Jets hire Cardinals DC Todd Bowles as new head coach
Todd Bowles is coming home and taking over as the New York Jets' head coach.
The Jets hired the Arizona Cardinals defensive coordinator Wednesday to replace Rex Ryan, who was fired, along with general manager John Idzik, on Dec. 29 after six seasons.
Bowles, 51, was a highly sought candidate after leading Arizona's aggressive-style defense the last two seasons. This will be his first full-time head coaching job at any level after serving as Miami's interim coach for the final three games in 2011.
It is a homecoming of sorts for Bowles, who is a native of Elizabeth, New Jersey. He also served as the Jets' defensive backs coach under then-coach Al Groh during the 2000 season.
Bowles beat out five other candidates, including Seattle defensive coordinator Dan Quinn and former Buffalo coach Doug Marrone, who interviewed with owner Woody Johnson and consultants Charley Casserly and Ron Wolf, both of whom Bowles has ties to.
Bowles had a second interview Tuesday with Johnson, Casserly and Wolf -- along with newly hired general manager Mike Maccagnan -- and impressed the Jets enough to move forward.
New York canceled a scheduled interview with Carolina defensive coordinator Sean McDermott that was set for Wednesday. Bowles also called off a second meeting with the Atlanta Falcons for their head coaching vacancy that was scheduled for Wednesday.
Bowles becomes the fifth black head coach currently in the NFL, joining Pittsburgh's Mike Tomlin, Cincinnati's Marvin Lewis, Tampa Bay's Lovie Smith and Detroit's Jim Caldwell. He is also the fifth straight defensive-focused coach Johnson has hired since taking over the Jets in 2000, joining Ryan, Eric Mangini, Herm Edwards and Groh.
With the Jets, Bowles will inherit a solid defensive front seven with rising star defensive linemen in Muhammad Wilkerson and Sheldon Richardson. The secondary, however, needs a major overhaul.
Along with Maccagnan, who was hired Tuesday night, Bowles will try to help the Jets bounce back from four straight seasons out of the playoffs. The franchise is also starving for a Super Bowl appearance, something it hasn't had since 1969.
Several key decisions will need to be made in the next several weeks, including assembling a staff and figuring out the quarterback position.
A person with knowledge of the situation told The Associated Press that former Dallas and Buffalo head coach Chan Gailey will be Bowles' offensive coordinator. Gailey was out of football the last two seasons after being fired as the Bills' coach after the 2012 season.
The person spoke on condition of anonymity because the Jets have not announced the hiring.
Geno Smith mostly struggled through his second season before throwing for a career-high 358 yards and three touchdowns with a perfect passer rating of 158.3 in the season finale victory at Miami. But Bowles and Maccagnan must determine whether Smith is the future. The Jets hold the No. 6 pick in the draft, and could opt for Oregon's Marcus Mariota and Florida State's Jameis Winston -- if either still remains when New York selects.
Bowles brings a wealth of playing and coaching experience with him to New York. He played college football for current Cardinals coach Bruce Arians at Temple.
He went undrafted in 1986, but was signed by Washington and worked his way to a major role with Joe Gibbs' Redskins -- including starting at free safety against Denver in the 1988 Super Bowl. Bowles had 15 career interceptions in eight NFL seasons, including two stints with Washington while Casserly was in the Redskins' front office, sandwiched around one season (1991) with San Francisco.
Bowles was hired by Green Bay after his playing career ended, working in the Packers' player personnel department from 1995-96 -- when Wolf was the GM. He then made several stops as a coach at the college and pro levels, first as the defensive coordinator at Morehouse College and then Grambling State -- both under his former Washington teammate Doug Williams -- and as an assistant with the Jets, Cleveland and Dallas, under then-coach Bill Parcells, whom he considers a mentor.
He was hired as the Dolphins' assistant head coach and secondary coach from 2008-11. He served as the team's interim head coach for the final three games of the 2011 season, going 2-1 -- with wins over Buffalo and the Jets -- after Tony Sparano was fired.
Bowles went to Philadelphia in 2012 as the Eagles' secondary coach, but was elevated to defensive coordinator when the team dismissed Juan Castillo. After that season, Bowles was hired as Arizona's defensive coordinator and firmly established himself as one of the league's up-and-coming assistants.