Todd Bowles is so understated, so self-deprecating and so unwilling to shine a light on himself that you don't necessarily view his team through the prism of the coach's personality. He's not particularly quotable, comes off as dry and often humorless in his news conferences and rarely raises his voice to the public or to his players.
Unlike, say, another coach who occupied the same place on the Jets' sideline the previous six seasons.
Case in point: If this were Rex Ryan's team and his Jets had just beaten Washington, 34-20, to improve to 4-1 in advance of next week's game against the Patriots, the coach would be at his carnival-barking best in banging the drums about his rivalry with Bill Belichick.
Bowles? About the best he was willing to say about the Jets after a dominating second-half performance was that they have "a chance to be a decent team." And about next week's game against the Patriots, he said simply: "Game 6 is New England. We'll play Game 6."
But make no mistake about the Jets' current coach: Despite his low-key personality, he has a remarkable grasp of the sport and already has had a profound impact on this team. He is an excellent tactician who has a clear and purposeful vision of what needs to be done, and his deft handling of his players -- born in large part by the fact that he was an NFL player himself -- makes him uniquely prepared to handle his job and his team.
That doesn't mean the Jets will go up to Foxborough and beat the defending champion Patriots, who have owned the AFC East ever since Tom Brady took over. But it does mean that Bowles' team will be as well prepared and uniquely situated as any team since Ryan's magic began to wear off after two straight AFC Championship Game appearances.
There is enough talent on this team to contend with the Patriots, but there also is enough coaching brain power for Bowles to match wits with Belichick. There is no personal grudge match, as Ryan had with Belichick, but a sense of equanimity that is reflected in the Jets' smart play.
The evidence continued to mount on Sunday that Bowles is up to the task, as his team shook off the expected rust from a bye week by overcoming some first-half mistakes with a smothering effort in the second half. All three of Washington's first-half scores came off turnovers, but the Jets pulled away behind the powerful running of Chris Ivory and receivers Brandon Marshall and Eric Decker.
"I think it's the mental part of it, getting back into the grind of it [after a bye] and understanding you have to fight for every play," Bowles said. "Once you wake up and get hit in the mouth, then you can start fighting again. If you don't get hit in the mouth, you think you can pretty much walk around just jabbing people. I think we got hit in the mouth today.''
Meanwhile in Buffalo, where Ryan brought his hype machine and promised big results, the Bills lost at home to the Bengals, 34-21. Afterward, Buffalo's best defensive player, Mario Williams, questioned Ryan's scheme and expressed frustration about being dropped into coverage on several plays instead of rushing the passer.
Even when Ryan's tenure with the Jets came to an unceremonious end last season, his players never questioned him. Not his approach. Not his personality. Not his scheme.
But cracks are beginning to emerge in Buffalo, and Ryan doesn't have the cachet he did with the Jets to build equity with Bills fans so used to frustration since the Super Bowl teams of the early 1990s.
The team Ryan left behind is doing just fine without him. General manager Mike Maccagnan filled the holes in the lineup by bringing in stars such as Darrelle Revis, Marshall and Antonio Cromartie, and Bowles is proving himself as a bright strategist with a patient yet demanding approach.
It has been the right combination. Next week, the Jets get to see if it's good enough to beat the defending champs and longtime rulers of the AFC East.