FOXBOROUGH, Mass. - Todd Bowles will take the field one last time as the Jets head coach on Sunday afternoon against the New England Patriots. And even a win against the Jets' most-hated rivals won't be enough to get him another shot.
To no one's surprise, Bowles is expected to be fired after the final game of the season, according to multiple sources familiar with the Jets' plans. That's been expected for more than a month, and the only mystery at this point is whether they'll do it Sunday night, or wait until Monday morning.
The Jets actually scheduled a press conference for Bowles on Monday at noon, but that appears to be only an attempt to portray their schedule as business-as-usual. Even the 55-year-old Bowles has told people he's aware that he will likely be fired within 24 hours after the season ends, according to a source.
The Jets, in fact, have been preparing for this for a while. There has already been one report that said the team has spent a month investigating Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh in preparation for making a run at him - a report that led Jets CEO Christopher Johnson to deny any "interest" in Harbaugh. They've also done some background work on former Green Bay Packers coach Mike McCarthy, according to an NFL source - though McCarthy has made it clear he won't engage with any teams while their current coach is still employed, the source said.
Harbaugh seems unlikely to leave Michigan, but McCarthy is expected to be a top candidate for the Jets job, as SNY has been reporting. Another coach who is expected to be on their list, as SNY has also reported, is former Colts and Lions coach Jim Caldwell. NFL sources who have spoken with people in the Jets' front office believe they are looking for an experienced coach with an offensive background, and both of them fit that description.
Beyond them, though, their options appear limited if they want experience and someone from the offensive side. It also won't help their search that both McCarthy and Caldwell could be in demand. McCarthy is likely to draw the interest of the Cleveland Browns and Arizona Cardinals, who are expected to fire coach Steve Wilks after just one season. Caldwell has already interviewed for the vacant Packers job.
Another offensive-minded option with NFL head coaching experience is Patriots offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels. The Jets could make a call to him, but given his close relationship with Bill Belichick, it seems unlikely he'd consider leaving New England for the Jets.
It's unclear if the Jets would be willing to consider college coaches without NFL head coaching experience. If they are, they could pursue Oklahoma's Lincoln Riley (even though he has said he's staying with the Sooners), Iowa State's Matt Campbell, or Baylor's Matt Rhule.
From the NFL ranks, they were expected to have interest in Minnesota Vikings offensive coordinator John DeFilippo, but that was before he was hired earlier this month. Rams quarterbacks coach Zach Taylor could be a hot candidate that draws interest, too.
Whomever the Jets hire, their priority is clearly the quick development of 21-year-old Sam Darnold. They seem to know it would be risky to entrust their franchise player to a rookie coach, or to a defensive-minded coach who has to bring in an offensive coordinator. That obviously didn't work under Bowles, who had three offensive coordinators in his final three seasons, and his players had issues with the way the offense was run under all of them, sources said.
Of course, that's only part of the reason the Bowles era will be ending. The biggest reasons is that since a terrific, 10-5 start during 2015 - his first season with the Jets - Bowles has gone 14-34. They have lost 10 or more games in three straight seasons for the first time since 1994-97 - the Pete Carroll/Rich Kotite years.
Bowles is also the first coach in franchise history to coach at least three seasons, and not lead the Jets to the playoffs once.