Todd Bowles moved into his new football home two years ago, a real fixer-upper at One Jets Drive. Instead of tearing down walls and ripping out fixtures, he and general manager Mike Maccagnan decided to spruce up the place. Some paint, some spackle and -- voila! -- they made it livable. Well, for a year anyway.
Now they're in the middle of a renovation -- actually, they're gutting the place -- a process that will take at least two years, possibly longer. Problem is, the lease will be up for review in a year and that could be troublesome, especially for Bowles, the head coach.
Welcome to his new reality.
The New York Jets are in a full-blown rebuilding mode, putting Bowles in a precarious position. With a pre-free agency/pre-draft roster that screams 4-12, it looks like he's being cast as the setup man for the next coach. He's about to embark on the coaching challenge of his life, one that will have dire consequences if he doesn't get this team to overachieve.
"I'm not afraid of the unknown," Bowles told reporters Thursday at the scouting combine in Indianapolis. "We don't have the names we had in the past, but that doesn't mean we can't win with the players that we're going to get."
Darrelle Revis and Nick Mangold, future Ring of Honor members, are gone. So are Breno Giacomini, Nick Folk and Ryan Clady. Brandon Marshall got his pink slip on Thursday night. There are only a few pieces of furniture nailed to the floor, namely Leonard Williams, Brian Winters and Muhammad Wilkerson.
It wouldn't be a shock if the Jets have nine new starters, many of whom will be young and unproven. It'll be up to Bowles and his revamped staff to coach 'em up and get this thing moving in the right direction.
"You rebuild as far as people and names, but you don't rebuild in terms of trying to win and not win," Bowles said with a brave face. "We're trying to win all the time."
ESPN analyst Bill Polian, a Hall of Fame general manager, suggested the Jets could be tanking the season to set themselves up for 2018. Some might say that concept makes sense. You concentrate on building the team this year, then go for the big quarterback splash in 2018. Kirk Cousins and Jimmy Garoppolo could be free agents, and USC's Sam Darnold will be draft-eligible.
I can tell you this: The Jets won't be the Cleveland Browns. Once they get done tearing it down, they will start building it up through free agency and the draft. They have a plan. We'll find out if that plan is good enough to save Bowles, who won't survive another 5-11 season.
But, hey, that's life in big-boy football. He's partly responsible for this situation because, by his own admission, he did a poor job last season. What are the Jets going to do -- give him a contract extension to make him feel better? That's not how it works. He has two years left on his deal, and he'll have to earn an extension by coaching his butt off.
It's too soon to say he's "Dead Coach Walking." Let's see how the rest of the offseason plays out, but it certainly doesn't appear promising here on March 3. Refusing to blink, Bowles insisted he's "excited" about facing the challenge ahead of him.
"I felt no differently the day I took the job than I do now," he said. "I have a lot of faith, whether our older guys stay or whether our young guys come in and play. ... Whether it's street ball or professional ball, I'm always trying to win."