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Bowled Over: By Firing Their Coach, the Jets Get a Chance to Save Sam Darnold

Todd Bowles was fired on Sunday after posting the worst mark of his four-year tenure with the team. Now, New York can buck team tradition and pair its young QB with an offensive guru.

New York Jets v New England Patriots Photo by Jim Rogash/Getty Images

The New York Jets fired head coach Todd Bowles on Sunday, according to a statement from team chairman and CEO Christopher Johnson, bringing an end to a tenure that seemed doomed for the final month of the season.

The move comes just hours after a 38-3 demolition by the division rival New England Patriots that dropped the Jets to 4-12, the worst mark of Bowles’s four-year tenure (though at least it spared Jets fans three consecutive 5-11 seasons). The Jets entered Week 17 24th in Football Outsiders DVOA, and their minus-108 point differential was the fourth-worst in the NFL. It was going to be tough for the defense-oriented Bowles to survive after the Jets defense gave up the fifth-most points per game (26.9) entering Week 17, but it was all but impossible when the offense became so moribund that rookie quarterback Sam Darnold’s development was in question. The Jets finished with a 24-40 record in four seasons under Bowles, giving him the worst winning percentage (.375) for a Jets head coach since Rich Kotite went 4-28 in the mid-1990s.

Bowles did not work wonders with the Jets the last few years, but in that time he was consistently handed some of the worst rosters in the league by general manager Mike Maccagnan. Since Maccagnan was hired in January 2015, the Jets rank 31st out of 32 teams in drafted players still in the league, according to a study by Over the Cap, a salary cap research website. Only one of the three players Maccagnan has drafted in the second round is still in the NFL, an astonishing figure considering the league average for second-rounders sticking in the league since 2015 is 92 percent. (Perhaps that’s why the Jets gave all of their second-round picks away.) Maccagnan, who was hired on the same day as Bowles, will participate in the head-coaching search along with CEO Chris Johnson, according to ESPN’s Adam Schefter. It’s a departure from 2015, when Jets majority owner Woody Johnson hired Maccagnan and Bowles and altered the team power structure by having both Maccagnan and Bowles report directly to him rather than the coach reporting to the GM.

The most fun name that has been connected with the Jets is Jim Harbaugh, who interviewed for the job in 2009 and also had a tough weekend. Johnson said in a statement on Christmas Eve that there was no truth to the Harbaugh report. (But the statement also said “Todd Bowles is our head coach,” so it’s clearly dated.) Beyond Harbaugh, other candidates include Mike McCarthy, who just feels like the perfect coach for the Jets, and former Lions coach Jim Caldwell, who the team is reportedly going to interview, according to NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport.

Whoever New York’s next head coach is, Darnold will be their guiding light, and it would behoove the organization to buck the past two decades and pair their young quarterback with an offensive mind who can grow with and tutor their young passer. The Jets’ past six coaches—Bowles, Rex Ryan, Eric Mangini, Herm Edwards, Al Groh, and Bill Parcells—have been defensive-minded coaches. The time is ripe for the Jets to live up to their namesake and join the NFL’s high-flying offensive revolution.