Three strikes and out for Todd Bowles?
As the New York Jets wrap up the 2016 NFL season, is it three strikes and out with head coach Todd Bowles? In the grand scheme of things, no, he should be brought back for another chance at redemption.
As pressure mounts and the season fizzles out this weekend for the New York Jets, there has been increased speculation regarding head coach Todd Bowles’ job security. Namely, is he fated to become a so-called “Black Monday” casualty? Will we be hearing sometime before Monday at noon that he has been relieved of his duties? Frankly stated, I hope not. In my view, relieving Bowles at this point in time would not only be a rush to judgment on the part of owner Woody Johnson, but also an outright mistake.
I say this because over the course of the season it became clear to me that despite serious lapses on the field, the team never “gave up.” And this is enough evidence (for me at least) to suggest that Bowles should have the opportunity to coach the Jets beyond this year. Yes, they were outmatched, outscored, and even at times outcoached throughout the season, but I would argue that injuries were the main reason why the Jets season went “south,” not Bowles.
By now, it should be clear that the constant stream of injuries took its toll over the course of the season. In fact, the injury problems started early, namely in Week 3 when the Jets lost perhaps the most important cog in the offense, wide receiver Eric Decker.
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Decker, as we know well was one piece of a three-headed offensive juggernaut (along with Brandon Marshall and quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick). This juggernaut was the primary reason the Jets were one-quarter away from making the NFL Playoffs in 2015.
Arguably, Decker was the one player that Fitzpatrick (and to an extent Marshall given his poor season) could not lose in order for the offense to perform on all cylinders. Fitzpatrick leaned on Decker the most during his stellar season the year before. Not surprisingly, then, Fitzpatrick’s struggles and interception problems coincided when Decker was absent.
So let’s be clear here; the Jets offense literally stalled on the spot once Decker got hurt. Basically, Jets had to go to Plan “B” on offense, and unfortunately, as we saw firsthand, this plan was nowhere close to what the Jets needed given the problems on defense that would eventually surface as the year went on. From there, the injuries mounted with Nick Mangold, Darron Lee, Ryan Clady, and numerous others. Put simply, we cannot blame Bowles for the ridiculous amount of injuries that this team had to endure.
However, it is clear that there is room for improvement for Bowles, particularly as it relates to getting better control of the locker room. Just consider: Sheldon Richardson’s comments on social media and then calling out his teammate Marshall publically. Richardson and Muhammad Wilkerson drama with showing up late. Fitzpatrick getting benched, sulking, and then making comments about the team. Negativity after negativity which again is not all Bowles’ fault, but certainly on his watch. So, there is a lot to correct in short order, but again, he deserves a chance to right the ship he piloted so well in his first year.
So let’s all take a breath, try to enjoy the final game of the regular season as the last one we will see for nine months, and maybe take a more tactical approach to dissecting what went wrong this year. I maintain that year three will likely define Bowles’ ability as a coach, but in order for us to know, he’ll actually need the chance to coach for another year, and it is my humble opinion that he should be brought back.