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Keidel: Jets Would Do Well To Hire John Harbaugh

Strong Chance Jets Fire Bowles After Season

Jason Keidel
November 23, 2018 - 10:56 am

It's sad to see anyone walk down the gallows of their profession.

Especially in the NFL, a league that lacks nostalgia and nuance, where a head coach is publicly and unceremoniously booted from their employer, their key to the building, their parking spot, and their headset replaced by day's end. 

But if anyone understands the meat-hook realities of an NFL coach, it's an NFL coach. Sadly, Todd Bowles may very well be the first coach canned on Black Monday, the first day after the end of the regular season. After a promising start - a 48-17 drubbing of the Lions in Detroit in Week 1 - the Jets seem to have regressed, playing with decreased devotion and intelligence by the game. 

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There was a two-week soft spot in the schedule, during which Bowles had a chance to prove his players still had his back. But rather than rise to the challenge, Gang Green was whipped both times. First by the Miami Dolphins, who started Brock Osweiler at quarterback, and then a shameful home loss, 41-10, to the Buffalo Bills, who started Matt Barkley, a quarterback many of us thought was retired. The Jets were down 31-3 at the half, sending scores of humiliated fans staggering onto the next train to Secaucus. 

Unless there's some miraculous revival starting this weekend - wholly improbably considering they play the Patriots - the Jets are on another nosedive to a top-ten draft pick, if not higher. And few think Bowles will be around to see the results. 

If true, the Jets need to find his replacement.  The trendy way to solve it is simply to pluck the latest offensive coordinator who bats his eyes at the Johnson family. 

Maybe not. For every wunderkind like Matt Nagy prospering in Chicago, we see Pat Shumur stumbling in Gotham. When we see a young genius like Sean McVay find football gold in Los Angeles, we see Jason Garrett still struggling after years coaching the Cowboys, the richest franchise in sports. Even Kyle Shanahan, the next boy wonder of the NFL, has plunged well below .500 waters without his prized QB Jimmy Garappolo. 

So it's myopic to say that you need only toss a dart at the mass of offensive gurus to find the next Bill Walsh. In fact, we shouldn't even assume the next head coach has to be an offense-first coach. 

If reports are to be believed, there will be a fine coach on the market on Black Monday. Word is the Baltimore Ravens and John Harbaugh will amicably part ways after their last game of the season. In 12 years running the Ravens, Harbaugh has won at least 10 games five times, has posted just one losing season, and owns the one thing that has eluded the Jets since 1969 - a Super Bowl ring. 

Go down the list of head coaches the Jets have hired, and you'll find a conga line of neophytes who didn't have the hardware or requisite respect when they entered the locker room. From Bruce Coslet to Rich Kotite to Eric Mangini to Rex Ryan, the Jets have yet to go big game hunting, come back with a serious name with some serious game. It would be hard to argue against someone of Harbaugh's pedigree, record, and league-wide admiration.  

Even in this time of tumult, with his job in jeopardy and his franchise QB Joe Flacco hobbled by injury, forcing him to start fledgeling QB Lamar Jackson, Harbaugh still has his team playing hard, with a 5-5 record and a slim chance at a playoff spot. If the Ravens beat the lowly Raiders, at home, Harbaugh will notch his 100th win against 71 losses, which will give him a .584 winning percentage as an NFL head coach, which doesn't even include his 15-10 record in the playoffs (a .600 winning percentage). 

By contrast, Bowles is 25-36 overall, with zero playoff appearances. Granted the Jets don't have the Ravens' personnel prowess or Ozzie Newsome's magic wand for football operations. Bowles didn't have Ed Reed or Ray Lewis or Terrell Suggs on defense. But at some point your record as a coach decides your fate, no matter how personable or professional you may be.

We don't know if Bowles has the bona fides as an NFL head coach. But we do know Harbaugh does. It also doesn't help that Darrelle Revis just did the talk radio circuit and accused Bowles of not having the Jets ready for the biggest game of his career, that heartbreaking loss at Buffalo to the Bills, which made the Jets 10-6 instead of 11-5 and bounced them from the playoffs. Since that game, Bowles and the Jets are 13-29. You can decide how much of that is Bowles the coach versus the Jets' players. 

But you can't fire an entire football team. But you can hand a pink slip to a head coach. If Revis is right about Bowles, or if the Jets are just simply sick of defending him, then this is it for their beleaguered coach. And if that's the case, the Jets would do well to hire John Harbaugh. Perhaps the best way to bag a Lombardi Trophy is to hire someone who already won one. 

Twitter: @JasonKeidel