New York Jets coach Todd Bowles filled the final opening on his staff, hiring Jeremy Bates to coach the quarterbacks, the team announced Wednesday.
Bates is an important addition because he will preside over the development of Christian Hackenberg and Bryce Petty. New offensive coordinator John Morton has never coached quarterbacks, so Bowles is entrusting the job to Bates, who got his first gig as a quarterbacks coach in 2005 with the Jets. Quick refresher: That was the disastrous season in which Chad Pennington and Jay Fiedler got hurt in the same game.
The move raises some questions. Bates has spent much of his NFL coaching career around one quarterback: Jay Cutler, which immediately fueled speculation about whether the Jets will pursue Cutler this offseason.
Cutler is expected to be cut or traded by the Bears, but don't expect him to land with the Jets. From what I hear, they won't be suitors for Cutler. I think Tyrod Taylor (if he's cut by the Bills) and free agent Mike Glennon are higher in the Jets' pecking order than Cutler.
Bates has spent four seasons with Cutler -- 2006-08 (Broncos) and 2012 (Bears). Cutler made his only Pro Bowl in 2008, when he, Bates and a wide receiver named Brandon Marshall (yes, him) were regarded as three rising stars. The good times didn't last. Bates was swept out when Mike Shanahan and staff were fired after the '08 season.
Bates, Cutler and Marshall reunited in Chicago, but it was one-and-done. Lovie Smith and his staff were cleaned out after 2012.
In between Denver and Chicago, Bates worked on Pete Carroll's staff at USC in 2010. There, he hooked up with Morton for the first time. It's all about connections in the coaching profession. When Carroll bolted to take the Seahawks' job in 2010, he brought along Bates as his offensive coordinator.
That didn't end well; Bates was fired after only one season. The team won the division, but they were 7-9 and quarterback Matt Hasselbeck struggled.
These days, Bates is regarded as a mystery man in NFL circles because he's been out of the league for four years. A four-year hiatus is equivalent to forever in professional football, prompting questions: Did the league ignore him? If so, why? Or did he get burned out and stay away?
On the positive side, Bates, 40, has worked under some bright offensive minds, including Shanahan, the late Mike Heimerdinger (Jets) and Jon Gruden (Bucs). He was a low-level assistant under Gruden, who also has strong ties to Morton. More connections.
Bates, the son of former college and NFL coach Jim Bates, has been described by colleagues as an intelligent coach. But he can be abrasive and is known for cursing at players in practice.
"He had that cocky, 'I know more than you' attitude," former Bucs quarterback Shaun King told the Chicago Tribune in 2012. "We would give him a hard time about it."
In case you're wondering what Bates did during his time away from football, he spent five months of it hiking the Continental Divide Trail. In 2014, he made the 2,900-mile trek, from Mexico to Canada, by himself.
That could prepare him for the job with the Jets, because it'll be a long road with a lot of bumps.