NEW YORK — Todd Bowles is coming home and taking over as the New York Jets’ head coach.
The Jets hired the Arizona Cardinals Defensive Coordinator Jan. 14 to replace Rex Ryan, who was fired, along with General Manager John Idzik, on Dec. 29 after six seasons.
Bowles, 51, was highly sought after leading Arizona’s aggressive-style defense the last two seasons. This will be his first full-time head coaching job at any level after serving as Miami’s interim coach for the final three games in 2011.
“It’s an honor and privilege to coach the Jets,” Bowles said in a statement. “I can’t help but be humbled by the chance to coach this team. I am going to do everything I can to build a consistent winner.”
It is a homecoming of sorts for Bowles, who is a native of Elizabeth, New Jersey. He also served as the Jets’ defensive backs coach under Al Groh during the 2000 season.
Bowles beat out five other candidates, including Seattle defensive coordinator Dan Quinn and former Buffalo coach Doug Marrone, who interviewed with owner Woody Johnson and consultants Charley Casserly and Ron Wolf, both of whom Bowles has ties to.
Bowles had a second interview Tuesday with Johnson, Casserly and Wolf — along with newly hired General Manager Mike Maccagnan — and impressed the Jets enough to move forward.
New York canceled a scheduled interview with Carolina defensive coordinator Sean McDermott that was set for Jan. 14. Bowles also called off a second meeting that was scheduled for Jan. 14 with the Atlanta Falcons for their head coaching vacancy.
“He is a hard-working and dedicated leader who has garnered the respect of players and coaches,” Johnson said. “I am confident that Todd and Mike Maccagnan are the right combination to lead this team.”
Bowles becomes the fifth black head coach currently in the NFL, joining Pittsburgh’s Mike Tomlin, Cincinnati’s Marvin Lewis, Tampa Bay’s Lovie Smith and Detroit’s Jim Caldwell.
He also is the Jets’ sixth straight defensive-focused head coach and fifth since Johnson took over the Jets in 2000, joining Ryan, Eric Mangini, Herm Edwards, Groh and Bill Parcells.
With the Jets, Bowles will inherit a solid defensive front seven with rising star defensive linemen in Muhammad Wilkerson and Sheldon Richardson. The secondary, however, needs a major overhaul.
Along with Maccagnan, who was hired Jan. 13, Bowles will try to help the Jets bounce back from four straight seasons out of the playoffs. The franchise is also starving for a Super Bowl appearance, something it hasn’t had since 1969.
“When we first met, it was immediately clear how sincere and very real he is,” Maccagnan said. “While he appreciates the need for discipline, players love playing for him and I believe he has outstanding qualities to help make the Jets a competitive, winning team.”
Several key decisions will need to be made in the next several weeks, including assembling a staff and figuring out the quarterback position.
A person with knowledge of the situation told The Associated Press that former Dallas and Buffalo head coach Chan Gailey will be Bowles’ offensive coordinator. Gailey was out of football the last two seasons after being fired as the Bills’ coach after the 2012 season.
The person spoke on condition of anonymity because the Jets have not announced Gailey’s hiring.
Bowles brings a wealth of playing and coaching experience with him to New York. He played college football and was a team captain for current Cardinals coach Bruce Arians at Temple.
He was signed by Washington as an undrafted free agent in 1986, but worked his way to a major role with Joe Gibbs’ Redskins — including starting at free safety against Denver in the 1988 Super Bowl. Bowles played eight NFL seasons, including two stints with Washington while Casserly was in the Redskins’ front office, sandwiched around one season (1991) with San Francisco.
Bowles was hired by Green Bay after his playing career, working in the Packers’ player personnel department from 1995-96 — when Wolf was the GM.
He then made several stops as a coach at the college and pro levels, first as the defensive coordinator at Morehouse College and then Grambling State — both under former Washington teammate Doug Williams — and as an assistant with the Jets, Cleveland and Dallas, under then-coach Parcells, whom he considers a mentor.
He was hired as the Dolphins’ Assistant Head Coach and Secondary Coach from 2008-11. He went 2-1 as the team’s interim head coach at the end of the 2011 season after Tony Sparano was fired.
Bowles went to Philadelphia in 2012 as the Eagles’ secondary coach, but was elevated to defensive coordinator when the team dismissed Juan Castillo. After that season, Bowles was hired as Arizona’s defensive coordinator and firmly established himself as one of the league’s up-and-coming assistants.
“We’re sorry as hell to lose him,” Arians said, “but we all knew this day was coming, especially with the job he did here the last two years.”
(DENNIS WASZAK Jr., AP Sports Writer)