Bowles’ tenure with Jets in question, and WBC beats spring training
Jamie C. Harris | 3/9/2017, midnight
In a matter of 17 weeks, Jets head coach Todd Bowles’s fortunes dramatically changed from being a promising head coach in the NFL’s largest market to a man seemingly on borrowed time.
Signed to a four-year deal Jan. 14, 2015, Bowles guided the Jets to a 10-6 record two seasons ago and a second place finish behind the New England Patriots in the AFC East. A loss to the Buffalo Bills in the final game of that campaign prevented the Elizabeth, N.J. native from making the playoffs in his first year as a full-time NFL head coach—Bowles was the Miami Dolphins interim head coach in 2011—after 18 years as an assistant on the college and pro levels, beginning in 1997 as the defensive coordinator for Morehouse College.
Last season was a disaster for Bowles and the Jets. They went 5-11 and ended the season at the bottom of the division. Rumors were rampant that Bowles would be fired by owner Woody Johnson, but the speculation was squelched when hours after their final game of the season on New Year’s Day, reports surfaced and were subsequently confirmed that the 53-year-old Bowles would be retained.
But for how long?
Unless they significantly overachieve, the Jets are unlikely to be a .500 team. Odds are their ceiling is seven wins. They have been in purge mode this offseason, releasing future Hall of Fame corner back Darrelle Revis, veteran wide receiver Brandon Marshall and longtime center Nick Mangold, among others.
The Jets have not determined who their starting quarterback will be, but it certainly won’t be Ryan Fitzpatrick, the 34-year-old career journeyman who caught lightening in a bottle with a strong season in 2015 but was awful last season, throwing 17 interceptions and only 12 touchdowns. Fundamentally, the Jets QB situation, as it was last season, is a mess.
The team is in clear rebuilding mode, and unless Bowles executes a superb job of compelling the Jets to play above their collective talent, his tenure will be short-lived.
The fourth World Baseball Classic, or WBC, began this week to the delight of many baseball fans who view Major League Baseball spring training games as interesting and gripping as counting the number of cars that drive by one’s house. Conversely, the WBC provides an element of excitement and drama resulting from the national pride it engenders among the players representing their respective countries and fans supporting the team corresponding with their country of origin.
When the WBC was launched in 2006, this writer was among the plethora of critics who viewed it as a gimmick conceptualized for the primary purpose of generating revenue for MLB and the International Baseball Federation. Perspectives changed after watching the intensity and seriousness in which the players from Japan, South Korea, the Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico and Cuba among other countries and the Commonwealths displayed, as well as the energy and festive atmosphere produced by large crowds in attendance.
Japan won the inaugural WBC and repeated in 2009. The Dominican Republic dominated the competition in 2013 on its way to the gold medal. The United States’ best finish was fourth place in 2009, but the U.S. is the favorite to win it all this year with a lineup featuring outfielders Giancarlo Stanton and Andrew McCutchen, catcher Buster Posey and second baseman Daniel Murphy.
The Yankees’ relievers Delin Betances (Dominican Republic) and Tyler Clipard (USA), shortstop Didi Gregorius and the Mets’ third baseman Jose Reyes and closer Jeurys Familia—both playing for the Dominican Republic—are part of the New York baseball contingent playing in the WBC.
Cuba doesn’t allow expatriates to play for their team, so the Mets’ Yoenis Cespedes and the Yankees’ Aroldis Chapman are not on the country’s roster. Even with the absence of such noted stars, there is still enough star power to make the WBC an intriguing watch and much welcome alternative to spring training.