Woody Johnson just couldn't let Todd Bowles get away.
After conducting a second interview with the Cardinals defensive coordinator for several hours Tuesday afternoon -- and wining and dining him later in the day -- Jets brass late Tuesday night reached an agreement with Bowles to become the Jets' coach, according to sources.
Though the deal hadn't been been finalized, the contract is expected to be signed Wednesday.
"He's telling people he's taking the job,'' a source familiar with the Jets' situation said.
While Seattle defensive coordinator Dan Quinn had received much of the attention publicly, the Jets' inner circle also was particularly high on Bowles. And with Quinn unavailable for a second interview because of the Seahawks' playoff run, the Jets were determined to forge ahead.
That meant Johnson had to decide whether it was worth the risk to allow Bowles to leave New Jersey without a deal in place.
Bowles was scheduled to leave New Jersey Wednesday morning and fly to Atlanta for a second interview with the Falcons.
But clearly, the Jets owner wasn't about to let him take off.
Bowles, a native of Elizabeth, New Jersey, interviewed Saturday with the Falcons and originally was scheduled to fly to Atlanta Wednesday after meeting with the Jets. He arrived in New Jersey later than expected, but his Jets interview lasted several hours. Bowles, Maccagnan, Johnson, Casserly and Wolf then went to dinner.
The Jets' decision to cancel Wednesday's scheduled interview with Panthers defensive coordinator Sean McDermott, per source, was further proof that Bowles was the guy.
His NFL coaching career began as Jets defensive backs coach in 2000, when his secondary was sixth in pass defense.
Quinn, too, has a history with the franchise and ties to the metropolitan area. The Morristown, New Jersey product was a defensive assistant at Hofstra and was on Eric Mangini's staff with the Jets from 2007-08.
Privately, Quinn has expressed his desire to become the Jets' coach. But all interested parties -- the Bears, Broncos, Falcons, 49ers and even the Jets -- would have to wait until Monday to get a second crack at Quinn, or until after the Super Bowl, to officially strike a deal.
The Jets, however, were well aware that Bowles has several suitors as well.
Aside from the Jets, the Bears and 49ers also expressed interest in Bowles. But he apparently was the Falcons' main target -- and unlike the Jets, who have major questions at quarterback, Atlanta has a standout in Matt Ryan. But the intrigue of coaching the Jets was too good to pass up.
"He will be a great head coach wherever he lands,'' a source familiar with Bowles said. "If I'm Mr. Woody Johnson, I'm not letting him leave.''
In Bowles, the Jets are getting a highly respected defensive coach. Despite the loss of several starters, the Cardinals finished fifth in points allowed. Beset by quarterback injuries to Carson Palmer and Drew Stanton, the Cardinals rode the defense to an 11-5 record and a wild-card berth. They lost in the first round to the Panthers.
Because of their struggles on offense, the Jets figured to be in the market for a coach with expertise on that side of the ball, but Johnson hired his fifth straight defensive-minded coach. The Jets haven't had an offensive-minded coach since Rich Kotite left after a 1-15 season in 1996.
With Bob Glauber