A discussion with any Jets player about Todd Bowles elicits a smile and positive vibes.
These Jets support their coach, but how they play for him in the final six games of this season could determine his long-term future.
“I think Todd has done a lot of good things,” Jets general manager Mike Maccagnan said earlier in the month. “I think Todd has a bright future and I really enjoy working with him and I’m excited about where things go, going forward.”
Bowles’ contract runs through the 2018 season, but his status could change on a whim. Maccagnan recently said he and Bowles report directly to Jets CEO/chairman Christopher Johnson. And Johnson has said he wants to see progress from his team.
The Jets, 5-11 last season, are 4-6. Four of their remaining six opponents have winning records: the Panthers, Saints, Patriots and Chiefs. The other two, the Broncos and Chargers, both are 3-6.
Will six wins be enough for Bowles to keep his job? Has he already done enough to come back, or get a contract extension?
The players say yes.
“I like coach Bowles,” wide receiver Jermaine Kearse said. “It might irritate fans because he walks slow, he just does everything slow, but he’s a competitor. Once you start talking to him, [you realize] he hates losing just as much as we do.”
Safety Jamal Adams said he likes the way Bowles relates to players. “He’s played the position that I’m playing,” Adams said. “He can give me insight and ins-and-outs of what I don’t see.”
Bowles’ first two seasons with the Jets were frustrating. His first team, in 2015, fell just short of the playoffs by losing to the Bills in the season finale. In 2016, Bowles benched starting quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick twice and had to deal with some locker-room drama involving a few veteran players.
In the offseason, the Jets rid themselves of some veterans who weren’t a good fit. Bowles was determined that the locker room wouldn’t have any more issues. He preached to the new Jets that they must stay on the same page regardless of a win or loss. There would be no complaining in the media; if players had a problem, it was to remain in-house. Bowles placed signs in the locker room promoting toughness and unity. There also are pictures of popular and successful Jets players on display in the complex in Florham Park, New Jersey.
Bowles wants his players to see how successful they can become because the organization has had success despite recent struggles and embarrassing moments.
“There’s always a bit of unknown with that,” Maccagnan said of the chemistry. “But we felt very good about the players we had returning. We felt very good about some of the players we added both from the veteran free-agency standpoint and especially through the draft class and the young players.”
One of the ways the Jets have bonded under Bowles is through a leadership counsel he established in which players can take their issues to the coaches. Johnson has met with the leadership counsel several times this season, including during the league-wide national anthem controversy. Johnson, along with several players, plan to work in the community to promote togetherness and create a dialogue with law enforcement officials.
The little things Bowles has done behind the scenes have worked.
“I know he demands a lot out of his players, and as a player, I can respond to that because he holds everybody accountable, which is something we pride ourselves on,” linebacker Bruce Carter said. “He just wants us to perform to the capabilities that we can. We got a lot of talent on this team. We’re young but really talented, [and] I think when you have a bunch of talent, and have somebody guide us in the right direction, it’s a great thing.”
But is this enough for the Jets to keep Bowles long term?
The 4-6 record is surprising on some levels, but the Jets have lost four of their last five, so reaching the postseason seems remote.
Bowles’ fate more likely will be measured by the progress Johnson sees.
“He wants to win,’’ Demario Davis said, “and [Bowles] coaches in a way [that enables] us to win.”
The next six weeks will reveal whether it’s enough.