When new Jets GM Mike Maccagnan picked up Todd Bowles at the airport prior to his introduction as the franchise’s new head coach, it was just another example of the cyclical nature of the NFL. The exact same scenario played out 25 years ago, when Maccagnan was an intern with the Washington Redskins and Bowles was a safety joining the team.
The stakes are a little higher this time around.
Bowles signed a four-year, $16 million contract to take over for the departed Rex Ryan, who moved upstate to Buffalo. The former Arizona Cardinals defensive coordinator continues a string of defensive-themed head coaching hires for the Jets that stretches back to Rich Kotite—which may explain why they’ve remained on the defensive side of the ball ever since.
Bowles began his coaching career with the Jets 14 years ago under Al Groh, so he’s familiar with the territory. Including Groh, each of the past four Jets head coaches have produced a winning record in their first season—and three of the four made the playoffs right out of the gate. And Bowles, who was among the members of Groh’s staff who were let go despite a 9-7 record in Groh’s final season, knows the expectations are high.
And Bowles isn’t just defensive-minded; his approach is similar to Ryan’s in that both employ multiple schemes and angles of attack to generate pressure on the opposing quarterback. Former Jet and current Cardinal Antonio Cromartie—who played for both Ryan in New York and Bowles in Arizona—Tweeted that Bowles “has a very similar scheme 2 Rex so the defense won’t change for the guys on defense in NY”.
But then defense hasn’t been the problem for the Jets. The real question is, what will Bowles do to jump-start an offense that ranked 22nd in total offense and 28th in points scored last season?
While Bowles focuses on head coaching defense and lends a hand to the defense—under the direction of Kacy Rodgers, whose previous gig was defensive line coach for the Dolphins—the task of putting points on the board falls on new offensive coordinator Chan Gailey.
At first blush the marriage of the pass-happy Gailey and the Jets’ current personnel might seem odd. However, Gailey’s version of the spread offense isn’t that different from what Geno Smith ran in college.
Under Gailey the Jets will run fewer base plays; they’ll just run them out of multiple looks with varied personnel groupings. They’ll zone block in the running game and stretch the field horizontally in the passing game, asking receivers to pick up yardage after the catch. That’s certainly an area where the likes of Eric Decker, Percy Harvin, and even sophomore-to-be tight end Jace Amaro could find success.
You may also remember that Gailey managed to squeeze 22 touchdowns out of Tyler Thigpen in 2008; after that, working with Smith should be a breeze.
The bar will most definitely be set high in New York, but a Jersey kid like Bowles shouldn’t be fazed by the media or the expectations. He’ll give the Jets faithful the stout defense they’ve come to know and love, and if Gailey can deliver a modicum of offense Bowles could follow the lead of those coaches who have come before—right into the postseason in Year One.