Jets head coach Todd Bowles addressed the media Thursday morning at the NFL Combine in Indianapolis for the first time since his season-ending press conference in early January.
Tough to Say Goodbye
The Jets have made a number of transactions over the past week, highlighted by the release of veterans Darrelle Revis and Nick Mangold, two of the franchise's most prominent players over the past decade.
"It was tough because they're good people," Bowles said. "They were great players for the organization and I'm sure hopefully one day they'll have their names up in the stadium. And they're good people and good pros so it was tough letting those type of guys go."
Year of the Brain
Entering last season, Bowles' mission was to put a faster team on the field. For 2017, it's all about the mental aspect of the game.
"We just need to play smarter and more disciplined," he said. "That's the biggest thing. It's not a quality to add. I think we have to add the right people to take over the team and to make this their team and add those qualities themselves. The coaches will try to emulate that and make sure we put that forward."
The NFL Scouting Combine is one of the major markers that the draft is around the corner. While the event features different drills for 330 of the nation's top college athletes, the players will also go through a number of interviews with different NFL teams. Each team can sit down with 60 prospects, but there's only so much ground they can cover.
"Fifteen minutes of speed dating doesn't get that done," Bowles said. "You try to ask certain questions to get a feel for the player. Obviously this is part of the process — the visits, pro days, workouts and sitting down with these guys at lunch or dinner. You get a better feel that way, but whatever you can try to get at them from a character standpoint here, you do."
New Supporting Cast
The Jets rounded out their coaching staff Tuesday with the addition of assistant defensive line coach La'Roi Glover. In late January, the Green & White hired John Morton as the team's new offensive coordinator and Jeremy Bates as the QBs coach. Coach Bowles said that he and his new staff are still acclimating to each other's coaching styles, but he's optimistic Morton and Bates will produce a successful offense.
"John has a great offensive mind," Bowles said. "He can work with any type of person. He's very good at incorporating the players and understanding what they're good at and not good at. He's a lot like Chan [Gailey] in that way, but he's a lot younger.
"He's not a system guy whether it's West Coast or anything else. He can kind of fit guys into what they do best so he'll have his scheme that he puts in, but he can adapt to things real quickly. His understanding of relating to players and getting across to the players what he wants is what really put it over the top."
Bates hasn't been in the league for the past four years, but that hasn't dulled his sharpness. Bowles praised his work ethic and ability to teach, especially mechanics.
"He's an outstanding coach," Bowles said. "He watched film even when he was out of football. People have their reasons why they get out of football, but it doesn't mean they're not good coaches. They had different reasons whether it was family reasons or whatever. I think Jeremy coming back is outstanding. We've had long conversations and I think he's the guy to do the job."
Nothing Is Given
One thing Bowles is stressing entering 2017 is positional competition. He used RT Brandon Shell, C Wes Johnson, CB Juston Burris and QBs Bryce Petty and Christian Hackenberg as examples of players who will all have the opportunity to be starters in 2017 but will have to earn those starting jobs.
As for the man under center, Bowles didn't divulge the team's offseason plan, but recognized there are moves to be made considering two of the team's four signal callers in 2016 are set to be unrestricted free agents come the new league year on March 9 (Ryan Fitzpatrick, Geno Smith).
"We're looking into it," Bowles said. "I won't say we will or we won't. Once free agency starts, I don't know what's going to happen. Things may get crazy, but we have our eye on a few people."
Coach Bowles, known for his even-keeled demeanor on and off the field, plans on changing "a lot of things" about his approach as a coach. In his season-ending press conference, he said he got a better understanding for how the organization runs as a whole in year two whereas everyone was on their best behavior during his first year. This year Bowles is "going to give [the players] what they need."
"Just the experience of going through adversity," he said of his biggest takeaway from the 2016 season. "You have to stay true to who you are regardless of what happens around you. And just getting that across to the team, making them mentally tougher, is one of the things going forward that they're going to have to learn how to do."