By HCR Staff | Sept. 6, 2018
Between now and the start of the 2018 season, Head Coach Ranking will provide a scouting report on all 32 NFL head coaches. Today, we’ll take a look at New York Jets head coach Todd Bowles.
Of all the current NFL head coaches, Todd Bowles came upon his first NFL head coaching job in a manner that most in the industry would consider fairly unusual.
After Jets owner Woody Johnson terminated Rex Ryan after a miserable 2014 season, Johnson hired former Redskins general manager Charley Casserly and former Packers general manager Ron Wolf as consultants, and empowered them to hire a new Jets head coach as well as a new Jets general manager.
Not surprisingly, the Jets hired Casserly protege Mike MacCagnan as general manager, and one day later hired former Redskins player (under Casserly) Bowles as head coach.
Casserly and Wolf then created an unusual reporting structure. In the Jets organization, MacCagnan and Bowles both report directly to the owner. Such a structure always begs the question: Who is in charge of what and when?
On the day Bowles was hired and the organizational structure was revealed, we felt it was unusual and most likely destined for difficulty. A honeymoon season in 2015 resulted in a 10-6 record, and it looked like our initial assessment was going to be completely wrong. However, that honeymoon season has been followed by consecutive 5-11 seasons and now, notwithstanding contract extensions for MacCagnan and Bowles, most industry observers feel that both have their jobs on the line this season.
We feel Bowles has great promise as a head coach. He certainly isn’t outwardly reactionary, and his players play hard for him. But two things concern us. First, media reports of an inability to coach or communicate with his own staff indicate trouble. While every media report should be viewed skeptically, these reports show an unusual tension.
The second item that concerns us is that the Jets’ game-planning, play-calling, and in-game adjustments display a lack of nuance. This possibly can be explained by the fact that the Jets have been overturning their roster over the last three years and that they’ve changed coordinators and quarterbacks during that time as well.
Essentially, Bowles’ entire tenure seems to be simply surviving the immediate year as opposed to laying some foundation on a longer-range plan.
Bowles coaches in a style reminiscent of his mentor, Bill Parcells. He does not appear to want to play football in any fashion that would be described as “flashy.” Instead, he’d rather put a team on the field that plays a fundamental and physical game and simply wait for the other team to make mistakes. Unfortunately for Bowles, his team has been the mistake-prone one.
In 2018, Bowles hits the field with the youngest opening-day starting QB since the 1970 AFL-NFL merger, Sam Darnold. So Bowles again, at least on offense, will most likely have to be on the less-flashy side, until his rookie QB gains more experience. Given this, we expect Bowles to be “by the book” in his in-game decision-making (e.g., fourth-and-1 on his opponent’s 45 probably results in a punt).
Bowles was a guinea pig for the Wolf-Casserly experiment in a football structure. One good year has been followed by two awful years. Will 2019 prove Wolf-Casserly right?
Previous HC Previews:
Pete Carroll, Seattle Seahawks
Sean McVay, Los Angeles Rams
Kyle Shanahan, San Francisco 49ers
Steve Wilks, Arizona Cardinals
Mike McCarthy, Green Bay Packers
Mike Zimmer, Minnesota Vikings
Matt Patricia, Detroit Lions
Matt Nagy, Chicago Bears
Dirk Koetter, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Sean Payton, New Orleans Saints
Dan Quinn, Atlanta Falcons
Ron Rivera, Carolina Panthers
Jay Gruden, Washington Redskins
Pat Shurmur, New York Giants
Jason Garrett, Dallas Cowboys
Doug Pederson, Philadelphia Eagles
Jon Gruden, Oakland Raiders
Vance Joseph, Denver Broncos
Anthony Lynn, Los Angeles Chargers
Andy Reid, Kansas City Chiefs
John Harbaugh, Baltimore Ravens
Hue Jackson, Cleveland Browns
Marvin Lewis, Cincinnati Bengals
Mike Tomlin, Pittsburgh Steelers
Doug Marrone, Jacksonville Jaguars
Bill O’Brien, Houston Texans
Frank Reich, Indianapolis Colts
Mike Vrabel, Tennessee Titans
Bill Belichick, New England Patriots