For all intents and purposes, the honeymoon is over for Todd Bowles.
The second-year Jets head coach is facing a must-win game tonight. That’s a sign that it’s over.
The Jets can’t go 0-2 if they lose to the Bills on Thursday Night Football. A loss, and there’s a good possibility the Jets could go 0-7 with the Chiefs, Seahawks, Steelers, Cardinals and Ravens on the schedule after tonight.
The Jets are coming off a 23-22 home loss to the Bengals, which they had no business losing in what was a winnable game. The Jets were out-coached, outplayed and outworked in the second half.
Now, it’s on Bowles to have his team ready to go and bounce back from a tough loss.
We are going to find out what he is all about as the Jets head coach. He never had the pressure of having his team bounce back from a tough loss last year. The only tough loss he had was the final game of the season against the Bills last year, who eliminated the Jets from participating in the postseason.
It was not a crime for him to lose that game. It happens. No one expected the Jets to be a playoff team this year, so there was no pressure on him.
Now, Bowles has to come through. He has to show Jets and their fans that he can lead in crisis. That’s where good coaches stand out.
He has to get his team prepared, and he has to get them off to a good start. He can’t be out-coached by incompetent Bills head coach Rex Ryan, who is 2-0 against the Jets head coach.
The Jets are a better team defensively and offensively than their tonight’s opponent. But teams don’t win on paper. They win by outplaying the other team. Bowles has to get his point across to his players, and it’s a challenge he dealt with the last few days during a short week of practice.
Bowles and his staff have to make adjustments in the second half if the Bills figure out the Jets’ plays. It was something they didn’t do last week against the Bengals, which they did not double-team A.J. Green, not to mention they abandoned the running game when Ryan Fitzpatrick struggled in the second half.
Bowles needs to coach with a sense of urgency. That attitude has to permeate to the players, too.
The second-year Jets head coach knows what’s on the line. He has behaved like it by being curt with the New York media Monday by not talking much about the Bengals loss and focusing more on the Bills.
If he is letting the pressure get to him, so what?
Bowles knows tonight is important. To go 0-3 against Ryan would be a bad look for him in the eyes of Jets fans.
Ryan is still adored by Jets fans despite winning nothing here. There are good number of Jets fans that still wish he was their team’s head coach. To them, he is their gold standard. That shows the low standards the Jets have when they are measuring Bowles to the previous head coach.
If Ryan’s two AFC Championship Game appearances are the gold standard, then it shows the Jets have accomplished nothing since winning the championship in the 1969 season.
Going 0-3 against the Bills coach also wouldn’t make a good impression to Jets owner Woody Johnson, who to this day still likes Ryan.
Bowles is no dummy. He knows what’s at stake.
New York is not a forgiving place when teams don’t meet expectations. Fans don’t handle disappointment well.
The Jets fans have long been tired of their team disappointing for a long time. They are in no mood for patience anymore. It’s hard to blame them.
It’s been five years since the Jets made the playoffs. That’s unacceptable in this town. It’s what we call a drought in the NFL.
The Jets can’t afford to miss the playoffs this year. If they do, Bowles will be a candidate to be replaced after his third season. Johnson is in no mood for patience.
Tonight is a pressure cooker for Bowles. He needs to earn credibility with the fans, who still don’t know what to make of the Jets head coach.
How the Jets respond tonight will determine what they think of him.
Bowles knows well what’s at stake.