Judging Todd Bowles isn’t as ‘obvious’ as Jets boss thought

Three months ago, Christopher Johnson sat in a board room at the Jets’ headquarters with a group of reporters and discussed how he would evaluate Todd Bowles at the end of the season.

The end of the season is now here.

The Jets finish the season against the Patriots on Sunday. It is worth looking back on the comments of the Jets CEO and chairman from that day in September to see what he might be thinking as the season comes to an end.

We will know in a week whether Bowles is staying or going as Jets coach. There is a strong sense inside the Jets building that Bowles will be back. Despite the 5-10 record, there is a feeling the team is heading in the right direction.

That is what Johnson said he would be looking for in September. At the time, the team was 0-2, and the idea of the Jets tanking for a top draft pick was still being discussed. Johnson, echoing sentiments his brother Woody expressed in the spring, made it clear that Bowles would not be evaluated by wins and losses when he met reporters on Sept. 20.

“My brother said early in the spring to not judge the team on wins and losses, but its progression and I agree with that,” Christopher Johnson said. “I think it’s going to be obvious to all if this team is progressing. There are so many young guys who, just because they aren’t bold-faced names, doesn’t mean they aren’t really talented. I think that we have a group of coaches, including Todd, who are really good at building those players up and teaching the roles these young players have to fill. I think you’re going to see a lot of progression, but it’s going to be obvious. You guys will probably let me know, but I think it will be obvious to all.”

It may not be as obvious as Johnson had hoped, but yes, there have been positive strides from young players on this team. Jamal Adams, Marcus Maye, Robby Anderson, Leonard Williams and Jordan Jenkins all have given Jets fans reason to believe this team might have a core to build around.

As for Bowles, judging his improvement and progression as a head coach is tougher. He has done well in cleaning up a locker room that was divisive in 2016 and built a stronger culture this season. This team has good chemistry and has played hard for Bowles. With the exception of the second half in Oakland and the game in Denver, the Jets have kept things close all year. That was the case again Sunday, when the Jets lost 14-7 to a Chargers team that could make the playoffs.

Wins over the playoff-bound Jaguars and Chiefs look good on Bowles’ résumé, and if the Bills make it, it would give him three wins over playoff teams.

On the downside, this team continues to make the same mistakes. There have been too many stupid penalties, too many fourth-quarter collapses and too many questionable game-day decisions by Bowles.

Bowles was asked after Sunday’s game what positives he can take away from the season despite losing eight of their last 10 games.

“You just keep your head down and keep working,” Bowles said. “We’re in every game. We’re not closing them out. We’re not finishing them. For whatever reason, we’re not making plays in the fourth quarter to finish these games. You keep your head and you keep working and keep trying to find a solution. That’s all you can do.”

If you want to look at the bottom line, Bowles is 10-22 dating back to the loss in Buffalo that ended his first season with the Jets. Johnson said in September he is not a patient man. We’ll see if he has some patience next week.

“Believe me, like any fan I like wins a lot more than losses, but that’s only part of the equation,” Johnson said. “The real way to judge this team and the people on it, me included, are we getting better?”