Jets’ new regime: 2 Jersey guys with championship dreams
FLORHAM PARK, N.J. (AP) — Todd Bowles and Mike Maccagnan might have once shared a golf cart, making small talk during an uneventful ride around Washington Redskins training camp 25 years ago or so.
The details are fuzzy, but Bowles was a safety in the prime of his playing career and Maccagnan, an eager intern in the front office.
“I probably checked Todd into training camp,” Maccagnan recalled Wednesday.
Little did the two know that they would someday share the spotlight as the leaders of the New York Jets’ new regime — Bowles as coach and Maccagnan as general manager.
“Although we never really interacted a lot, it’s kind of ironic our paths have crossed even though we are from two different backgrounds, 40-something miles apart,” Maccagnan said at the team’s introductory news conference.
This is a homecoming of sorts for both Bowles, who grew up in Elizabeth, about 19 miles southeast, and was the Jets’ secondary coach in 2000, and Maccagnan, who’s from Hightstown, about 50 miles south of team headquarters. They both know the history of the franchise, from Broadway Joe making good on his Super Bowl guarantee in 1969 to the failure to make the big game since.
“We’re going to try to build a championship team here,” Bowles said. “That’s my only job.”
Funny thing is, Maccagnan thinks there’s a good chance the two actually first crossed paths in the late-1970s. Maccagnan’s father was a teacher at the Peddie School, while Bowles played football at Elizabeth High School. When Maccagnan picked up Bowles from the airport for his second interview with the Jets last week, the two talked about their New Jersey roots.
Maccagnan realized that Bowles’ football team would often have preseason practices at Peddie in 1978 or ’79. And that’s when it hit the new Jets GM.
“I actually went out there and probably watched their practices,” Maccagnan said, “not realizing that 50 yards away, Todd was running around as a junior or senior in high school.”
Now, they’re on the same team, two Jersey guys aiming to turn around the Jets’ fortunes after four straight years without making the playoffs.
“It was just one of those situations that just felt right,” Maccagnan said.
Maccagnan was hired last Tuesday to replace the fired John Idzik. Bowles was signed a day later to replace Rex Ryan.
“I’ve been at it 15 years now and hopefully, I’m making better decisions or good decisions because, yeah, you have to win these games and you have to get to the next level,” owner Woody Johnson said. “Each of the gentlemen sitting to my left are, in my estimation, the people to do it.”
And unlike Ryan’s first brash, headline-making news conference with the Jets in 2009, Bowles offered no Super Bowl guarantees but rather modest goals focused on restoring a winning approach.
“We’re going to be a tough team,” Bowles promised, “an intelligent team.”
A few months into his tenure, Ryan declared that he didn’t come to New York to “kiss (Bill) Belichick’s rings.” Bowles was asked about those same rings, and managed not to provide the New England Patriots with any bulletin board material.
“I’m going to work on getting my own rings,” he said.
The 51-year-old spent the last two seasons as Arizona’s defensive coordinator. Before that, he worked with some of the game’s most successful coaches — Bill Parcells, Joe Gibbs and George Seifert to name a few — first as a player during his eight-year NFL career and then as an assistant coach.
“As you get older, you evolve and you learn more of the football game,” Bowles said. “And in 2007, maybe 2007-08, I started to think, ‘OK, I’m starting to learn the game pretty good. If I can get some things down, if I’m good enough and somebody is lucky enough to see me as a head coach,’ it was about that time.”
Maccagnan, 47, had been with the Houston Texans since the franchise’s inception in 2000, brought on board by Charley Casserly — who Johnson tapped as a consultant in the Jets’ hiring process. Maccagnan had carved out a reputation as a tireless scout who identified key players for the Texans over the years.
“People in my profession work their entire career to get an opportunity like this,” Maccagnan said. “This is my life’s passion, my dream. And to actually have this opportunity, basically 50 miles from where I grew up is truly a dream come true.”
After that car ride together last week, it didn’t take long for Bowles and Maccagnan to feel comfortable tackling a new challenge with the Jets — together.
“We hit it off,” Bowles said, smiling. “So, going forward, it’s going to be a dream working with this guy.”
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