Todd Bowles has a daunting task before him as the Jets' new coach. He inherits a 4-12 team with myriad problems, including the lack of a franchise quarterback, a dearth of quality cornerbacks, an offensive line in transition and little depth at wide receiver.
But the former Cardinals defensive coordinator, who agreed late Tuesday to become the successor to Rex Ryan, has someone in his corner who has more credibility in this town than almost any other coach who has come through here. The 51-year-old Bowles has the seal of approval from none other than Bill Parcells, who led the Giants to their first two Super Bowl championships and helped the Jets to an AFC Championship Game appearance in the second of his three seasons as coach.
Parcells has long admired Bowles, who worked on Al Groh's staff in 2000, the year Parcells served as the Jets' general manager before leaving the organization. But Parcells' affection for Bowles goes back far longer than that.
"I coached against him when he was running the secondary with the Redskins," Parcells said Wednesday from his home in Jupiter, Fla. "He was making all the [defensive] calls and that stuff, and you notice that as a coach, who's doing what. He's a highly intelligent guy."
This was back when Parcells was coaching the Giants and Bowles was with Washington as a safety from 1986-90. Bowles made the team as a free agent walk-on out of Temple, a player who caught the eye of one Charley Casserly, who was then in the Washington scouting department. Bowles wound up as a starter for renowned defensive coordinator Richie Petitbon, who engaged in plenty of superb matchups against the Giants during those halcyon days of the NFC East.
Parcells saw the heady play of Bowles, who had 13 interceptions with Washington from 1986-90 before going to the 49ers for a year and then returning to Washington for his final two NFL seasons as a player.
"I think he did a good job for them," Parcells said. "It's something you do notice."
Parcells continued to keep an eye on Bowles once he decided to go into coaching. Bowles paid his dues by working with an assortment of teams at every level. After a combined three seasons coaching the defensive backs at Morehouse and then Grambling State, Groh brought Bowles onto his Jets' staff to coach the secondary. He did solid work during a 9-7 season, and while Parcells was quick to point out that it was Groh who hired him, Bowles certainly had Parcells' blessing.
Bowles moved on to the Browns from 2001-04, but Parcells brought him onto his staff in Dallas when Tuna was the Cowboys' coach. And when Parcells moved on to take over the football operation at Miami, Bowles came with him, too, serving as the assistant head coach/secondary from 2008-11 and briefly serving as the interim head coach at the end of the 2011 season.
After a year in Philadelphia as the secondary coach and a brief stint as interim defensive coordinator, Bowles made his mark with two quality years in Arizona, where the Cardinals made the playoffs both years under coach Bruce Arians. Bowles had taken over for the very popular Ray Horton, but soon won his players over with his unique brand of tough love -- sound familiar, Parcells? -- and deft handling of the team's varied personalities.
Fast forward to the Jets' hiring process, and it was Casserly and fellow adviser Ron Wolf, the former Packers GM who had Bowles on his personnel staff in 1995-96, who recommended Bowles to owner Woody Johnson. Johnson brought back Bowles for a second interview on Tuesday and shook hands with his new coach later that evening.
Parcells couldn't be happier for Bowles.
"I have a high regard for Todd Bowles," Parcells said. "I think he has a lot of experience, both coaching and playing. I think he's going to be OK."
And what about the New York market, which has proved to be a challenge for even the most hardened coaches, Parcells included?
"You guys all think it's different," Parcells said of the notion that the New York area is tougher than other places. "It's not different. There's much more of it. Everywhere else, it's the same."
Bowles is about to find out what this town is all about, but the man who saw promise in him as a player and then a coach believes his apprenticeship will serve him well in his new role.
Bowles has Tuna's blessing, which counts for something around here.