Todd Bowles, who hasn’t coached a day of offense in his life, is planning to take an active role on that side of the ball in 2017.
Speaking to reporters Tuesday at the NFL owners meetings, the New York Jets‘ head coach indicated he will make his presence felt both during the week and on game day. The change is already in effect, as Bowles has been joining the offensive staff in offseason meetings.
“I’ve been in meeting rooms up until this point, and I will continue to be involved,” Bowles said. “I’ll be probably heavily more involved than I’ve been since I’ve been here.”
In 2015 and 2016, the defensive-minded Bowles stayed out of the way and allowed the now-retired Chan Gailey to run the offense. It worked well in 2015, but the offense was a major disappointment last season.
“It’s just the way I feel as a coach, and have evolved to, and where I need to be,” said Bowles, explaining the change. “To understand everything from that [offensive] standpoint, I need to be heavily involved.”
Bowles also said he’ll be “dictating a little more on game day in certain situations.” Presumably, that means he’ll be exercising more input into playcalling.
So, what to make of this about-face?
The first thing that comes to mind is that Bowles has a first-time NFL offensive coordinator, John Morton, and Bowles wants to assist him as much as possible. At the same time, Bowles should be careful not to become too heavy-handed because it’s not his area of expertise. The dynamic was different under Gailey, a former NFL head coach and coordinator who had seen just about everything in football. Gailey didn’t need Bowles looking over his shoulder.
This also sounds like Bowles wants to spread his wings as a coach, which is how he sold himself to Jets owner Woody Johnson in his job interview. In Bowles’ introductory news conference back in January 2015, Johnson said one of the things that impressed him about Bowles was his vision as a CEO-type coach — someone who could “take a 30,000-foot look at offense, defense and special teams.”
That appealed to Johnson because the Jets’ previous coach, Rex Ryan, was a 24/7 defensive coach. Every so often, Ryan dropped hints about getting more involved in the offense, but it never materialized. His obsession with defense created an offense-versus-defensive mentality on the team, and that never was good for chemistry.
Bowles promised to be different, and he’s growing into the coach he always wanted to be. He appears to be relinquishing control of the defense, although he claimed he handed off the playcalling duties to defensive coordinator Kacy Rodgers in the middle of last season.
“For the most part, I don’t see that changing,” said Bowles, expressing his faith in Rodgers.
Quick refresher: The Jets’ defense stunk last season, surrendering too many big plays on too many busted coverages. In some games, the unit was poorly coached. There’s no way to sugarcoat it. Maybe Bowles, who made his bones in this league as a defensive coach, should be doing more with the defense, not less.
But, hey, this is his call. His rear end is on the hot seat, and this could be his last chance to get it right. He’s enacting his master plan, and you can’t blame a coach for that.