Was it really only three weeks ago that the Jets thumped the Lions on Monday Night Football? Did that win, which ushered in that unfamiliar sensation of honest-to-goodness hope, actually happen this season? The Jets haven’t won since, and Sunday’s 31-12 loss at the Jaguars was a total fartbomb that had that familiar Jetsian stink to it. But we really need to talk about two of the decisions head coach Todd Bowles made, when it seemed as if he had been coaching some other game, in some other universe.
The first: With 12:56 remaining in the fourth quarter, the Jets trailed 25-3 and faced a fourth-and-8 from the Jags’ 20-yard line. Bowles chose to kick a field goal. “We needed a couple of scores, anyway,” Bowles told reporters. “We would have needed a field goal, so we had to come out of that with at least three points.” Good thinking. After all, by opting for the field goal, Bowles strategically transformed a three-score game ... into a three-score game.
Per Michael Nania of Gang Green Nation, since Bowles was hired in 2015, there have been 43 instances of a team in the red zone on fourth and eight yards or fewer in the fourth quarter when trailing by 20 or more. Only twice has a team chosen to kick a field goal—and Bowles is responsible for both of those decisions. He likewise elected to do it when trailing the Dolphins 34-10 in 2016. And who can forget what happened a week later, when Bowles opted to kick a fourth-quarter field goal on fourth-and-goal from the Patriots’ 11? That one chiseled the Pats’ lead to 41-3. If that weren’t enough, Bowles had the Jets kick their first field goal on Sunday when down 18-0 with 4:58 to go in the third quarter, on fourth-and-goal from the Jags’ 9. The Jags even jumped offsides, but Bowles chose to decline the penalty. Can’t be taking those points off the board!
The second: With 4:33 remaining and the score 25-12, the Jets were looking at a fourth-and-6 from their own 20. They had two timeouts remaining. Bowles elected to punt. “We were backed up,” Bowles explained. “If we don’t get that first down, they have a field goal [at least]. We figured get field position; if we could get a stop and score and have an onside kick. We were trying to get the ball back in better field position. Either way, we needed two scores. Had we went for it and not got it on fourth, it would have been three scores and the game would have been over.” The Jags took over on their own 35. The Jets wouldn’t get the ball back until 25 seconds remained—and the Jags had scored again to extend the lead to 31-12.
This decision was even more bizarre. Unless the defense could force a turnover, the Jags were going to bleed the clock and force the Jets to use their timeouts before punting it back and leaving the Jets with similar field position. Bowles later told reporters the Jets would have to “go back to the drawing board at every phase” after this one. He was asked how alarming it was to have to return to the ol’ drawing board.
“It’s not alarming,” he said. “Today was the first day it happened.”
The Jets are 11-26 since they beat the Patriots in Week 16 of Bowles’s first season, when they flirted with a playoff berth. They’re 1-3 right now, after having gone 5-11 the last two years. Perhaps some day, when things get really dire, Todd Bowles will finally go for it.