Jets coach Todd Bowles

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Keidel: Trust In Bowles For Deciding When To Go With Darnold

Jets Coach Will Determine When Rookie QB Is Ready

Jason Keidel
August 15, 2018 - 12:18 pm

As Jets joust over the short-term future of Sam Darnold -- in a case of collective ADD, there's a myopic rush to get Darnold under center -- there's been one mature voice over the decision. That would be the man making the call: Todd Bowles.  

The Jets' coach has been stoic and unflappable in the face of the frothing media trying so hard to stir up a quarterback controversy and make Bowles commit to his rookie signal-caller before he has to. Bowles has been a rock, declaring that we will know Gang Green's starting QB on opening day when he jogs onto the gridiron with the first team. 

It's not a sexy assertion, but chain of command, from the Marines to our moms, makes the world a more logical and efficient place. You may notice that losing teams, like the Cleveland Browns, for instance, have always had broken links in their chain, a mutating totem pole that leads to drafting Johnny Manziel in the first round. When an owner usurps the general manager's power, bad things happen. 

Likewise, when a GM gelds a coach, the latter is nothing but a puppet in a jumpsuit. Another example would be the Dallas Cowboys, somehow America's team despite a pair of playoff wins in two decades. Owner Jerry Jones is the de-facto GM, president and popcorn vendor, when he wants the job. Jason Garrett, who may be a fine coach but we'll never really know while he's been marginalized in Dallas, is there simply because Jones likes him. 

MORE: Redskins' Norman Has Very High Praise For Jets' Darnold

Who cares? Jets fans should. Bowles may not be your favorite person or personality. He's silent and stoic and hardly gives you the juicy, testosterone-laced invectives we've heard from many football coaches. He doesn't throw chairs or tantrums. His voice has a high, grainy, Mike Tyson pitch. 

But Bowles is in charge. And I heard what many would call an outrageous assertion this week, but it's just a whisker from the truth. Talk radio provocateur, Colin Cowherd, said that of all 32 NFL teams last year, the Jets were the one that overachieved the most. 

Crazy, right? Wrong. The 5-11 Jets were expected to be the Browns last year. Not only did we expect a historically bad season that ended with one or two wins, we also wondered if the Jets would challenge the 1992 Seattle Seahawks for fewest points ever scored by an NFL club since the league expanded to 16 games in 1976. 

Not only did the Jets dart out the gate with three wins in their first five games, they also could have gone 7-9 (or even 8-8) if not for some dubious calls, especially one that went against the Jets when they played the Patriots, when a clear TD catch by Gang Green was deemed incomplete. 

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The 2017 Jets were the only team not to have a single player register above 89 on the John Madden video game that's so realistic it doubles as America's synthetic simulcast. Yet they still won five games. And Bowles is the biggest reason. 

Now they have a real chance to be really good really soon because they finally bagged a young man who has all the markings of their first franchise quarterback since Joe Namath strolled the Shea Stadium sidelines in his white fur coat. And we football fans, not just Jets fans, should let the adult in the room decide when Darnold is ready to start under center. 

We can pretend we know that the big, husky, humble kid out of USC is ready. But we're not there -- on the practice field, in film study, in the huddle or any number of places that prove when Darnold is indeed ready. If the rookie needs to kneel at the twin altars of Josh McCown and Teddy Bridgewater before we hurl him into the mayhem of live NFL action, so be it. If the difference between success and failure is a few months clutching a clipboard, wearing a baseball cap on the sideline, so be it. 

Hall of Fame GM Bill Polian said if NFL shot-callers listened to the fans too much, they would soon be sitting with them in the stands. Bowles is the man 

MORE: Lichtenstein: Jets Would Be Foolish To Trade Bridgewater

When it comes to prepping Darnold for the whiplash speed, nuanced defenses and endless routes, then Bowles is the man -- not you, not I, not Fireman Ed -- to make the call on whether the rookie QB should sit for a month or two.

Believe what you like. There have been a few talking heads who have questioned Bowles' bona fides as a head coach. I don't, nor should you. And if you think the Jets are a 3-13 club this year, watch how much better they become. And as they improve, maybe you'll see that Bowles is perhaps the biggest reason for it. 

Follow Jason on Twitter at @JasonKeidel