There is always a human element to these NFL death marches to the firing squad.
You do everything you can to make sure there is no Blue Christmas Week with your loved ones as the clock ticks to Monday, when your dream job, your first head-coaching job, is no longer yours.
“My private life will remain private,” Todd Bowles began, answering a question about how he insulates his family — four children and a wife — from the outside noise, from a cruel world. “I don’t insulate ’em from anything. My kids go to school, they’re tough-minded, they can take care of themselves, and the Mrs. can take care of herself. We understand where we are. I got no problems with my family.”
The problems, of course, are with his Jets family, where even on Wednesday, Bowles had to deal with $72.5 million free agent Trumaine Johnson not practicing and refusing to label it a disciplinary matter.
“It’s an in-house matter that we’re dealing with,” Bowles said.
There have been too many in-house matters he has had to deal with, from Muhammad Wilkerson to Sheldon Richardson to this and to that, and too much undisciplined play on the field, and too much losing to justify keeping his job, even as Sam Darnold ends the season with the arrow pointing up.
You can’t fire 53 players, but by no means does it mean that there isn’t blood on their hands.
They should look at themselves in the mirror, too, and feel a sense of guilt, and at least try their damndest to Win One for Bowles on Sunday in Foxborough and maybe cost the hated Patriots a first-round bye if the Texans beat the Jaguars.
“He’s a heck of a coach and a heck of a man,” Josh McCown said.
“I speak for myself, and you look at what you could have done, be better, for him.”
McCown talked about Bowles stepping in when defensive coordinator Kacy Rodgers was sidelined briefly with an undisclosed illness.
“I’ve had other coaches and people come up to me after games, teams that we played, just talking about how tough the scheme is to play against, so I think he’s well-respected in that regard,” McCown said. “It’s unfortunate to put it all on one person, but I think everybody has a hand in how it goes, and we all have to take responsibility.”
Bowles is the fall guy because in Year 4, he couldn’t instill discipline in his penalty-plagued players, because he couldn’t stop the bleeding when the likes of Baker Mayfield, Marcus Mariota and Aaron Rodgers exposed his absence of a fourth-quarter pass rush, because he didn’t have enough talent to win with his rookie quarterback.
“There’s not a guy in here that doesn’t appreciate Coach Bowles, and what he’s about, and just how he treats us,” McCown said. “Whatever happens, happens, but I know there’s a lot of guys in here that have a ton of love and respect for Coach.”
Rontez Miles is one of them.
“Guilt or however you want to put it … when you got a guy that comes here and shows he cares about his job and put his time into you, you want to reward him with the win, ’cause he does care and he does coach his ass off. … I guess you could use the word ‘guilt’ though but we know we shoulda pulled some out for him as players,” Miles said.
Brandon Copeland is another one of them.
“It’s good to be able to have a quote-unquote open-door policy with the head coach and know that you can have a conversation with him,” Copeland said.
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But Bowles’ teams did not speak loudly enough or often enough with their shoulder pads.
“You win or you lose … it’s not horseshoes,” Bowles said.
He’s a big boy. He understands the business. Unless you are Bill Parcells, the Grim Reaper most likely will be immobilizing your key card.
“The record is what it is,” Bowles said. “You try to clean up spilt milk once it’s spilt … I mean, you just clean it up. You try to win the next game and you move on. I won’t look back on my coaching career til I’m retired and sitting in a rocking chair somewhere, so, I can get better as a coach, I can get better teaching and doing a lot of things and I’ll go from there. I don’t really look back and look at reflections too much, I don’t have the time right now.”
Alas, soon he will. To a man, his players should wish him and his family a Happy New Year when he tries to forget the old year.