According to several reports, the New York Jets will replace Rex Ryan with former Arizona Cardinals defensive coordinator Todd Bowles. The 51-year-old Bowles texted ESPN's Josina Anderson on Tuesday night telling her that he had taken the job. ESPN's Adam Schefter reports that it's a four-year deal.
Bowles spent his last two seasons as the Cardinals' defensive coordinator, working with head coach Bruce Arians, who coached him when Bowles was a defensive back at Temple.
"He was one of the smartest players I’ve ever coached, and then we had to work together in Cleveland, and I saw how great of a teacher he had become," Arians told me about Bowles in November. "He did an unbelievable job with Anthony Henry, who I think had 10 picks as a rookie. He had a way of schooling guys and getting them prepared on what was going to happen on Sunday, and I knew he would be a great coordinator when he got the opportunity."
After his collegiate career, Bowles played from 1986-93 as a defensive back with the Washington Redskins and San Francisco 49ers. He then served as a member of the Packers' personnel staff for two years, and was the defensive coordinator and secondary coach for Morehouse College in 1997, and for Grambling in '98 and '99. Bowles became the Jets' defensive backs coach in 2000, filled the same position for the Browns in '04 and then the Cowboys from '05 through '07. The Dolphins hired Bowles as their secondary coach and assistant head coach in 2008, and he served as interim head coach after Tony Sparano was fired in December 2011. Bowles went 2-1 in that role.
He was hired as the Eagles' secondary coach before the 2012 season, and was promoted to defensive coordinator when Juan Castillo was fired in October. Bowles engineered enough of a comeback that season for Arians to hire him when he became the Cards' head coach before the 2013 season. Bowles' defenses finished second in the NFL in Football Outsiders' opponent-adjusted metrics in 2013 and seventh in '14. Many believe that the coaching job Bowles did this last season was even more impressive, with the season-ending injury to defensive lineman Darnell Dockett, the departure of linebacker Karlos Dansby to the Browns in free agency and the suspension of linebacker Daryl Washington.
Now, Bowles has a bigger opportunity and it's going to take him a while to get things off the ground. The Jets have a formidable defensive line and good linebackers, but the secondary needs work. On offense, the line is decent, but Geno Smith is still very much a work in progress, and outside of Eric Decker -- whose production dipped precipitously when he went from Peyton Manning throwing him footballs to the Jets' iffy passing game -- there isn't much at the receiver position. Bowles and new general manager Mike Maccagnan, the former Texans director of college scouting who was also hired Tuesday, will have to pay for the mistakes made by former general managers John Idzik and Mike Tannenbaum in the short term.
Still, Bowles is one of the most respected assistants in the NFL, and that starts with Arians, who has had no trouble endorsing his longtime colleague.
"I'm all for it," Arians said earlier this month about Bowles' prospects. "He's earned it, and he deserves it."