Bob Glauber has been Newsday's national football columnist since 1992. He was Newsday's football writer covering the Jets
Chris Ivory had just bulled his way into the end zone for the fourth-quarter touchdown, putting the Jets up 31-10 and finally allowing Todd Bowles a moment to celebrate his first win as the Jets' coach. But he didn't.
Bowles, in a dark green windbreaker and black hat and looking as inconspicuous as any of his assistant coaches wearing headsets, did raise his right index finger. But it wasn't to signify that the Jets are No. 1. It was to signal that he wanted the Jets to go for the PAT kick.
There wasn't even a hint of a smile despite the impressive body of work yesterday by the players he has presided over since replacing Rex Ryan in January. Just business as usual for a straight-talking coach who wants his team -- and not himself -- to be the story on Sunday afternoons.
It was a performance in Bowles' image: tough, aggressive, resourceful and relatively mistake-free.
The revamped defense, which now includes Darrelle Revis, Leonard Williams, Buster Skrine, Marcus Gilchrist and some other additions, produced four turnovers against a Browns team forced to use backup quarterback Johnny Manziel after starter Josh McCown went out with a suspected concussion after a jarring hit by Calvin Pryor and Demario Davis in the first quarter. That turnover total, plus Brandon Marshall's steal on offense, was more than one-third of the 13 takeaways the Jets came up with last year in 16 games.
The offense was as impressive as one could expect with a quarterback who was scheduled to begin the season as Geno Smith's backup. Ryan Fitzpatrick went 15-for-24 for 179 yards, two touchdowns and one interception, good for a 95.7 rating. Jets running backs compiled 154 yards and two touchdowns. And the Jets committed only four penalties for 30 yards, compared with Cleveland's 12 penalties for 109 yards.
"No-nonsense, straight-to- the-point, get-after-it football? Yes, it had to be," guard Willie Colon said. "We're not about the schematics of games anymore. We have a lot to prove. We have a lot to get done. We're not looking to the future. Winning is right now."
Winning now for a first-year coach taking over a 4-12 team with every built-in excuse for a patient, this-won't-happen-overnight process is as impressive a message as any for a coach who has spent a lifetime preparing for this moment.
From his time as a kid playing in the local parks in nearby Elizabeth, New Jersey, to starring at Temple for Bruce Arians (now the Cardinals' head coach), to a solid NFL career as a safety in Washington, to a years-long apprenticeship as an assistant, Bowles is uniquely prepared to handle life at the top of his profession.
He is as self-effacing and unassuming a coach as you will come across, but he has a commanding presence. He is a man who knows what he wants and won't accept anything less. "He's a calming presence, but he's also got a lot of fire," Fitzpatrick said. "You look at him on the sideline and you try to feel at ease."
"He's very comfortable in who he is and his role and we certainly feed off of that."
Bowles admitted to having some nerves before his first game as the Jets' boss, but it didn't last long.
"I just tried to keep my [emotions] under wraps and understand it's about the team," he said. "Enjoy it and coach the game and not make it about me.
It's as good a start as he could ask, but Bowles understands it is nothing more than that.
"It was a good win, but by no means are we where we want to be. The trick is to try to win while you're trying to get there."
Bowles received a game ball from left tackle D'Brickashaw Ferguson, who saluted his new coach in front of the entire team. What did Ferguson say?
"We won, and we appreciate it," he said. "Hopefully, there are a lot more."
Can't imagine there won't be. Bowles knows what he's doing, and his players know it, too.The opening act was surely a promising sign of things to come.