed it publicly, letting it be known he didn’t like it. I think that’s enough for now, and if Anderson does anything on the level of Lee or Wilkerson that actually disrupts the team, then I’ll worry about whether or not Bowles is properly discipling him.
Lastly, you mention Macc ignoring red flags. I see that more in terms of whiffing on draft picks or paying the wrong players than character problems. Hackenberg was one giant red flag from a functional QB standpoint, but nobody ever questioned anything else about him. Revis was getting older but he was regarded as one of the hardest workers in the league, and despite sometimes giving a lackluster effort in college, Wilkerson had been a consummate pro when signed. You could say Macc shouldn’t have shelled out big money for a non-homerun pass rushing DL, but I don’t know of any major attitude issues before the big contract.
I suppose you could say Macc ignored the warning signs with Marshall, but the investment wasn’t all that big so I can live with it. I think overall, the trouble for Macc has been thinking too highly of players that weren’t impactful (Gilchrist, Cromartie), projecting wish-fulfillment onto certain players (Hack, Petty), and spending too much on guys who were getting older and/or played non-premium positions (Wilkerson, Revis). Macc should have a boatload of picks and cap space this season, so he will have the chance to prove he has learned from his mistakes.
Do you think he will? And do you see Bowles turning the corner by laying down the law with Lee, or is his handling of Wilkerson a tell tale sign of his inability to take charge at all times?
Dalbin: Yeah, Bowles has definitely dropped the ball with his inconsistency. I get that he is still learning, but what happens if he gets a QB like Baker Mayfield? Will he try to curb his personality? Mayfield strikes me as a QB Bowles would love, who plays with a chip on his shoulder just like Bowles did, but is Bowles disciplining these players because it is part of his personality or to win a media game and be praised? The inconsistency is startling.
I do worry, with Mayfield and the aforementioned Anderson, that Bowles may not be the coach to put the structure in place from a strictly locker room management standpoint. Anderson didn’t only have this incident: he was caught in, similar to Lee, an uncompromising situation over the summer as well and I worry that this isn’t just some WR-like diva with him. He, and the rest of the staff, need to know there is a line between being passionate and hurting your team. Anderson has, also, repeatedly shown up his QB when he isn’t thrown the ball: again, maybe not a big issue and maybe just a WR issue, but it’s concerning for me when it comes to Bowles that these things keep happening.
With Maccagnan, im talking strictly personality traits in regards to Lee, Anderson, and even Wilkerson now. It is concerning to see some of the young guys that should make up the foundation of the team going forward have such uncertain futures here (Anderson’s play probably makes him less likely to be on the chopping block).
It’s a good question. I’m actually not sure either of them will Scott, which brings me to my question to you. Do you think Bowles and Maccagnan are the rift guys to lead this rebuild? If not, who would be two guys for you to replace them?
Scott: That’s an interesting point re:Baker Mayfield. You have to wonder if Bowles would be comfortable with a QB who is do emotional while the coach himself is so reserved. It may be a moot point if the Jets sign Cousins or draft a different QB, but could Bowles handle Mayfield? I really don’t know.
Of course, that leads to your broader question, which was whether or not Bowles and Macc are the fight combination to handle the Jets rebuild. I’m honestly not sure. Macc’s draft record is inconsistent and the two QBs he picked don’t look like they will be panning out. Can the fanbase trust him to be the one to finally deliver the difference making QB the team has needed for years? I have my doubts. I also have my doubts as to whether a QB could properly develop under Bowles. You look at what Sean McVay has done with Jared Goff in LA and you see the importance of having the right Head Coach there to develop a young QB. Can make identify that guy and could Bowles coach him up? Not sure I’m confident in that.
I suspect both guys come back next year. But if they didn’t? I might try to lure Duke To in from Cincy (they are a mess now so he may be looking to get out) and a quality offensive play caller (maybe give Pat Shurmur a shot at redemption?).
Since I started all of this, I’ll let you finish it. What do you think…do you trust Macc to find a QB and Bowles to develop him? Should Macc and Bowles be back? And if not, sho would you hire?
Dalbin: Yeah, whether Bowles is the right guy for this rebuild and with a young QB from a personality standpoint is huge. It is why I think they go all-in with Kirk Cousins, and he’s the starting QB next year. I think Maccagnan is too stubborn to admit he made a mistake in drafting Hackenburg and, armed with a cache of cap space, he uses a lot of it to sign a QB and use the picks to build the rest of the team.
This would make whether I think they’re the right guys for the rebuild moot, because there’s no way either of them get fired if they’re giving out a 3 year big-money deal to Cousins. However, I’ll finish this with four scenarios;
1. They fire Bowles and Maccagnan and completely clean house; with a new staff in place, they may not have the patience that Bowles has inconsistently shown and they may decide to cut bait with whoever they deem a “problem child”, similar to McDermott and Beane in Buffalo. This means a young QB in the draft, most likely, and I would aim for Mat LeFleur (currently in San Francisco with Kyle Shanahan) and Eliot Wolf, Jr.
2. They fire Bowles and keep Maccagnan, in which case they can still hire LeFleur and spend on Cousins since LeFleur was on the staff that drafted Cousins in Washington.
3. They keep Bowles and Maccagnan, and draft a QB while letting him sit behind Josh McCown for 8 games or so until they feel he’s ready. This also buys them time, since no owner is going to want to cut bait on a young QB this soon.
4. They keep Bowles and fire Maccagnan, repeating the mistake they made when they fired Tannenbaum and kept Rex, and hire a GM like Lou Riddick who spends all the cap space like Maccagnan did, and then Bowles is extended cause the team actually makes the playoffs of a last place schedule and the talent brought in.
In the end, I think they’re both back and Kirk Cousins starts, because Maccagnan and Bowles are both too stubborn to correct their own mistakes and signings Cousins gives Maccagnan time to not cut Hackenburg.
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