The next era in Jets football will be ruled by new head coach Todd Bowles, and even with defensive “guru” Rex Ryan now sharing his talents with AFC-East rival Buffalo, defense will still be the name of the game for Gang Green. What will change is the style in which the organization goes about its business. The Jets will exhibit a more serious, subtle grace with less bravado -- and hopefully better long-term results. Rex swept in like a Tornado and his personality became bigger than the franchise and the magnitude of his celebrity trumped the performance of his team and the power of GM John Idzik.
After hiring former Houston Texans Director of College Scouting Mike Maccagnan as the team's new general manager earlier on Tuesday, the New York Jets named Arizona Cardinals defensive coordinator Bowles as Rex’s successor.
The 51-year-old Bowles is the second African-American head coach in Jets history following Herm Edwards, who was the head coach of the New York Jets from 2001 to 2005. Although many fans and players questioned Edwards' decisions, the Jets had some success in Edwards' first two seasons, reaching the playoffs in both.
In his five years as the Jets head coach, Edwards compiled a 39-41 record, including a 2-3 record in the playoffs and a 5-15 stretch during his final 20 regular season games.
Like Edwards, a former cornerback, Bowles is a former secondary soldier who played safety for the Washington Redskins and San Francisco 49ers from 1986 to 1993. He worked as a defensive backs coach for a bunch of teams after retiring from the NFL starting with the Green Bay Packers in 1995 before leaving the NFL to run the defense at HBCU’s Morehouse and Grambling. He returned to the league with the Jets back in 2000, Woody Johnson's first season as the owner.
Bowles served as the interim head coach of the Miami Dolphins in 2011, winning two of the season's final three games after Tony Sparano was fired. He then moved on to the Philly Eagles, where he coached defensive backs for half a season before being promoted to defensive coordinator after Juan Castillo was let go.
When Chip Kelly came in and brought a new staff with him to Philly, Bowles moved on to Arizona, where he spent the last two seasons coordinating one of the NFL's best defenses (18.7 points a game this past season — the fifth fewest in the NFL.)
The hiring off Bowles gives the NFL five African-American head coaches ; Lovie Smith (Tampa Bay Buccaneers) Jim Caldwell (Detroit Lions), Mike Tomlin (Pittsburgh Steelers), Bowles and Marvin Lewis (Cincinnati Bengals). Smith and Jim Caldwell were recycled back into the coaching carousel in 2014, but Bowles is a fresh face at HC and he finally gets a shot to lead a franchise after nearly two decades as an assistant. His hiring is probably way past due, but as far as the effects of the Rooney Rule which I have spoken to Fritz Pollard Alliance Chairman John Wooten about on numerous occasions, the past two seasons have been a huge improvement from 2013, when it looked as if diversity in minority NFL hiring was going backwards.
In a previous Shadow League interview, Fritz Pollard Alliance Chairman John Wooten said his organization was vexed that no minority hires were chosen to fill 15 HC and front office NFL positions following the Super Bowl in 2013. Eight HC’s were fired and not one qualified minority candidate got a real sniff.
Making matters worse, two of the five African-American coaches in the game–Lovie Smith (Chicago Bears) and Romeo Crennel (Kansas City Chiefs)—were among those axed, leaving the league with just three brothers commanding the sidelines; Mike Tomlin (Pittsburgh Steelers), Leslie Frazier (Minnesota Vikings) and Marvin “Teflon” Lewis (Cincinnati Bengals). Carolina Panthers HC Ron Rivera is the lone Hispanic. The players don’t like it, and in a league that's almost 70 percent black, the math is crooked.
Bowles' number has been called and his name can be crossed off the Fritz Pollard Alliance’s "Ready List for NFL" highlighting minority candidates that the organization feels is capable of running an NFL team or front office, but for some reason hadn’t gotten a shot yet.
At the same time, one should be careful what they wish for. Bowles was considered among the best at his craft when he was handling the D. Now he is the central figure in a media-crazed town with a football team that has pissed off half of the fan base in the past three years. Bowles isn’t going to get five years to make this work like Rex did. His hook is bound to be shorter.
To the disappointment of some Jets fans, NY hasn’t decided to go against the philosophical grain with a new GM and HC. While Bowles is a fine pick and credited with designing strong defenses, creative schemes and turning rough players into diamond-performers, the Jets offense seems to be getting over looked again.
Bowles makes the sixth straight defensive coach hired by the Jets. Since New York fired Rich Kotite after he went 4-28 across the 1995 and 1996 seasons, the Jets have hired a defensive coach every time they've had an opening: Bill Parcells, Al Groh (after they first tried to go with Belichick), Herman Edwards, Eric Mangini, Rex Ryan and now Bowles.
Who they bring in as offensive coordinator will be very important because the Jets are unsure about QB Geno Smith and he will be working with a new coaching staff—one that may not have as much faith in him as the former regime. Rumor has it that Bowles is targeting Chan Gailey for his OC position. Gailey has been out of the NFL since 2012, when he was fired as the Buffalo Bills' coach, but he’s a noted offensive mind.
There are still a bunch of things that have to fall into place for the Jets before 2015 kicks off, but they are on the right path. It may not be the major splash Jets fans were hoping to make, but at least it was a well thought-out hire and they didn’t let their man get away.
Concerned about losing Bowles to the Atlanta Falcons, the Jets moved swiftly, inviting him back for a second interview Tuesday and reaching an agreement over dinner. The final details are being hammered out this morning and Bowles is expected to sign a four-year contract that will pay him slightly more than $4 million per year, sources told ESPN.
It also can’t be disputed that the Jets have hired an experienced football mind with a track record of excellence. He’s respected in the game by coaches and players alike. It was his time. “The Jets weren’t necessarily thinking outside of the box with this hire.”
The fact that Bowles is black and I can make a statement like that, is proof that the pipeline for minorities to positions of leadership in the NFL is finally developing. Bowles’ experience enabled him to advance through the ranks over time and eventually get a head coaching job after doing numerous interviews and executing his craft with potential employers analyzing his character and effectiveness each season.
Wooten always said that it would “ take time” to get double digit black coaches in the NFL because of the grind it takes to work your way up through the coaching ranks, and as far as positions of leadership are concerned, African-American coaches were behind the curve in opportunity, experience and respect. Often having to take inferior jobs just to sniff a HC position.
The NY Jets may be a challenging job, but it’s not football abyss and the time may finally have arrived for the Jets to have stability, respectability and an AFC reign as the Brady-Belichik era in New England comes to an end.
In fact, just beat New England twice a year and Bowles should last the decade, no problem.