There are thirty-two teams in the NFL. Only seven had a better record than the Jets did in 2015. Only seven had a better point differential. By any measure, the 2015 Jets were a good team.
There are thirteen teams in the NFL who posted winning records this season. There are unfortunately only twelve Playoff spots. The Jets are the odd team out. Because of the way the NFL Playoff system works, two teams that had a worse record are in.
I think it is important to keep this in perspective along with all of the talk about how the Jets couldn't get it done yesterday. It is true that the Jets failed in a big spot yesterday, and that loss will sting until next year. The team did kick away an opportunity.
I think you also have to note this was a good team that did an impressive job to get that opportunity to begin with. Winning ten games is an accomplishment. I think it is even more impressive when you have a first year coach inheriting a team that went 4-12 a year ago.
Yes, it is true that the 2015 version of the Jets looks different from the 2014 Jets. This year's team had a lot more talent. Bowles didn't coach a four win roster this season, but it was a new team. He took over a team that had a lot of new pieces that had yet to work together. Even with a lot of talent, these things do not always pan out. You don't know how everybody will respond to a new role in a new system.
The first year of a new regime is not all about wins and losses anyway. This season Bowles won more games than Bill Belichick did in his first season with the Patriots. He won more than Pete Carroll did in his first season with the Seahawks. He won more than Tom Coughlin did in his first season with the Giants. He won as many as Sean Payton did in his first season with the Saints.
None of this is to say it is a lock that Bowles will have a career with the Jets as successful as any of these guys had. But it does suggest that the first season of a new regime might not all be about wins and losses.
It is more about instilling a culture. What does that mean? It can mean a lot of things. One of the important things is making it clear what type of work ethic is expected from players. It can take a year or so for everybody to understand, especially if expectations are radically different from the old regime.
There were signs of a new culture from comments multiple players made in training camp, most notably Jace Amaro.
Jace Amaro said that those aren’t the only differences under new coach Todd Bowles.
"He’s not really playing around with everyone being late. We had an issue with that last year," Amaro said on Sirius XM NFL Radio with Alex Marvez and Bill Polian. "Guys just weren’t accountable last year as much as they could be. I think that’s the biggest thing, he’s making sure everyone’s gonna be 100 percent in or he’s not going to be on the team."
I think one episode from this season shows the cultural adjustment.
Wilkerson, who has eight sacks and is one of the Jets' best players, did not play during the Jets' two first-quarter defensive series, though he did enter the game for the first defensive series of the second quarter.
During the CBS broadcast, La Canfora said Wilkerson was "fined and warned" for being late to a meeting one morning this week. Head coach Todd Bowles has a no-nonsense reputation. That he would bench Wilkerson for an entire quarter—in addition to fining and warning him—shows his willingness to hold players accountable for their actions.
Compare that with how a famous missed meeting in 2014 was treated.
Manish Mehta of the New York Daily News reported Sunday night that (Geno) Smith missed team meetings on Saturday before the game.
A team spokesman confirmed Smith's absenteeism to NFL Media Insider Ian Rapoport, calling it an "honest mistake," perhaps due to the three-hour time change. The spokesman said Smith arrived five to 10 minutes after the meetings ended and caught up on info later with offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg. It was the first time Smith has missed a meeting, per the team. Rapoport added, per a team source, that players were surprised and frustrated he missed the meeting and didn't understand why he wasn't disciplined.
The cutting of Quinton Coples in November was another such example. The former first round pick wasn't performing. Albert Breer had an insightful take at the time.
. The Jets' 4-1 start was nice, but the players and coaches in New York walked away from Sunday's loss in Houston with a clearer picture of where the program is headed than they ever could've gotten from the wins. Todd Bowles lit into the team postgame -- a scene that Muhammad Wilkerson detailed vividly to the New York Daily News on Tuesday -- leaving very little doubt about where he stood not just with their performance, but how accepting they'd been of failure. The truth is, the new regime saw a culture left behind that's probably best summed up in two words: "It's OK." As in, It's OK if we come up short this week or it's OK if things don't quite go our way. And Bowles' message was, frankly, that it's not OK. And he drove that home by cutting Quinton Coples, who was a card-carrying member of the old guard.
That is what this year was really about. It was about establishing what is acceptable and what types of players the Jets want on their team. It was going to take time for players in the locker room to adapt. It is also going to take time for the regime to find the type of players it wants and weed out those it doesn't.
Making the Playoffs would have been really nice. This really wasn't about making the Playoffs in year one, though. We have seen enough isolated Playoff berths for the Jets. Can they ever get to a position where they are consistently good? The most important thing will be finding the young talent. That is not very different from any other team. Everybody is turning over their team substantially over two to three years, and young talent needs to emerge.
Before that, things needed to change. Winning ten games while simultaneously changing the culture is nothing to sneeze at.
This was good first season both on the field and culturally for the Jets. How much better of a coach would Bowles be had the Broncos not blown the game in Pittsburgh a few weeks back, and the Jets had qualified for the Playoffs? How much better of a coach would Bowles be had the Jets won one extra game yesterday?
Either way, when it comes to the success of Bowles' tenure, I think yesterday will be a footnote. Either he and Mike Maccagnan will find and develop the young talent to turn the Jets into a consistent winner or they won't. A fine foundation was laid this first year.