In his first year as head coach of the Jets, Todd Bowles won 10 games.
"He was one of the best coaches in the NFL," Kacy Rodgers, one of his defensive assistants, said of that 2015 season.
In the next three years, Bowles won a total of 14 games, and never more than five in a season.
"By the end, he was one of the worst coaches," Rodgers said.
Naturally, he was talking more about public perception than reality, and recognizing that in the results-driven NFL, you are considered either a winner and a genius or a loser and a fool.
That Bowles is the defensive coordinator for the Buccaneers in Super Bowl LV just two years after being canned by the Jets has gone a long way toward putting him back in the former category.
Not that he has given any of it much thought. Bowles, as stoic and straight-lipped as he was (some would say to a fault) during his tumultuous tenure with the Jets, dismissed any ideas about having been given an unfair shake, wanting to prove something to them with this championship run, or finding redemption after having been cured of his case of Gang Green.
"Obviously, the disappointment was not winning ballgames and trying to help the team win a Super Bowl," he said of his Jets stint on Monday. "I had four years. You get four years to try to make some things happen . . . We played a lot of close games, but at the end of the discussion, we didn’t win."
Bowles said he went through all of the "shoulda, coulda, woulda" thoughts after being fired following the 2018 season. He no longer does.
"That’s two years removed now," he said. "I think it made me a better coach than I was back then. Not that I was a bad coach back then, but the record shows that you are, so you have to eat that. You have to regroup, and you have to become a better coach. That’s what I’m doing."
He said the experience as a head coach made him better as a defensive coordinator because it exposed him to offensive philosophies he had never had the chance to study. He said it taught him more about the business side of football, the roster-building process.
"People skills, you become a natural at it going through things as a head coach," he said. "That made me a better coach all the way around."
After being dismissed by the Jets, he landed as the Bucs’ defensive coordinator under Bruce Arians. He brought some assistants with him from the Jets, including Rodgers, now the Bucs’ defensive line coach.
Rodgers said neither he nor Bowles holds any grudges or bitterness against the Jets.
Nor, apparently, do the Jets toward them.
Last weekend, after the Bucs beat the Packers in the NFC Championship Game to advance to Super Bowl LV, Rodgers said he and Bowles looked at their phones.
"There were 20 or 30 text messages that came from people in the Jets’ organization that we met along the way," he said. "We look back and we talk about the time there and we met such great people there. We talk about how they went out of their way to give us everything that we needed. Everybody was just outstanding."
They just couldn’t win enough to stay.