It doesn’t take a brain surgeon to realize the New York Jets newly tight-running ship can be heavily attributed to who’s coaching the team.
By Robby Sabo
He’s quiet and unassuming. So much so, he can easily blend into a crowd like nobody’s business. If you don’t pay attention, you’ll miss him walk by completely.
He’s New York Jets rookie head coach Todd Bowles.
Bowles demonstrates the characteristics many would thumb their nose at as it relates to running an NFL franchise. He doesn’t light up a room; doesn’t always seem to be in complete command; isn’t a locker-room rah-rah type guy; and doesn’t pump-up the volume on the skill-set of each of his players.
Perhaps this is why Bowles hasn’t received a head coaching job until now, at the ripe-old age of 51.
However, it now seems those perceived negative coaching characteristics are either meaningless or intentionally manufactured after his Jets beat-down Andrew Luck and the Indianapolis Colts on Monday Night Football in improving to a perfect 2-0 on the 2015 season.
— NFL (@NFL) September 20, 2015
With the help of general manager Mike Maccagnan, Bowles has come to this franchise and completely turned it on its head.
In 16 games during the 2014 season, the Jets defense forced a total of 13 turnovers. In two games this year, the turnover total sits at an obscene 10.
Bowles’s defensive concepts and willingness to not hide the quarterback position is what’s been so fresh for Jets fans.
If it’s true that an organization should always look for a contrasting style coach to succeed a departing one, then Woody Johnson might have taken the award home for starkest contrast. From Rex Ryan to Bowles there couldn’t be more of a difference.
We already know the Rex/Jets story. Coming in as a fresh face in 2009, he took a very good personnel grouping built by Mike Tannenbaum and Eric Mangini to two-straight AFC Championship games. He did it his way – thumping his chest, pumping his players, and making wild predictions across every known media outlet in the nation.
Don’t be confused though, Rex Ryan has a method to his madness. The only problem is this method led to a complete downward trend, not an upward climb.
When new regimes come on board the arrow needs to continue to point up as experience is acquired. Once Ryan was allowed at the big-boy table with Tannenbaum and the scouts, the personnel slowly faded to slip. This happened even before the unjustified hiring of John Idzik.
By the time 2014 was over, the noise Ryan created was still there, but the wins weren’t.
Granted, Bowles has much more to work with in 2015. The re-acquisitions of Darrelle Revis and Antonio Cromartie give him a leg up immediately. Buster Skrine, Marcus Gilchrist, Leonard Williams, Brandon Marshall, and even Ryan Fitzpatrick add much to the pot as well.
Still, something feels different about being a Jets fan today as compared to last September. They seem to have all of their ducks in a row. They seem to be controlled. They seem to be adults (minus the Geno Smith/IK Enemkpali locker-room incident).
First and foremost, Bowles doesn’t place a huge target on his team’s back like Rex did.
While Ryan laid his chips on the table without thinking about the negative consequences, Bowles does. When Cromartie got mixed up with a little social media non-sense with Kellen Winslow Jr. in June, Bowles didn’t overreact. He simply told the media – in his cool, calm demeanor – that he and Cro spoke about it, via Darryl Slater of NJ.com.
“Me and Cro talked about it,” Bowles said. “I don’t know what happened today, about the Kellen Winslow thing. I’m not on Twitter, Facebook or any of those things. We talked about it . We’re just trying to focus on the team. We didn’t win last year, and there’s really nothing to talk about, other than us getting better. All the other outside stuff, we don’t worry about.”
Rex’s policy was always one which allowed his players to say, well, whatever they wanted. He felt it was OK to talk the talk, as long as you could walk the walk.
What Ryan didn’t factor in was the extra incentive teams place on meeting and greeting the Jets on those Sundays. It added extra, unneeded pressure.
This applies when speaking directly to the media as well.
Ryan routinely predicted Super Bowl championships. While he felt it raised the level of play for many of his players, did he take into account the other 31 coaches who laughed aloud and used those quotes as bulletin board material?
Whenever Bowles was asked about the Jets prospects heading into the 2015 season, he’d simply respond with a “first-step” type of attitude – crawling before you can walk; walking before you can run.
This is not to take anything away from Ryan’s incredible mind for defensive football. For six seasons as Jets head coach his defensive unit ranked 11th or better in all six seasons. This included 2009 when his defensive was tops in the land; 2010 when they finished third; and last season when they finished sixth with an absolutely dreadful secondary.
His defensive genius cannot be argued. What can be argued, however, is how limited he actually is as a head coach.
Perfect case and point came in last night’s win against the Colts. With three minutes and change remaining in the game and the Jets holding a 17-7 lead, Fitzpatrick lined up in an empty set with five-wide on a 3rd and 6. He proceeded to complete an intermediate pass for a first down.
There is no chance in the world Rex Ryan would ever allow his offense to throw the ball in that situation. Instead, he’d force another run up against a loaded box, punt the ball away, and put the game on his defense.
While that strategy would work more often than not, it also puts the moment on the defense when it’s not necessary. The more you can balance your units in those situations, the better.
Bowles – a defensive guy who actually played in the league and won a Super Bowl with the Washington Redskins – understands the game on a broader scale. He knew Fitzpatrick could easily get the job done on that 3rd and 6 against a banged up and pathetic Colts secondary.
Bowles doesn’t just think defense like Rex, he thinks management of the entire situation.
During the postgame press conference Ryan would routinely utter game stats ad nauseam. Going directly to the defensive stats, it was almost like Ryan gleamed and glistened when speaking about his baby, the defense, while the offense was only getting in the way.
Preaching “no turnovers” probably became a detriment to his quarterbacks. They feared the turnover so much that they weren’t allowed to play comfortable and let it fly on occasion.
Nobody should play that way, especially the quarterback in a league that promotes passing to such an extensive level.
In any event, you see the Rex Ryan effect taking hold in Buffalo right now. The city is eating him up with a spoon.
All of his showmanship skills are out in full force. Whether it’s making his city entrance in a truck, or eating dog treats for a great cause, or drinking beers with Jim Kelly, Ryan’s marketability has given Bills ownership a new lease on life.
The only problem is he’s not the complete coach Bowles already looks to be.
While it’s only two games for the new Jets head-man, and we don’t want to throw ticker-tape parades just yet, you have to love what you’ve seen so far.
There hasn’t been any stupid penalties. Clock management has been on point. The sidelines have been run very efficiently. Even pre-snap penalties and substitution issues have been non-existent (something the Rex Jets struggled with mightily).
Yes Jets fans, it looks like you finally have real deal leading your team – Todd Bowles, the silent assassin.
NEXT: Jets Make Statement Against Colts