I joked on an episode of the Jet Fuel Podcast in the summer that Todd Bowles deserves to win NFL Coach of the Year honors if he wins more than three games with the New York Jets this season.
Bowles entered the 2017 season with a depleted roster, low expectations and questionable job security.
Regardless of whether the Jets finish 7-9 or 5-11, Bowles and the Jets have vastly overachieved. The third-year head coach deserves a fourth, but nothing more.
Bowles shouldn’t be fired after this season, but he hasn’t done enough to earn an extension yet. To quote the renowned line from the storybook “Goldilocks and the Three Bears”: Giving Bowles one more year feels “just right.”
Bowles’ tenure in the Big Apple has been a bizarre ride. His first year instilled hope. His second dashed any faith. His third has been characterized by competing and coming up short with a young team that’s still learning how to win.
The fact that New York has five wins is mind-blowing given the expectations. But the Jets could be a few breaks away from being in the thick of the playoff race.
A loss is a loss, don’t get me wrong. But tell me you expected the Jets to keep it within two touchdowns Sunday against the Saints? Explain why you weren’t proud of the team for putting up fights against the Patriots, Falcons, Saints and Panthers. Don’t say you weren’t impressed by wins over the Jaguars and Chiefs, who are playoff bound.
Sure, losses against the Raiders and Broncos make you scratch your head and wonder whether Bowles is the guy for the job. Bowles and his entire staff also deserve blame for the numerous fourth quarter meltdowns that have cost New York at least a few wins. But remember, the Jets weren’t supposed to win any of those games.
The Jets have played hard. They’ve competed. A young defense has shown flashes of brilliance under Bowles’ tutelage. Maybe Muhammad Wilkerson hasn’t bought in, but the rest of this young nucleus has. Plus, Wilkerson has probably played his last game as a Jet, so who cares what he thinks?
It’s also worth taking a glance at the league outside of the Florham Park bubble. There could be as many as 10 coaching vacancies this offseason. No, I’m not kidding. Here’s a list of guys who have tenuous job security, at best:
Ben McAdoo (already fired), Jay Gruden, Bruce Arians, John Fox, Hue Jackson, Marvin Lewis, Mike Mularkey, Chuck Pagano, Bill O’Brien and Andy Reid (don’t rule it out).
So, 10 teams could be seeking new head coaches this offseason. In case you haven’t noticed, the NFL coaching ranks are as thin as ever. Everyone will be searching for the next Sean McVay or Sean McDermott, but these rising stars are few and far between. It doesn’t help that the Jets would have one of the least attractive openings among that group with no franchise quarterback in sight and a handful of talented, but unproven prospects.
Chalk up timing as another factor in Bowles’ favor.
2018 is the final year of Bowles’ contract, but the argument of entering the season as a “lame duck” coach is overrated. Nothing is guaranteed in the NFL. Firings happen suddenly and irrationally.
So what parameters should we set for Bowles in 2018, should he keep the job? Playoffs feels too lofty for a roster that has few certainties. What about an eight or nine-win campaign? That seems reasonable. Sure, the Jets will have gone nine seasons without a playoff berth, but a .500 season would show progress, assuming the fourth-quarter meltdowns cease.
Todd Bowles has done enough to keep his job. Heck, he probably earned his job back 10 weeks ago, when Gang Green was 3-2. He deserves one more year, no more, no less. It’s just right.