PHOENIX - If every coach is the product of his experiences and his influences, then Todd Bowles has what could be the right mix as he embarks on his first year as an NFL head coach.
He credits Bill Parcells, Andy Reid and Bruce Arians as some of his greatest teachers. Joe Gibbs and Doug Williams, too. His list is as long as it is impressive, and Jets fans should know that they're getting a man steeped in knowledge from some of the greatest men to have played and coached.
Bowles' connection with Parcells is widely known. Shortly after Bowles got the Jets' job, Parcells said he first became impressed with him when Bowles was a Redskins defensive back in the 1980s and that his opinion of Bowles only grew as he got into coaching.
But there are so many others who have influenced Bowles, and their contributions to his coaching mentality can only serve him well as he prepares for what he hopes is a long and fruitful career with his new team.
Bowles' big smile was a clear indication of just how important he considers his teachers and their impact on him.
"I've learned something from everybody," Bowles, 51, said Tuesday. "It's a long list and I may leave some people out."
It starts with Williams, the former Super Bowl MVP and the first African-American quarterback to win a Super Bowl. Williams was the Grambling State coach when Bowles served as the school's defensive coordinator in 1998-99.
"Doug was the one that got me into coaching and taught me how to deal with people and players," Bowles said. "It was his demeanor and the way he commanded the room and the way he saw when somebody was hurting. Doug could see when somebody had a problem off the field. He could see when somebody was struggling on the field, and he knew when to yell at him and when to pull him over and talk to him, which I thought was very unique at that time."
Bowles became the Jets' secondary coach in 2000 under Al Groh, but it was his association with Parcells, who was the general manager that year, and his work with other assistant coaches that left the biggest impressions.
"Parcells helped me see the overall game," Bowles said. "[Former Jets defensive coordinator] Mike Nolan helped me, especially in the offseason preparation and game-planning, as far as where to put stuff and categorize things. [Linebackers coach] Bob Sutton was as meticulous as ever. We'd go over coverages at 5 o'clock in the morning every day back in 2000, and we would be on the same page."
Next stop Cleveland, where Bowles worked alongside Chuck Pagano, now the Colts' coach, and longtime defensive coordinator Foge Fazio.
"Me and Chuck Pagano were the secondary coaches for four years with Butch [Davis], and we had coach Fazio the coordinator and Dave Campo. Foge was a heck of a guy, because he knew how to blitz certain situations and run blitzes and those type of things. Chuck was meticulous in fundamentals. He was fundamentals, fundamentals, fundamentals. I was, 'Look at the film, we can take advantage of this play, that play, this play, that play.' We worked well together there."
And then on to Dallas, where Bowles worked under Parcells and with defensive coordinator Mike Zimmer, now the Vikings' coach.
"Zim was very, very meticulous," Bowles said. "Understand[ing] where the run gap fits were, where everything was. And I learned a lot of that from him. And then I went to Miami, and it was [coach] Tony Sparano and [defensive coordinator Paul] Pasqualoni, who were very sound, fundamental coaches, straight-laced, work you hard as they can work you, but they were good people."
And then the Eagles, where he spent one season under Andy Reid in 2012. Bowles started off as the defensive backs coach but eventually was elevated to defensive coordinator during a disastrous 4-12 season. The entire coaching staff then was swept out.
"It wasn't my worst season because of what I learned from it from coach Reid as far as the integrity and the leadership," he said. "No matter what goes on, he still had command of the team, the way he handled his coaches. He used everything as a teaching tool with what happened that year. It was probably one of the most important coaching jobs I've had in my life that I've learned from."
Bowles worked as Arians' defensive coordinator in 2013-14, rejoining his college head coach [Temple] and enjoying two excellent seasons before becoming the Jets' coach.
"He kind of groomed me from a young man to a middle-aged man to now an older man as far as seeing me grow," Bowles said of Arians. "He helped me be the best at almost everything. That guy, I can't say enough about him. I'd lose my left arm for him. He's such an outstanding person and an outstanding coach. He coaches coaches. He coaches you to get better. He challenges you to get better and you can't say enough about him."
Now here he is, ready to run the show as an NFL head coach for the first time.
It's an outstanding group of mentors, and we didn't even get into when he played under Gibbs and former defensive coordinator Richie Petitbon in Washington.
If these men will vouch for Bowles -- and they all have at one time or another -- the Jets look to be in good hands as they try to recover from the Rex Ryan era, which had run its course by the end of last year's 4-12 season.
Bowles' past doesn't guarantee future success, but it certainly gives him a great chance to win. Good background. Good man.