Todd Bowles was emphatic Sunday after a win over the Browns when asked what the Jets had accomplished.
“We haven’t done anything,” the Jets coach said.
But I would argue with Bowles that is not true. The Jets are 3-2, tied for first place in the AFC East with a showdown this Sunday against the Patriots. They are in a position no one expected them to be in when the season began. No one believes they are a great team, but no one is saying they are the worst team in the NFL anymore either.
Bowles deserves a ton of credit for where these Jets are. This is not a good football team. The Jets do not have loads of talent. They have the 26th-ranked offense and the 25th-ranked defense in the NFL. They have been outscored 47-14 in the fourth quarter. Their pass rush is a rumor and their offense vanishes for long stretches.
So, they have some warts. Still … they’re 3-2, tied for first place in the AFC East with a showdown on Sunday against the Patriots.
Bowles has galvanized this group of players from the start of spring workouts through now. He has preached team unity and used the doubters on the outside just enough to give his team a push. Unlike Rex Ryan, Bowles does not announce every perceived slight to the team to form an us-against-the-world mentality, but he has not pretended those low expectations don’t exist and if that pushes a player, fine.
After a year of locker-room dysfunction in 2016, Bowles made it a point to pull this team together. He came up with “one team, one goal” as a slogan and had it plastered all over the Jets’ building in Florham Park. His message to the team was simple: less me, more we. His players have bought in.
How long can it last? That is now the question. Wins over the Dolphins, Jaguars and Browns count the same in the standings as wins over any other teams, but anyone who has watched closely knows the last two weeks could have gone the other way. Now, the Patriots come to town.
Bowles entered the season as a perceived Dead Coach Walking. He has not saved his job with a strong first month of the season, but he’s given you the feeling of how he can. Right now, the feeling around the Jets is this is a team moving in the right direction. It has shown improvement since a Week 2 loss in Oakland and has found ways to win. That is a credit to Bowles. If the same feeling exists when the season ends in Foxborough on Dec. 31, then Bowles should be back in 2018 based on what ownership has said.
Last month, Jets chairman and CEO Christopher Johnson echoed comments his brother Woody made this spring when talking about Bowles’ job security.
“Believe me, like any fan I like wins a lot more than losses, but that’s only part of the equation,” Christopher said. “The real way to judge this team and the people on it, me included, are we getting better?”
Right now, it feels like they are. If this stretch came in December, Bowles might be safe. Unfortunately for him, it came in September and October. The Jets’ late-season schedule looks treacherous.
They play the Panthers and Chiefs at home followed by trips to Denver and New Orleans before getting the Chargers at home on Christmas Eve and the Patriots on New Year’s Eve in Foxborough.
On paper, the Chargers look like the only win.
Bowles’ challenge is to figure out a way to get the good vibes from now to last until New Year’s.
Even Bowles would admit: THAT would be doing something.