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Todd Bowles faces uphill battle as coach of N.Y. Jets

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Fourteen years after Todd Bowles started his NFL coaching career as an assistant with the Jets, he's returning to run the team. Now comes the hard part.

Another branch off the Bill Parcells coaching tree, Bowles earned his way up the coaching ladder; his defenses have finished in the top seven teams in points allowed in three of the last four years. In Arizona, he did a great job covering up weaknesses as injuries decimated his roster. He's known around the league as a leader of men that gets respect from all corners of an organization.

For owner Woody Johnson, Bowles is an intriguing hire with a chance to be a long-term answer in New York. For Bowles, it's going to be an uphill battle.

Every vacant head coaching job has warts, but Bowles has a unique set of challenges in front of him.

He's not Rex Ryan: No NFL coach with such a mediocre track record was this beloved by the fan base and media. (Well, perhaps Buddy Ryan in Philadelphia qualifies.) Ryan's Jets teams won more than nine regular-season games only once in six years and haven't sniffed the playoffs in four seasons, but Ryan somehow stayed beloved.

More importantly, Rex's trip north to Buffalo guarantees that Jets fans won't forget about their former coach. Getting swept by Ryan in 2015 or finishing behind the Bills in the standings will put Bowles on the hot seat before it's fair. That's just life in New York.

Early expectations: It's not reasonable to expect the Jets to compete in Bowles' first season. Then again, that's exactly what first-year head coaches have always done under Woody Johnson. Since Jets ownership changed in 2000, every first-year Jets coach has finished with a winning record: Al Groh, Herm Edwards, Eric Mangini and Ryan. Three made the playoffs. Bowles should be aware of Johnson's high expectations because he was on Groh's staff that got flushed out the door following a 9-7 campaign.

Defense isn't the problem: Sheldon Richardson and Muhammad Wilkerson are two incredible pieces for Bowles to build his defense around. There's no doubt that he can scheme this group to improvement with some personnel help in the secondary. But that doesn't solve the gaping hole at quarterback or make the offensive pieces in New York all fit together.

The Jets have changed offensive schemes and now general managers so often that there are a lot of different players that fit into different visions. New general manager Mike Maccagnan will have his own idea of how to build an offense.

It's not exactly a talent-poor group. Percy Harvin, Eric Decker, Nick Mangold and D'Brickashaw Ferguson form an interesting core. But the quarterback chasm and Bowles' inexperience on offense is too reminiscent of Ryan's shortcomings. NFL Media Insider Ian Rapoport reports that former Buffalo Bills head coach Chan Gailey is expected to be the team's offensive coordinator. While Gailey has a better track record than he's given credit for, he's not a miracle worker. He needs a quarterback to succeed.

Belichick and Brady: Bowles and Gailey's return to the division is a reminder that no one ever truly leaves the AFC East. (Former Jets GM Mike Tannenbaum is also now in Miami, where Bowles coached for four years.) The Patriots have been a problem for any new AFC East coach for the last 14 years, even if their expiration date has to be nearing.

The next coach that delivers a Super Bowl appearance will become a legend. For Bowles to someday pull that off, he will need to be just as savvy as the man Woody Johnson tried to hire back in 2000.

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