‘I put pressure on myself . . . It’s a “win” job. The job is wins and losses; that’s how we get judged.’
-- Todd Bowles
Todd Bowles, 54, will begin his fourth season as coach of the Jets in Detroit on Sept. 10. He has compiled a record of 20-28-0, including 10-6 in 2015. After consecutive 5-11 finishes, he is looking for the first postseason berth of his term while riding a wave of fan and media attention focused on rookie quarterback Sam Darnold. The Jets gave him a contract extension to continue through 2020. During training camp, Bowles spoke to Newsday’s Neil Best about how “weird” it is to be the dean of New York-area coaches, about his offseason loss of 50 pounds and about his admiration for former Yankees manager Joe Girardi, among other things.
Newsday: You now are the dean of New York-area pro coaches and managers (after the Rangers fired Alain Vigneault). Is that a weird feeling?
Todd Bowles: “I think it’s really weird. I don’t know how to take that. I just shake my head and keep moving . . . Anything like that in New York, you’d figure somebody would have 10 years-plus.’’
ND: Have you tried to learn — pro or con — from watching how other New York coaches and managers handle the job?
Bowles: “I used to watch Joe Girardi a lot, because he was with the Yankees and he got asked every possible question . . . He was very intelligent. I was a big fan of his.’’
ND: Were you surprised when the Yankees let him go?
Bowles: “A little bit. I’m not involved in the inner workings of anything there. I’m just used to having him around. I like Aaron Boone as well. But I really liked Girardi.’’
ND: What have you learned most from your 3½ years on the job, and what can you improve on?
Bowles: “As a football coach, you have to improve every year. That’s a never-ending job. I don’t care if it’s 20 years . . . I just have to keep my head down and work. Coaching is going to be ups and downs. You have to treat them on an individual basis and keep moving and not get too consumed by the outside noise.’’
ND: What is behind your approach to the media? You obviously do not give many colorful quotes, but you also do not seem intimidated by the process as some coaches are.
Bowles: “I was born and raised around here [in Elizabeth, New Jersey], so that helps. I’ve known how it works for a long time. You have to keep an even keel. [Reporters] all have jobs to do, just like we have jobs to do. It’s not personal . . . I watched [Michael] Jordan answer questions. I’ve watched LeBron [James] answer questions. I watched Peyton Manning answer questions. You watch other coaches answer questions. You just try to keep it all in perspective and switch off your coaching hat and put on your media hat. They push buttons. But I try not to get too involved personally. It’s all in perspective . . . Being up here with coach [Bill] Parcells [with the Jets in 2000] and listening to him and hearing everything, I feel like there’s not too much that’s going to surprise me from that standpoint.”
ND: Is there more pressure to win this season, with a young quarterback who has fans excited, and also for the sake of your own career?
Bowles: “I put pressure on myself to get it done every year, so this is like every other year in that regard . . . It’s pressure. It’s a ‘win’ job. The job is wins and losses; that’s how we get judged.’’
ND: Do you have to resist pressure from fans and the media to play Sam Darnold?
Bowles: “I just run my team. When the time is right, he’ll play. I don’t feel pressure from outside.’’ (Bowles named Darnold the starting quarterback on Labor Day.)
ND: It is not often that a coach has a new owner to deal with. What has it been like working with Christopher Johnson since Woody Johnson left to become the United States’ ambassador to the United Kingdom?
Bowles: “Christopher, he’s been great. It was great with Woody and it’s great with Christopher. Both lines of communication were open and went really well. He’s easy to talk to . . . I haven’t had a problem in that regard. Although they’re different personalities, I talk to them the same and they talk to me the same.’’
ND: You lost about 50 pounds in the offseason. Why was that important to you, and how do you feel now?
Bowles: “It was important because my knee was hurting so much. But it was more for health issues. I was kind of getting sick toward the end of every season. I’m trying to live a little bit longer and take care of my family and watch my kids grow . . . I feel a lot better, not as tired.’’
ND: What kind of feedback do you get from Jets fans when you are out in public, like at a restaurant?
Bowles: “Fans treat me great . . . It’s all been pleasant, and everybody is excited moving forward. The Jets have some great fans, and I’m happy to talk to them.’’
ND: How do you feel about this year’s team after another 5-11 finish last season?
Bowles: “I think we have a lot more depth than we have had. I don’t know if we have the quote-unquote superstar names, but we have a lot more new players, and I like the guys we have.’’
ND: How is your staff developing?
Bowles: “I think it’s blending together very well, both sides of the ball. They enjoy being around each other and coaching with each other. They’re a handful for me. I mean that in a good way. It’s no holds barred. It’s all in fun. Those guys do a heck of a job.’’
ND: Do your young players even realize you played in the league?
Bowles: “I let them know I was a player every day. (Laughing.) A lot of players are on the all-BS team. I was first-team BS, talking BS. I can take care of myself.’’
ND: How has the job been different from what you might have expected when you became head coach in January of 2015?
Bowles: “It actually isn’t different. It’s kind of the same. I feel the same way every year. Football comes first. Everything else comes secondary . . . It’s roughly what I thought it was going to be. It’s football. At the end of the day, it’s football. I don’t look at it any other way. I enjoy the job, and that’s it.’’