There were a lot of things that went wrong in Jacksonville for the Jets that could be attributed to coaching. Failure to adjust. Tentative gameplanning. More boneheaded penalties in key spots. All of the classic issues were there.
However, Todd Bowles made a pair of game management decisions in this game that were downright awful.
12:56 to go in the 4th, Jets down 25-3, 4th & 8 at the Jaguars 20, Jets kick field goal
The Jets were down by 22 points with 13 minutes to go in the game. Kicking a field goal would cut the lead from three scores to three scores. They would still need to score three more times to at least tie the game if they made this field goal attempt. Kicking a field goal here made absolutely no sense - it did not shred into the lead a single bit. The only benefit was that instead of having to score 3 touchdowns with a two point conversion on one of them, the Jets could now tie the game with a field goal and 2 touchdowns with a two point conversion on both. Wow. Beneficial.
You’re actually asking the team to convert more scores that way, asking for 5 instead of 4 if you include the difficulty of converting a two-point attempt.
Now, how bad exactly was this decision based on history?
According to Pro Football Reference, since 1994 (as far back as tracking data is available), there have been 285 plays run in this scenario of 4th down & 8 or less, in the red zone, in the 4th quarter, down by 20 points or more (field goal would not cut the lead to less than 3 scores).
In those situations, teams have gone for it 271/285 times - 95%. Bowles kicked a field goal in a situation where only 5% of teams deemed it the right decision.
In fact, since Bowles was hired, there have been 43 plays run leaguewide in this scenario, and a field goal has been the decision only 2 times out of those 43.
Bowles was the coach to make that call on both (kicking in a loss vs. Miami in 2016).
He is the only coach in the league who has made this decision since he was hired by the Jets. And he has done it twice.
4:33 to go in the 4th, Jets down 25-12, 4th & 6 at the Jets 20. Jets punt
At this point, the Jets had a very marginal chance of winning the game, but this decision was just punting away whatever slim chance was left. The Jets were only down two scores at this point. If they could miraculously pull out a quick score in a minute or less, there was time to get a stop and get the ball back with a chance to tie or win the game.
Punting milks at least a minute off the clock and/or costs multiple timeouts, and gives your team the ball back in likely the same or similar field position without the time assets just mentioned. It’s nonsensical to make that move here. It displays either a lack of understanding of how to maximize the team’s chances of winning the game, or a complete lack of faith in the team to win it.
(Doesn’t it sound like we’ve discussed this before?)
Since 1994, 16 teams had been in a similar situation prior to the Jets’ game in Jacksonville. I defined the scenario as the final 5 minutes of the 4th quarter, 4th down & 6 or less to go, team is inside their own 20, and down by 2 scores (losing by 9 to 16 points).
In those situations, teams went for it 15 out of 16 times, punting only once. That’s 94%. Bowles made himself only the second coach to punt in that situation over the past two decades-plus. It was last done by Andy Reid’s Eagles in 2005.
Bowles also punted in a very similar situation in a loss at Denver last year, punting the ball away trailing 23-0 with 4:39 to go. If you extend the scenario to include plays in which the team was down by more than 2 scores, Bowles is one of only three head coaches since 1994 to make that punt call twice - along with Steve Spagnuolo (2009 & 2011 with the Rams) and Eric Mangini (2009 with the Browns).
So if differentiation is what you are looking for in a head coach, Bowles has certainly brought it. You can’t say he hasn’t bucked the trends.