Todd Bowles deserves better than this.
OK, Jets fans, look: Before you grab the pitchforks and the torches and ask if I’ve lost my mind, this has nothing to do with his ultimate fate. Bowles will be fired, and he deserves to be fired. His team remains a self-sabotaging mess and every week we hear the same laments and the same excuses. Bowles will lose his job, and he will lose it on merit. There is no debating that.
But he deserves better than what he’s going to get across the next four weeks. Bowles has been brutal as the Jets head coach, but he has been nothing but dignified in the job. He has suffered and bled in the name of building something here; the fact he’s failed at it takes none of that away.
So why put him through the next four weeks? Why put his team through this?
Working a losing locker room is never a fun thing, but the Jets’ room has become increasingly excruciating as this season has progressed because Bowles’ players — to their credit and to his — fall over themselves trying to take the burden of blunders off his shoulders and lug it onto theirs.
The Jets lack many things. Accountability is not one of them. Now, we can be cynical about this and say, with a laugh, “Well, they’ve had a lot of practice at it, they should be good at it” and, well, that is true. It is also true that this is the flip side of the very thing for which David Fizdale has been praised with the Knicks — in this column and elsewhere.
Fizdale’s greatest strength, as we have discussed, is that he clearly and thoroughly connects with his players. In turn, they play hard for him. To date, they have willingly fulfilled their roles for him. And we have seen the great affection the Knicks have for him. Now, in Year 1 of a massive rebuild, when every victory is treated as a parade-worthy accomplishment, a coach can survive — thrive even — on those splendid relationships.
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In Year 4, however, after a stretch of 45 games in which his team is 13-32, that isn’t nearly enough. The evidence that his players really do like Bowles, and like playing for him, is overwhelmed by the fact that their affinity doesn’t travel. It doesn’t translate. It may kill the Jets to their souls that they haven’t performed for Bowles, but the numbers, and the results, don’t lie.
And so up and down the room goes the question, every week, in some form or fashion: “Are the coaches doing enough to help you guys win?”
And up and down, to a man, comes the answer: “It’s on us, not them.”
Kudos for their loyalty, but it’s not going to change anything. Bowles is going to be fired as soon as the season is over. So what is the value in letting him twist in the wind this way? Especially since the Packers — a team with a lot better track record than the Jets over the past, oh, quarter-century or so — had no problem firing Mike McCarthy after their latest flameout at home Sunday against woeful Arizona.
The Packers, at least, still had a ghost of a chance of making the playoffs until the Cardinals celebrated their third win of the year on the Lambeau Field turf and forced them to give up that ghost. The instant the Packers went from trouble to nowhere, McCarthy was gone. Why string this out? His time had ended, his course was run. Move on and move out.
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Why won’t the Jets do that here?
A popular theory is that there’s nobody competent enough on Bowles’ staff to take over the interim duties. And look, if it’s clear that this isn’t the Parcells-Belichick-Coughlin Giants staff of the early-’90s, there has to be someone who can give it a go for a month. The Packers picked Joe Philbin, who suggested on HBO’s “Hard Knocks” he was a goofball lightweight before he ever coached a game in Miami and proved he was a goofball lightweight.
McCarthy was spared a month of misery. And, yes, he is an accomplished coach with a Super Bowl on his résumé, far more successful than Bowles. But is that a good enough reason for the Jets to let Bowles twist in the wind — and force his players to stand up and take his shots week after week for the next four weeks?
Bowles deserves better than that.
Jeez, everyone deserves better than that.