Todd Bowles
(Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images)

New York Jets head coach Todd Bowles continuously coaches football in the NFL like it’s the defensive-minded decade of the 1980s.

Robby Sabo

The defensive-minded New York Giants led by Bill Parcells. The powerful Washington Redskins rushing attack led by the Hogs. The west coast San Francisco 49ers ballerinas whose grace was only surpassed by touchdowns.

Over three decades ago, NFL teams could, indeed, showcase and ride a specific identity. It was real. It was practiced. It was executed on a weekly basis despite the opponent.

Teams used to say this: we’re going to do what we do and we dare you to stop us.

That aspect of NFL football is dead. While identities exist on a much smaller scale, we’ll never run into another west-coast Bill Walsh squad. Instead, identities only hurt flexibility.

What teams try to be these days is exactly what the game plan calls upon and we have Bill Belichick and the NFL rules to thank. With Tom Brady, a legendary QB, Belichick was the first to truly incorporate the chameleon-style football club. If they had to run the ball, they would. If they were forced to pass the ball on every down, they would.

The identity of the Pats over the last decade and a half is whatever it’s supposed to be that particular week.

Todd Bowles just doesn’t understand.

We know what the New York Jets head man craves. He desires a defensive-first roster that runs the ball first on offense. Even if they did have the personnel to pull off this vision, it’s not the way championships are won during the year 2018.

Pass the Ball to Score, Run the Ball to Win

Against Minnesota and then against Chicago, the Jets ran the ball 24 times apiece. Against Minny, 71 yards were gained. In Chicago, just 57 yards were had. The yards-per-carry average turns out as 3.0 and 2.4, both awfulness that takes opportunity away from young Sam Darnold.

All that’s needed is to understand John Morton and Jeremy Bates.

A year ago, Morton’s offense finished 19th in the NFL with a YPC of 4.0. The team appropriately finished 17th in the league with 26.7 attempts per contest. This is right on the money as a team should finish similarly to where its efficiency lies.

Once Morton was ousted, quotes began to come out of Florham Park about the staff not being happy with how Morton gave up on the run too quickly.

Wait, what?

That’s right, Morton was ousted due to the idea he didn’t rush the ball enough. Enter Jeremy Bates, the man who’s seemingly carried the Todd Bowles conservative mindset on offense.

The Jets 4.1 YPC ranks 21st in the NFL right now. That’s to be expected. This O-line isn’t anything special. The issue is glaring, however, as the Jets rank 12th in the land in rushing attempts (26.9).

There is no circumstance for which running the ball that often with such average production is the right call. It forces one to believe Bowles doesn’t grasp the notion that rushing the ball is actually optional these days. It’s a means to end in terms of keeping the defensive off-balance rather than showcasing it as the end all, be all.

Twenty-three teams have thrown the ball more than the Jets. Think about that. For a 3-6 team that’s trailed much more than it’s led games, Sam Darnold throws far fewer times than the average NFL QB.

Imposing One's Will is a Thing of the Past

After the Bears loss and prior to the game in Miami, Todd Bowles challenged his offensive line, via Rich Cimini of ESPN New York.

After the porous 2.4 YPC outing in Chicago, Bowles got on his O-line. What was telling was the response via Kelvin Beachum.

Beachum said they have to get back to playing “our style” of football, which he defined as winning their double-team blocks on a consistent basis. He said, “We didn’t play up to our standard. We understand that. We know that we need a bounce-back game, and we’re tuned in to make sure we do that.”

If that’s their “style” of playing football, then, yes, the Jets are living in the 1980s.

Very rarely can a unit today impose its will against the other team. It’s a chess match. It’s a thinking man’s playcalling game. To believe this well-below-average offensive line is going to find a way to dominate the opposing front seven or eight due to a fiery speech is beyond nuts.

That stuff was done three decades ago, not today. Eli Manning won the Super Bowl with the league’s worst rushing attack. On occasion, Tom Brady replaces his rushing attack with a short, three-step passing game.

In what world would Todd Bowles ever give that a shot?

The Overall Conservative Mindset

Could you imagine Bowles pulling the trigger on the Philly Special in the Super Bowl as Doug Pederson did? Unlike a Pederson or Sean McVay, Bowles runs his sidelines and controls the game like it’s a 1988 NFL contest.

Down two possessions with two minutes left? Punt. His belief and reliance on his defense during a time in which no defense can thrive is a killer. It’s tough for defensive-minded football souls to enjoy life in today’s world. Quarterbacks aren’t touched and passing the ball is easier than kicking an extra point was (prior to that rule change).

Bowles struggles with the idea it’s a completely different game. Aggression wins and thi sman is anything but forceful in his overall team strategy.

Final Thoughts

Perhaps playing safety for the Washington Redskins during a three-title run left a head-coaching impression that cannot be shaken. With John Riggins early on in the decade and unknown Timmy Smith going for over 200 in Bowles’s lone Skins championship, perhaps an unshakable run-first style was born that long ago.

This isn’t to proclaim Sam Darnold is a hall of famer and the Jets roster is up to snuff. It’s not. In fact, it’s nowhere close.

It is disturbing, however, to see how few chances young Darnold receives on a weekly basis.

It’s that Todd Bowles mindset that hopes a three-yard run and a cloud of dust on first and second down sets up 3rd-and-manageables for the kid, thus making it easier. Instead, what’s happening is his weak O-line can’t even run it against a light box, setting up too many 3rd-and-longs, making it even rougher on the kid behind center.

What happens when attempting to establish a run-first identity is that a handicap a born. The offense suddenly doesn’t look to take what the defense gives them.

Until Mr. Todd Bowles figures that simple notion out for himself, this team will remain stuck in the decade of the 1980s, non-salary cap era and all.

Robby Sabo is a co-founder, CEO and credentialed New York Jets content creator for Jets X-Factor - Jet X, which includes Sabo's Sessions (in-depth film breakdowns) and Sabo with the Jets. Host: Underdog Jets Podcast with Wayne Chrebet and Sabo Radio. Member: Pro Football Writers of America. Coach: Port Jervis (NY) High School. Washed up strong safety and 400M runner. SEO: XL Media. Founder: Elite Sports NY - ESNY (Sold in 2020). SEO: XL Media. Email: robby.sabo[at]