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Reports indicate that Sunday's game could be Todd Bowles' last as head coach of the Jets, as he's widely expected to be relieved of his duties on Monday. To Bowles' credit he has had the team playing hard over the last month, although the team has still only won four games and it seems unlikely that this will be enough to satisfy CEO Christopher Johnson's "progress" mandate.
Over the course of the season, Bowles has had several highly-publicized missteps, many of which continued patterns that had developed over the course of his first three seasons. Let's review some of the main ones.
Bowles' defenders would point to the fact that the Jets haven't had a strong roster over the course of his tenure, but the coaching staff has to take some of the responsibility for that because not enough young players seem to have developed and some high-profile contributors seem to have regressed.
Cornerback Trumaine Johnson's recent absence from practice was attributed to an "in-house incident" which could be reminiscent of the pattern of insubordination displayed by the likes of Muhammad Wilkerson and Sheldon Richardson in recent seasons. It also came on the heels of a four-game suspension for linebacker Darron Lee.
Discipline has been an issue on the field too, as the Jets have been among the league leaders in penalties all season long, but Bowles has come under fire for not demanding accountability from his players.
Another pattern that seems to have emerged over Bowles' tenure is that he doesn't always use his personnel in the optimum manner. For example, despite having specifically targeted a slew of long-armed cornerbacks that possess the ideal skill-set for press coverage, the Jets seem to have been exploited all season long when playing off-coverage or zone schemes. Johnson's press coverage numbers last year were among the best in the league, but he's often been giving up a big cushion and hasn't been tracking opposing team's number one target as in the past.
Slow starts and a lack of adjustments after half time have been two of the main complaints about Bowles' teams over the past few years. When Kacy Rodgers missed a couple of games due to illness, the defense fared well with Bowles back in charge of play-calling. However, since his return, the team fell back into bad habits and lost that momentum.
Another time fans would have liked to have seen him intervene was when the Jets' offense essentially stopped trying to score and started running down the clock while trailing in Denver last December.
Fans rarely side with a coach who will punt the ball on 4th-and-short, especially in opposing territory. However, the Jets have done that many times with Bowles as a coach. This will often be viewed as waving the white flag if the team is losing. Bowles might suggest he was trusting his defense in such situations, but they've rarely repaid his faith as the team has struggled to close out
This approach may also have slowed down Sam Darnold's development, as the Jets seemed reluctant to even throw past the line of scrimmage against teams like the Browns. In the blowout loss to the Bills, they only completed one pass that was 10 yards past the line of scrimmage.
Regardless of the amount of talent on the roster, Bowles can be judged on his in-game management in terms of things like when to challenge the call on the field and he hasn't always maximized his opportunities in such situations. For example, he neglected to challenge a Trenton Cannon third down run that was marked short a few weeks ago, although broadcast replays clearly showed he made the line to gain.
Another egregious error came against the Patriots when Bowles opted to accept a penalty after New England failed to convert on third down. Instead of forcing the Patriots to settle for a field goal, this gave them another down and, predictably, they scored a touchdown on 3rd-and-long. That was the Patriots' only first half score, without which they would have trailed at the half, instead of going in tied at 10.
Loyalty to veterans
Finally, Bowles has also come under fire for sticking with his veteran players rather than giving reps to youngsters, even in meaningless games. While this overlaps somewhat with player development, it has also meant that struggling players have remained in the line-up when they arguably didn't deserve to. The worst example of this was when an injured Spencer Long was misfiring snap after snap in the 13-6 loss to Miami, but Bowles refused to bench him until late in the game.