Meet the anti-Rex.
Todd Bowles may be a first-year head coach and just a few months into the job, but already he has clearly defined himself and what his tenure with the New York Jets will look like. And that legacy is, in many ways, the polar opposite of the former head coach Rex Ryan, fired after six years with the Jets and four seasons without the postseason.
He's had experience on Sundays, eight seasons as a safety for three different teams, and plenty of time on an NFL sideline as a position coach, defensive coordinator and also as an interim head coach. He knows a locker room from the perspective of someone sitting on a stool with the pads and helmet on, to someone now addressing a team – his team – in his still, quiet way.
And now with the Jets, Bowles is putting his stamp on his team as he fully gets integrated into the job. Voluntary veterans minicamp is done, so to is rookie minicamp. The team is beginning to take shape and take root as the players vying to make this squad begin to get a sense about who he is as a man, as a head coach.
That sense? That Bowles and Rex couldn't be further apart.
“He doesn't say much but what he says counts,” one player told Metro. The player didn't want his name used because, in his words, “I'm not into taking shots at Rex, who is a good man and a good coach.
“Todd keeps it brief. He wants us to be men and act like men. He's not a 'rah-rah' guy. He gets his point across and then we go to work. It's different – very different – around here.”
The player, who has been a starter with the Jets the past several seasons, paints the picture of a locker room that, over the past year, began to tire of Ryan's routine. It isn't a bashing of their old coach, per se, just that he didn't fit this team anymore.
There was some significant “tuning out” of Ryan last year, the player said, as their old head coach was seen “more like a friend than a coach.” That hurt discipline and accountability, something that this player says won't be an issue under Bowles.
Already, those around the facility are noting the Bowles work ethic. He speaks softly, they say, but he's a workaholic.
For those who have been in this Jets locker room for awhile, the switch to Bowles couldn't be more stark. He isn't a man of many words and he isn't flashy but who Bowles is and how he presents himself is perhaps what this team needs now more than ever.
Over the past four years, the Jets have a combined 26-38 record with no playoff appearances over that span. It is a contrast to the two years before – Ryan's first two years with the Jets in 2009 and 2010 – when a veteran team twice went within a game of the Super Bowl. He went from a coaching genius to someone eventually fired by a team that idolized him and got their identity from him.
Not much changed about 'Rex' but what did change was his personnel.
Ryan's shtick during those first two years was perfect for that team, a collection of veterans who were well-established and didn't need a strict head coach. But as his team got younger, his loosey-goosey style didn't work well.
“Again, I don't want to bash Rex, but sometimes it seemed like the rules weren't there,” the player said. “He was a player's coach that's for sure. But even that can go too far.”
Case in point last year when several players, including quarterback Geno Smith, were late to a team meeting in San Diego because they were at a movie. The consequences? There were none.
“Coach Bowles is very straightforward. He doesn't waste words,” another player told Metro by phone this week. “It's a change. You have to respect the man, he is very detail-oriented. He really spells things out. There is no shades of confusion with him. He spells it out. Our expectations, out itinerary. It's impressive.”
As of right now, the player said that there has been no slogan, no 'Play Like a Jet' moniker like the one that Ryan implemented in 2009.
“With coach Bowles, I'm not sure that's important,” the second player said.