Long before arriving with the Jets, head coach Todd Bowles made a name for himself as a hardline disciplinarian. In fact, his outstanding behavioral reputation was perhaps the main reason the franchise hired the former Arizona Cardinal. Owner Woody Johnson sought to implement a marked culture change following the chaotic tenure of Rex Ryan. And indeed, Ryan and Bowles were in theory as different as two head coaches could be. Whereas Ryan was outgoing and braggadocios, Bowles has shown to be humble and soft-spoken. Instead of guaranteeing Super Bowls, Bowles has rarely varied from prototypical “coach-speak.”
By all indications, the New York Jets should have been a far more disciplined team under Bowles than his predecessor. But in 2016, that proved not to be the case, as controversy reared its ugly head time and time again throughout the season. There were locker room spats, suspensions, and even tardiness to game-day prep meetings, things very much unbecoming of a disciplined team. Thankfully, in the early stages of 2017, the Jets appear committed to a complete culture shift.
After Tumultuous Season, New York Jets Aim to Restore Order in 2017
Firstly, and most importantly, the decision to draft Jamal Adams was far more than just a football decision. Adams served as LSU’s leader for three strong years, and his role extended far beyond the sidelines. Anyone familiar with Adams can’t help but gush about his leadership qualities, from scouts to players alike. NFL.com’s Lance Zierlein, who watched Adams throughout his time at LSU, describes Adams as a “natural-born leader.” An anonymous LSU coach said, “the people who have been at that program the longest think he might be the best leader LSU has had in years.” Clearly, when Bowles and general manager Mike Maccagnan chose Adams, they were well aware of his innate capacity to lead. The two can only hope that Adams exerts his influence on the rest of the young roster.
Yet even before the decision to draft Adams, the Jets made their priorities abundantly clear. The team strayed well clear of big-name, splashy signings, and opted instead for high-character veterans. The Josh McCown signing perhaps best exemplifies the team’s philosophy. Both Tony Romo and Jay Cutler are better quarterbacks than McCown. But both have considerable baggage, and both would transform the Jets into an absolute media circus.
The decision to cut Brandon Marshall is also quite revealing. Marshall is a difficult character to dissect. He’s come a long way since his drama-filled Chicago days, but he remains very much a distraction. Last year, his drawn out plea for Ryan Fitzpatrick largely hurt the team, and many teammates reportedly took exception to his style of leadership. By cutting Marshall, the Jets lose a talented player, but also rid themselves of the controversy that comes attached. It’s decisions like these that have come to define the offseason: sacrificing aging talent in order to build a young, distraction-free team.
After a “competitive rebuild” in 2015, the Jets seem to have finally committed themselves to a full-fledged roster shakedown. Beyond simply finding talented football players, the team seems to understand the importance of leadership and character. That’s a positive sign, especially following a year riddled with dysfunction. Todd Bowles and Mike Maccagnan should remain committed to such values, as they look to begin a new era of Jets football.