EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- A year ago, Jets owner Christopher Johnson made it clear he won't judge Todd Bowles on wins and losses alone. He said his evaluation would be about "progression" and whether or not he saw it would "be obvious to all."
It certainly was obvious on Sunday afternoon when the Buffalo Bills humiliated Bowles' Jets 41-10. New York looked unprepared, disinterested and incredibly incompetent.
And if Johnson wasn't considering firing Bowles before that, he certainly has to be now.
As much as the Jets don't want to make a change -- and from multiple sources in the organization, they really don't -- their hand may be forced after the Jets redefined rock bottom against the Bills. It's more than one game, though. It's that they have a record of 3-7, following a 5-11 season. And after Sunday's home loss to perhaps the worst team in the NFL, it's hard for anyone to argue that the Jets are showing much progress at all.
Whether or not that will lead Johnson to fire his head coach remains to be seen. Maybe the subject will come up on Monday morning when Johnson and Bowles meet for their twice-weekly chat. Whatever they discuss, it almost certainly won't happen before the end of the season since there isn't a logical replacement on Bowles staff if he's fired. It doesn't do anyone any good to let him go right now.
But an end-of-season firing has to be on the table after this hideous performance because, barring a late-season rally, keeping the 54-year-old coach for another season will be nearly impossible for Jets officials to defend. His team is falling apart. Rookie quarterback Sam Darnold seemed to be regressing over the previous three weeks before he injured his foot and missed Sunday's disaster.
The biggest thing going for Bowles had been that his players all seemed to love him, and even at the end of last season they seemed to want to fight for him, too. But on Sunday they simply didn't respond.
They were as lifeless as any Jets team has been in years.
"We laid down," Jets cornerback Morris Claiborne said. "I can't believe it. … It's the first time I feel like somebody really just smacked us - and we didn't do nothing about it."
"We laid an egg. We got our ass kicked," safety Jamal Adams added. "It's as simple as that."
They gave up 41 points to a Bills team that had scored 20 total in their last three games. They were down 7-0 two plays into the game to a team that hadn't led since Week 6. They were shredded by a fourth-string quarterback, Matt Barkley, who threw for 232 yards in his first game since 2016. And even though they no longer had the excuse of a rookie quarterback, the Jets' offense had one first-quarter yard, started the game with four straight three-and-outs and finished with only 199 total yards.
Now, it's true the Jets are rebuilding. It's true Bowles hasn't exactly been handed an all-pro roster. And yes, Jets management is well aware that life with a rookie quarterback can be difficult. The Jets entered this game 3-6, and probably three of those losses could be pinned directly on Darnold mistakes.
That's why the wins and losses didn't matter nearly as much as the intangibles, but the intangibles aren't in Bowles' favor, either. A lack of discipline has been a staple of his Jets teams. There have been far too many games like this one where his teams just haven't looked ready. And if they're going to quit like they sure seemed to quit on Sunday, with six games still remaining -- including two against the Patriots and one each against the Packers, Texans and Titans -- just imagine how bad the rest of this season will be
They now have an uphill climb just to get to the 5-11 mark they were at last season. Even with a game left against the Bills, 3-13 is suddenly a very real possibility. And while that might be great for the rebuilding effort to maybe land another top-five pick in the draft, it's a terrible reflection on Bowles.
Because here is Bowles' record since riding "FitzMagic" to a 10-5 start in his first season as head coach: 13-30. That's a winning percentage of .302. There have been no trips to the playoffs in his four years.
This was never going to be that year, even though Johnson, giddy from their Week 1 win in Detroit, called the Jets "a team to be reckoned with" in December. That was a fantasy. Back in reality, he said he was "hopeful" and reminded everyone "I am not a patient man."
As he walked by reporters, surrounded by security and waving off questions after the game on Sunday, his patience had to be razor thin. Maybe the Jets still love their coach. Maybe they all feel like Adams, who said "T-Bowles is not the problem. I'm going to ride with T-Bowles 'til the end."
But they have a funny way of showing it and supporting him if the best they can do is a blowout loss at home to a team with one of the worst offenses in recent memory. Management wanted to be patient. They always knew their target for contention was the 2019 season. But the setback loss on Sunday made that seem farther away than ever.
Bowles, for his part, said, "I don't worry about my job. I don't talk about my job. I just try and get to the next game. It's a business when you sign up for it."
It's a bottom-line business, in fact, and the bottom line looks increasingly terrible. Outside the organization, patience ran out with Bowles a long time ago. It sure feels like Johnson's patience is about to run out, too.