Todd Bowles and Josh McCown were not supposed to be New York’s pillars of coach / quarterback stability come early December, but here they are.
The question is: Where do they go from here?
By far the more significant matter is Bowles’ future. As admirable a job as McCown has done, at 38 he has more to look forward to as a coach – if not a political candidate – than he does as a quarterback.
Bowles, though, could be around a while, and he already has done enough to deserve that chance.
The guy was projected by some to go 0-16 but now is 5-7, with no loss since Week 2 by more than eight points and some awful late-game breaks – some self-inflicted, others not.
No, that does not merit a parade – or a long contract extension. But given what he was dealt after an offseason housecleaning, Bowles should get at least a year tacked onto a deal that expires after 2018.
At 54 and in his third season, he has shown that he belongs.
After Sunday’s 38-31 victory over the Chiefs – in which the Jets recovered from a 14-0 deficit barely four minutes into the game – players lined up to offer testimonials.
“It’s hard not to give him the credit,” McCown said. “I think he’s done a heck of a job with our group. His message has been the same week in and week out. It’s a reflection of him as far as just the mental toughness to go through the changes that we went through in the offseason.
“He was steady. His message never changed. He never wavered. He never complained. I think that was huge for us. That kind of steadiness for us is bearing fruit right now. It’s why we won the game [Sunday], because of how he handles himself and carries himself day in and day out.”
Running back Matt Forte said of Sunday’s comeback, “I think directly reflects his mentality and emotions. As a head coach you kind of set the tone for the team. We never blinked.”
This was after Bowles had benched linebacker Darron Lee for the entire game and defensive lineman Muhammad Wilkerson for most of the first quarter, the former for being late to a walkthrough and the latter for being late to a meeting.
As usual, Bowles refused to be dragged into a public discussion of what happened. All he would say is, “We have rules. We make rules. We have coach’s decisions. We make them and we move on.”
One thing is clear: Unlike for the just-fired Giants’ Ben McAdoo, Bowles’ disciplinary actions do not seem to lead to reduced enthusiasm for competing among his players.
So Bowles must be doing something right behind the scenes, even as he remains stubbornly flat and unquotable in front of cameras. (There clearly is an interesting, personable guy in there. On Monday he had a good 20-second laugh over an exchange with Newsday’s Calvin Watkins on a conference call, then pulled himself together and announced he was going back “in character.”)
The Jets were 0-2 after convincing losses to the Bills and Raiders when new CEO Christopher Johnson said this in September about how Bowles would be evaluated:
“Believe me, I like wins a lot more than losses; that’s only a part of the equation. The real way to judge this team and the people on it, me included, is: Are we getting better?”
Hmm. The Jets already have matched last season’s victory total, while erasing most of the ill will in the locker room and showcasing rising young talent.
So barring a sudden collapse into dysfunction over the next month, case closed.