When it comes to rebuilding the New York Jets, Todd Bowles is all about respecting the process. He’s also about making sure team message of growth gets across to his players.
It should be no surprise that Bowles, after the Jets’ 38-31 win over the Kansas City Chiefs on Sunday, made sure in his press conference to keep the emphasis on his team’s growth.
“It’ll be a process,” said Bowles. “We’re still growing up and we’ll be growing up again next week, but for them not to flinch and come back from 14 down early and fight until the end is a credit to them.”
Barely five minutes into the game, the Jets were already behind 14-0 to the Chiefs. It looked like the route was on at MetLife Stadium. However, by the end of the opening quarter, the Jets had scrapped their way back to tie it up.
The remainder of the game was a back and forth up until the fourth quarter. That’s where the Jets finally exercised some of their demons by finding a way to close out the reeling Chiefs.
The win helped the Jets avoid blowing another fourth quarter lead. Their record is now a surprising 5-7 on the season.
“It’s big. It’s big to win one,” Bowles said. “It gives you a lot of confidence. You can breathe a sigh of relief before you move on to next week. It’s refreshing to come out and finally win one of these.”
It was a resilient effort by the Jets to get this win. They could have folded early but give them credit for staying with it. Overcoming their struggles with the fourth quarter also shows growth.
But make no mistake about it, this team is taking their cue from the steady leadership of their head coach.
This season has truly been a heck of a roller coaster for the Jets.
After losing their first two games, the Jets stunned everyone by winning their next three. Bowles, through the wins and losses, didn’t panic or get carried away. The same was the case when New York lost their next three games.
They went into their game with Kansas City having lost two of their last three. Those two losses, to Tampa Bay and Carolina, were where the Jets coughed up late-game leads. It was clear this team was having issues figuring out how to close out their opponents.
But instead of feeding into that narrative, the Jets doubled-down on their focus and found a way to close out the Chiefs. Again, it was Bowles setting the tone like a good head coach should.
“It’s hard not to give him the credit and I think he’s done a heck of a job with our group,” said quarterback Josh McCown. “His message has been the same week in and week out. And it’s a reflection of him as far as just the mental toughness to go through the changes that we went through in the offseason.”
McCown threw for 331 yards on 26 of 36 passing with one touchdown pass against Kansas City. He also ran for two more, including the game-winner. He’s done everything the Jets have asked of him as their starter this season, and credits Bowles for remaining consistent.
“He was steady,” McCown added. “His message never changed, he never complained. I think that was huge for us and I think that kind of steadiness for us is bearing fruit right now. It’s why we won the game today because of how he handles himself and carries himself day in and day out.”
Players are buying in and it shows in their overall development. The veterans and youngsters are enjoying playing for Bowles, and it shows in their statistics.
Wide receiver Robby Anderson has emerged, even surprising Bowles with how well he’s played. Tight end Austin Seferian-Jenkins is arguably having his best season while making the most of another chance.
Winning has a lot to do with it, obviously, but there’s a sense that the players also enjoy the accountability and attention to detail Bowles demands from all of them.
In case they needed reminders, Darron Lee and Muhammad Wilkerson were dealt disciplinary action from Bowles for what’s believed to have been team infractions.
Lee, the second-year pro, and Wilkerson, in his seventh season are two key pieces in the defense. Against the Chiefs, Wilkerson was benched and Lee was listed inactive. This move clearly showed Bowles is in charge and has the pulse of his team. There’s no playing favorites, it’s team first or it’s nothing at all.
By remaining even-keeled and making sure everyone’s on the same page, Bowles has the Jets pointed in the right direction. They’re learning together, resilient, and growing as a team.
The Jets are still mathematically alive in the AFC playoff race. While their chances remain remote, it really is a testament to the job Bowles is doing that it’s December and we’re talking about the Jets possibly making the playoffs.
It surely wasn’t the expectation of anyone back in the summer when the biggest question was which college quarterback will the Jets take in the 2018 NFL draft.
With four games remaining, including road games in New Orleans and New England, there’s still more lessons ahead to be learned by the Jets.
But if progress continues to be the focal point of Bowles’ job evaluation, then ownership should start getting out the fountain pens for their head coach’s new contract.