FLORHAM PARK, N.J. -- It's not a suspension or an arrest or a locker-room fight, but it's a coaching challenge nonetheless -- a welcome challenge, of course.
Managing prosperity is part of the job, and Todd Bowles knows it. It's better than dealing with the calamity du jour, as was the case in the summer, but mishandling the good times also can be damaging to a team. Success is intoxicating; Bowles' objective is to maintain a sober, clear-eyed determination at One Jets Drive.
The New York Jets' impressive win Monday night was a perception-changing, expectation-raising accomplishment. They're 2-0 for the first time since 2011, and here come the seemingly inept Philadelphia Eagles, driving up the New Jersey Turnpike, desperate for their first victory. The way things are going for them, the bus driver will get off the wrong exit and they'll end up in Hoboken.
All of which means this is a dangerous game for the Jets. That's how the NFL works.
Bowles doesn't seem worried. Does he ever?
He was chilling outside the team cafeteria on Wednesday, after his daily news conference, when I asked if he's concerned about his team's mindset in these circumstances. After all, it's a new coach and a new season, and everything is still in the formative stages, including the team's identity.
No, he said.
"We have a veteran team. These guys understand," Bowles said. "Through training camp and some of the trials and tribulations -- with the injuries and the penalties and the fighting -- we understand how we win and how we lose."
I covered Bill Parcells' run with the Jets, 1997-99, and I hear a lot of Parcells in Bowles. It makes sense, of course, because he was around Parcells in New York, Dallas and Miami, and Bowles considers the Hall of Fame coach a mentor. At times, they speak the same language, with an ability to simplify the game into two categories: things that make you win, things that make you lose. He sounds like a chip of the ol' Bill.
Every Monday, Bowles shows his team video clips from other games, instances in which teams lost because of critical mistakes. There are a thousand ways to lose a football game -- the Jets' closest NFL neighbors, the Eagles and New York Giants, have provided plenty of material -- and he wants to educate his players on potential pitfalls. Parcells used to do the same thing.
"I talk to them every day about others' mistakes -- not just our team, but other teams," Bowles said. "Something happens every week. We talk about how games are won or lost, saying, 'We can't do this' or 'We don't want to do that.' Not just our film, but everybody's film. We're mature in that way. It helps a lot."
In terms of age and experience, the Jets are a seasoned team. They have nine starters in the 30-to-32 range and a bunch of guys right behind them. The Jets have only one rookie in the lineup, Leonard Williams. That kind of veteran leadership should help them in pressure situations, as it did in the fourth quarter on Monday night, when they responded with a touchdown after the Indianapolis Colts closed to within 10-7.
The Jets endured a season's worth of adversity in the months of July and August, including the stunning Geno Smith-IK Enemkpali altercation. In retrospect, Bowles said of the Punch Heard 'Round the NFL, "It can tear you apart or it can bring you together. It can open your eyes."
Clearly, Bowles believes it has unified the team. I asked him if the fight steeled their determination.
"They're all hardened and determined, but it kind of brings them together more, and they understand the job they have to do," he said. "We have so many veterans. They can go out and fight individually on their own, but if they fight together ... that's what we're trying to get done. Then they'll become a good football team. They're working toward that."
Sunday will be a great test to see how much they have developed.