FLORHAM PARK, N.J. – Todd Bowles will in many ways be the anti-Rex Ryan. And for this New York Jets team, now four full seasons removed from the playoffs, it could well be the right move.
With Ryan now gone, the happy-clappy, always full of mirth and joy and nary with a negative word to say tenor around this team will change. Enter Bowles, a former NFL safety who has been hailed by the players he coached as being an ideal blend of disciplinarian as well as someone who is a teacher and a mentor.
The pendulum hasn't swung fully from Ryan, who in his six years with this team achieved some early success but also earned the reputation – whether right or wrong - as a coach who established a “Club Med” vibe to his team. Bowles isn't the polar opposite to Ryan's philosophy but he isn't ready to be fully vested as a player-friendly coach either. There's a balance, he says, and a willingness to listen to players, even as he vowed to be someone who will demand hard work from his roster.
During his introductory press conference on Wednesday, Bowles spoke about his mentality as a head coach who won't necessarily be an in-your-face disciplinarian or one who allows the inmates to run the show.
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“I know I have to grow in this business. Obviously as a coach, every level you move up you have to grow. My philosophy is the same as everyone else's: Smart, tough and physical football but there's a way in dealing with players and there's different types of coaches. I can yell at guys, I can talk to guys, I can get through to guys in different ways. Understanding and knowing what you have on this team and relating to those guys is what kind of coach you're going to be,” Bowles said on Wednesday.
“As long as they know it's not personal, you can get at them the way you're going to get at them. You have to understand your team and you have to understand your players. As a coach, I'll be demanding; it's a demanding sport and you got to get the best out of your guys. At the same time, you have to hear them out and understand and know what they feel so you can get a good feel for the person.”
What helps Bowles is his credentials coming into this job. He spent eight years in the league, something that Ryan who had been a career assistant coming into his stint with the Jets, can never lay claim to. And he was a head coach, albeit briefly when in 2011 he was interim head coach of the Miami Dolphins for the final three games of the season.
But he can point to a 2-1 record during that stint as well as a Super Bowl ring as a player. And it surely doesn't hurt that this past season he was named by the Pro Football Writers Association as the NFL's 'Assistant of the Year.' While players loved playing for Ryan, there is a certain swagger to Bowles that can't be denied.
How Bowles in his first true head coaching job fares likely falls on the compilation of his staff. Already, he's brought on board a seasoned offensive coordinator in the 63-year old Chan Gailey, a man who turned the likes of Ryan Fitzpatrick into a successful NFL quarterback.
If Bowles can bring on board some experienced hands to his staff, then he stands a better shot to build something sustainable. Again he's looking to be the anti-Rex in this regard as Ryan built his staff upon many close relationships and friends from college and then at his previous stop as a defensive coordinator with the Baltimore Ravens. This wasn't a staff necessarily that did a tremendous job in terms of developing talent and coaching up players.
Bowles has a reputation as someone with an eye in helping players take that next step, something the Jets need on a roster and two-deep that is somewhat underwhelming.
In recent times where was never consistency on the offensive side of the ball, with three offensive coordinators during Ryan's six years with the Jets. Bowles is initially sounding open to bringing his expertise to the field as a defensive-minded head coach but as someone willing to let his coordinators and staff go out there and coach.
“The biggest thing for a head coach is that in order to lead, you have to listen. I'm going to hire some coaches that are going to know how to coach football and coach their position,” Bowles said.
“Defensive coordinator will call but I'll have a big hand in the defense in terms of understanding the scheme and terminology and the way we go forward. Offensively I'll have my hand on the print, I'm the head coach of the football team. We have an offensive coordinator that is going to call the plays and run the show. But we have to do what is best for this team to play complimentary football and it's my job to do that.”