New York Jets: It’s time to give Todd Bowles another shot at head coaching

If the NFL is going to continue to hire retreads, former New York Jets boss Todd Bowles undoubtedly deserves another opportunity.

The NFL is full of unusual phenomena. For example, fans rue the creation of the fumble/touchback rule seen in Sunday’s AFC Divisional playoff action. A team based in the Dallas-Fort Worth metroplex partakes in the NFC East competition.

But perhaps the NFL’s most bizarre trend is trying to force a square peg into a round hole and trying to make the same few names work in different places.

The New York Jets recently went through this trend with Adam Gase, hiring him in 2019 after a modest tenure with Miami. Despite Gase’s losing record (23-25 and one forgettable playoff appearance) and a propensity for his pupils to succeed elsewhere (Ryan Tannehill, Kenyan Drake), the Jets were convinced that he was the missing ingredient and perfect overseer of Sam Darnold’s developmental years. Two years and nine wins later, Gase is gone and the Jets are in even more dire straits.

This time around, the Jets opted for a fresh face in former San Francisco 49ers defensive coordinator Robert Saleh, whose hiring was announced last week. But while they opted for a new face, some of their NFL brethren didn’t seem to get the message. Jason Garrett rewrote the definition of football mediocrity in Dallas but that didn’t stop the Los Angeles Chargers from granting him an interview. Before Saleh’s hire, the Jets interviewed Marvin Lewis, owner of the most inexplicable 16-year head coaching tenure in NFL history. The Dallas Cowboys gave Mike McCarthy control of their future after the former Packers foreman reached a mere single Super Bowl with Aaron Rodgers in tow. Though the concept appears to be slowly dying off, it’s particularly frustrating to see some claim that Eric Bieniemy doesn’t “interview well” while Bill O’Brien did. Sure, sometimes a change in the narrative is possible, but for every Pete Carroll, there are multiple Hue Jacksons.

If the retread trend is going to continue, those who deserve redemption should get another shot. Former Jets boss Todd Bowles has more than earned the right. The owner of a Super Bowl ring from his endeavors with Washington, Bowles is now a win away from earning a return trip as the defensive coordinator of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. His unit will have their work cut out for them as they face Aaron Rodgers and the Green Bay Packers in Sunday’s NFC title game (3:05 p.m. ET, Fox).

Obviously, Bowles’ next head coaching opportunity won’t come in a New York reunion, but rumors have surfaced that he will interview for the Philadelphia Eagles’ vacancy this week. Like Saleh, Bowles’ modern hiring was a risk with the Jets back in 2015 and it’s a risk today with the modern NFL’s worship of a deity known as fantasy football. But in this world where the “over” is routinely hit and goal-to-go situations can be created through merely breathing on a receiver, Bowles is doing anything he can to prove that defense still wins championships. So far, he’s succeeding.

Tampa Bay’s late surge, winners of six in a row after health protocols, has coincided with Bowles’ defense coming up with big plays. They’ve forced multiple turnovers in three of their last four games and have let up less than 300 passing yards in each of that quartet. The magnum opus was Sunday’s NFL Divisional playoff tilt in New Orleans, when the Buccaneers forced four game-changing turnovers in a 30-20 win. In a game headlined by Drew Brees and Tom Brady, Bowles made sure that the true difference-makers were Devin White and Antonie Winfield Jr.

Those four steals perhaps weren’t even the most impressive turnovers of the evening, but rather the growth that Bowles’ unit made from their last tilt with New Orleans. In a nationally televised visit to Cigar City, the Saints tallied 38 points and 420 yards in a one-sided victory. Tampa Bay let up only 294 yards and 20 points on Sunday, with two of the New Orleans scoring drives netting less than 50 yards.

“I think the No. 1 thing is (that) Todd Bowles said we were going to be feisty,” White, he of 11 tackles, an interception, and the recovery of Winfield’s forced fumble on Sunday, said in a report from Rick Stroud of the Tampa Bay Times. “We were going to challenge those guys. He’s said he’s going to take us over them. I know we might be young, but we can get after it when we get our mindset to it. Everybody was saying, where’s the Tampa Bay defense from the Green Bay game? We were really feisty and challenging them at the line of scrimmage and really getting after the quarterback, and we had the same mentality.”

White’s reference to Tampa’s conference title game opponent stemmed from a stellar showing at home back in October. Tampa defenders earned five sacks of Rodgers and limited Green Bay to 201 yards in a 38-10 blowout victory.

Bowles’ success in his Tampa Bay role, having joined Bruce Arians’ staff in 2019, could well be a case of being a brilliant coordinator whose skills as a head coach fall short. We’ve seen it throughout recent history in examples like Steve Spagnuolo, Wade Phillips, and Josh McDaniels, among others. After their respective rough patches at the helm, they have each established themselves as championship coordinators, and there’s no shame in that. But for his role in shutting down some of the more potent offenses in football, a task rendered brutal by the love of offense in today’s league, Bowles deserves a chance to prove he can go beyond coordination.

If Bowles’ on-field performance isn’t an indicator of why he’s so worthy of a second chance, it’s the love his players have bestowed upon him. If a team is looking for a new head coach, it usually means there are some raw feelings flowing through the organization. A unifier like Bowles could be just the antidote to quell these feelings, if only for a short while.

Sure, Bowles’ tenure seems only sweet in the lens of a New York retrospect because the Gase era was so brutal. The Jets went 24-40 in four seasons under his supervision and even the one season of progress…his 2015 debut…is remembered best for one of the most heartwrenching memories in recent New York memory, the ugly Week 17 loss in Buffalo that cost the team a rare playoff spot. But there was no denying that Bowles was beloved by his players, who lauded him with accolades upon receiving news of his exit.

“I hate to see the news,” linebacker Avery Williamson, traded to Pittsburgh in 2020, said in the aftermath. “He’s a great person, great coach. I feel like he definitely helped get my game up to another level this year. He definitely taught me a whole lot of plays.”

Compared to the de facto restrained jubilation in the wake of Gase’s departure, Bowles’ ousting a solemn occasion in New York. The firing was flipping to a new chapter that no one wanted to turn to.

“To come up short and to hear the news that Coach Bowles wasn’t going to be here anymore, it (stinks),” quarterback Sam Darnold added. “I think Coach Bowles, his type of leadership, he showed me that you can just be you and people will respect that. as long as you come in and be the same person day in and day out. He showed me how to lead and that it’s possible to lead that way.”

Much as we, the football-loving public, will continue to turn to the NFL to get our professional fix, it will continue to do things and make moves that shock and perplex us. The powers that be should make sure that Todd Bowles being denied a second opportunity at head coaching, one granted to countless others, isn’t one.

Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags

BREAKING: Jets’ Steve McLendon traded to Tampa Bay

Steve McLendon has been a quality veteran piece for the New York Jets since 2016. Coming over from Pittsburgh, he had decently high expectations. Ranked by PFF as one of the most efficient nose tackles in the game, the Jets were looking to gain a reliable piece upfront.

Since then, McClendon has provided that and then some on the field, McClendon has been a formidable piece for the squad. With his last season totaling up 36 tackles, seven QB hits, 10 TFL’s, 2.5 sacks, and a fumble recovery. Not only that, but McClendon has not missed a game since 2017. McClendon is also a vocal leader and someone, the coaching staff, has been immensely complimentary of.

Per Jim Stroud, McLendon has been traded to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, where he reunites with former Jets had Coach Todd Bowles. In his last season with Bowles, McClendon had 3.5 sacks, 7TFL’s, a forced fumble, and 28 tackles. McClendon adds a veteran presents upfront to an already stout buccaneer defense.

As for the Jets, this is a sign of full-on rebuild mode. After releasing an offense of leader and playmaker and Le’Veon Bell earlier this week, they now followed it up by trading away a defensive captain in an eye-opening move. With the deadline just a few days away, you’d have to wonder if this is a signal of more to come. With the bulk of the Jets’ top players on short term deals and the team now sitting at 0-6, it would make more sense than not to begin the deconstruction now.

In terms of compensation, the Jets will send a 2023 7th Round selection along with him in order to gain a 2022 6th rounder. At 34 years old, yes, he does provide value, but he was likely not going to fetch anything more than a late rounder. Still, the Jets were able to shed cap, provide young guys opportunities to step up, and earn a role in the future, while also giving McClendon a much-deserved opportunity on a contender.

New York Jets Position Group Grades: Defensive Line

New York Jets, Quinnen Williams

As the season looms, I decided to take a deep dive into each New York Jets position group within the organization and grade each group. Today’s group is one that is full of talent from top to bottom. From vets to high potential young pieces, this group is not about the individuals but rather the collective unit itself. Gregg Williams is a mastermind in defensive line rotations, and that showed last season. With one of the top rushing defenses in all of football, this group will be graded as a unit rather than as individual pieces. So without further ado, let’s take a closer look at the defensive line.

The Starters: Steve McLendon (NT), Henry Anderson & Quinnen Williams

The New York Jets have one key leader up front. Steve McLendon has been a consistent captain and leader in the Jets locker room. His presence is felt on the field as a run stuffer and a consistent force up the middle. He’s one of the most consistent nose tackles in the league, and I expect that to continue this season. Henry Anderson had a breakout season after being acquired from the Colts two years ago. Now, this could very well be his last season donning the green and white. Last season was a quiet year for Anderson, and if he can’t establish more of a presence, he will have a lessened role quickly. Quinnen Williams is the key x-factor of this front seven as a whole. Williams is no longer the baby he was in his first year. Williams looks more athletic and sounds more confident. He had a great camp, and I’m expecting a breakout year from the former 3rd overall selection.

Backups: John Franklin-Myers, Folorunso Fatukasi, Nathan Shepherd, Kyle Phillips, and Jordan Willis.

This group is one that is crucial to the defensive line’s success as a whole. All five guys are expected to play a role in the rotation immediately. Myers had an impressive camp and earned a roster spot, so it’ll be intriguing to see what kind of role he has early. Fatukasi and Phillips are two starting-caliber linemen who had phenomenal years last year. Both men established themselves as two of the most talented young pieces on the defense. Fatukasi is the likely successor to McLendon and Phillips to Anderson. Both guys will look to continue their success in 2020. Shepherd was a highly touted selection from Canada during the former regime’s run. Todd Bowles could never really find a role with him, but the same can’t be said about Williams. Shepherd has role fairly quickly as a rotational end, and I expect him to continue to grow in that spot in 2020. Willis is in a similar spot to Phillips last year, where he will need a strong season to earn a spot in the rotation, but that’s entirely plausible.

Grade: A

As I’ve said, individually, I’m not going to rave about any one piece of the puzzle. When put together, though, with the magic of Williams, this unit is incredibly talented. I fully expect them to take a step forward this year with growth from Quinnen, Fatukasi, and Phillips. I ultimately believe those three will be the key pieces of this line for the next few years. I’m excited for this group, and I’m glad that this is the one group I’ll probably give an A to of all the groups in New York.

Why The New York Jets Should Keep Head Coach Todd Bowles

Todd Bowles has been on the hot seat this season, and for good reason. The New York Jets are 3-8 and the Messiah at quarterback has been walking around practice in a boot for the past few weeks. A good head coach will always take the blame for a team’s failures, and is credited when the team has success. Unfortunately for Bowles, with a record of 23-36 as coach of the Jets, he deserves a lot of blame.

There’s Plenty of Blame to Go Around For The New York Jets:

Despite his lack of success, Todd Bowles should not be fired. Not immediately, anyway. The Jets should whether the storm with Bowles for the rest of the season. I am never a fan of changing head coaches in the middle of the season, excluding egregious cases e.g. the Cleveland Browns. It leaves the organization lacking leadership and rarely does it do much to improve the overall trajectory of the season.

While Bowles is supposed to be a great defensive mind, the results on the field are nowhere to be found. The Jets are currently allowing the 19th most points-per-game, and 21st most yards-per-game this season. With all of the first-round picks and millions of dollars spent on that side of the ball, those statistics are unacceptable.

So Why Not Fire Him Now?

The case for keeping Bowles until December 31st is simple. Who are you going to replace him with in the interim? Unfortunately, the way the league works amounts to the necessity of promoting from within. While the league is suited for offensive minded head coaches to have success, Jeremy Bates is not up to the job.

Did those defensive rankings sound bad? Well the offensive rankings are worse. The Jets are 26th in points-scored and 29th in yards-per-game. They are 29th in passing yards, and 22nd in rushing yards. We can attribute the lack of yards through the air to the combination of a rookie and journeyman at quarterback.

The lack of a rushing attack is unexplainable. Yes, Bilal Powell went down with a gruesome injury in week 7. However, Elijah McGuire has shown promise and Isaiah Crowell has been a consistently productive back for the last several years.

What Should the Jets Do?

Clean house on black Monday and let Maccagnan bring in his own offensively-minded guy to develop Sam Darnold. They can always hire Bowles or even Rex Ryan back as defensive coordinator. There are not that many Sean McVay’s or Kyle Shanahan’s out there. The Jets need to find a coach that can effectively run an offense, and develop the young talent they have on both sides of the ball.