By Ernie Palladino
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Lucky for him, Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton diverted most people’s attention from the woeful, dysfunctional state of Gang Green. But those anti-Bowles howlers, whose ranks appear to be growing, may just get their wish if the season and locker room continue to degenerate.
The cracks in Bowles’ once-solid wall widened over the last couple of days, and it wouldn’t be surprising if the whole thing comes tumbling down over the seven remaining games. And if that happens, owner Woody Johnson may have no choice but to make a coaching change.
It’s what happens when a coach loses the locker room.
Not that the Jets’ locker room hasn’t always had at least a hint of unrest. Santonio Holmes went after his quarterback Mark Sanchez in 2012 as the era of Rex Ryan began its turn southward. Through no fault of his own, Tim Tebow threw the Jets’ locker room and Ryan’s offensive strategy — or what passed for it — into a circus complete with clown car as the coach tried to figure out how to use him.
The Bowles era hasn’t been without its problems, either, starting with IK Enamkpali’s one-punch TKO of Geno Smith in training camp last year.
But at least that team went a peaceful 10-6 after that. Ryan Fitzpatrick became the toast of the town, as Brandon Marshall and Eric Decker joined in the love fest.
This time, it won’t be so easy for Bowles to shrug off the negativity. At 3-6, the season all but wasted, the incidents are beginning to mount in a public way. The fact that he had to bench Sheldon Richardson and Muhammad Wilkerson on Sunday for the first quarter in a must-win situation against the Dolphins indicated a lack of discipline on the players’ part. Both reportedly had missed a meeting last week, and Wilkerson had missed the Oct. 21 walkthrough before the Ravens game the next day.
It’s a bad sign when the team’s two defensive leaders don’t feel a need to attend strategy sessions at a point when the season hung in the balance.
Just as bad were the four personal fouls the Jets picked up in Sunday’s opening half. Pass interference, illegal contact, illegal procedure calls — those things happen. But a quartet of personal fouls indicates a loss of composure, which translates to a lack of discipline. Fair or not, it falls on a coach to control his players.
A sideline flareup between Marshall and his quarterback — Marshall did all the talking — won’t help the optics, either. Though both players expressed their love and support for each other afterward, the incident illustrated just how frayed the team’s nerves are now.
The time it took for the Jets to essentially set fire to their playoff hopes was not Bowles’ finest hours. He was the first to admit he hasn’t done a bang-up job coaching this season.
But there’s a big difference in the 1-5 start and what’s happening now. Back then, the Jets succumbed to superior talent. They played tough, and the shortcomings were functions of a lack of execution.
What happened Sunday were breakdowns in discipline at best, definite signs of dysfunction at worst. Dysfunction causes coaches to lose locker rooms.
And lost locker rooms more often than not lead to lost jobs.
The Todd Bowles era is less than two years old. But if Bowles doesn’t do something soon to caulk the widening cracks in the Jets’ internal wall, an even bigger constituency might be calling for his job.
And Woody Johnson may have no choice but to listen.
Please follow Ernie on Twitter at @ErniePalladino