Todd Bowles had to know what he was getting himself into from the day he accepted his position as head coach of the New York Jets. In fact, on January 13th, 2015, Bowles agreed in principle to become the next big question mark in the history of the Jets.
After a brutal 4-12 ending to Rex Ryan’s tenure as head coach in 2014, fans were saying “here we go again” as the never-ending coaching carousel seemed to continue. A new coach meant a new system, which brings along hopes that maybe, just one day, this could be the regime to get the Jets to the Super Bowl. A place so unfamiliar to Jet fans that now grandparents are telling their grandkids about watching that miraculous upset down in Miami’s Orange Bowl back when they were teenagers. Since that day, where Weeb Ewbank hoisted the Super Bowl Championship, there have been fourteen head coaches that have failed to bring the Jets back to glory. Bowles has become the fifteenth, and Sunday’s game against the Patriots could easily become a determining factor if fans can foresee a sixteenth.
In an essentially make-or-break Week 16 for the Jets, they face the enemy with the perfect opportunity to finally give Bill Belichick a true feared opponent twice a year. Even though the Jets had beaten New England in the 2010 playoffs in the second most memorable game in franchise history, Belichick knew very well what the Jets were; a veteran team with a boisterous coach who didn’t know when enough was enough. The Jets’ lack of success from 2011 through 2014 proved that, as Rex Ryan would go on to defeat the Patriots only one more time in eight chances.
Despite the AFC Eastern division having been clinched already, this game has the future of the Jets written all over it. A big win would mean more than just a step closer to the 2015 playoffs. Beating the Patriots Sunday will solidify Bowles as head coach of the Jets for years to come. Yes, they could still lose a heartbreaking game to Rex Ryan and the Buffalo Bills the following week. However, that would be more of a vintage Rex Ryan game than any indication of a weakness in Bowles. Since 2013, Rex Ryan has been known to save his job by winning a meaningless game in the final week of the regular season.
It just goes to show you the trust the Jets gave Rex Ryan based off of his success early on against the Patriots. If he hadn’t beaten them in 2009 and twice 2010, Rex would have gotten fired by New York back in 2011. Bowles has the opportunity Sunday to highlight his rookie head coaching tenure with a win over Tom Brady and company. This time, Bill Belichick won’t look across the sidelines and see an arrogant coach with too many predictions. He will see a determined, quiet but confident Bowles, who poses more of a threat to Belichick than Rex, Eric Mangini or Herman Edwards ever had before.
Jets fans know all too well by now to never jump the gun when it comes to judging their first year head coach.
A win Sunday won’t win them the Super Bowl that Woody Johnson, coaches, players and fans all want so desperately. What the victory will do is put Bowles on the right path to getting there one day.
Bowles already has the tools and traits to become a championship coach. He just needs the opportunity to put it all together for the first time, something that will finally happen 1 P.M. Sunday at MetLife Stadium.