When Todd Bowles was looking to put together a coaching staff after being named Jets head coach in 2015, he chose Kacy Rodgers to be his defensive coordinator.
Rodgers had been Miami’s defensive line coach since 2008, when he and Bowles joined the late Tony Sparano’s staff after working together under Bill Parcells in Dallas.
Asked by The Post on Thursday why he gave Rodgers his first chance to be a defensive coordinator, Bowles said, “He’s very intelligent, very bright and we’ve been together a long time. He knows what I would run and knows how to run it and understands how to get it done, and I trust him with that.”
It’s that last part — the trust part — that speaks volumes about their relationship. Being a coach is normally a long odyssey of moving from staff to staff, college to college, from one pro team to another. Housing and friendships are temporary. Trust is sometimes hard to build.
Bowles is already on his third offensive coordinator and has made a host of other changes on his staff over the last four years. But Rodgers has remained Bowles’ loyal lieutenant, commanding a defense that Bowles gets most of the credit for.
“It’s like a brotherhood,” said defensive lineman Steve McLendon, one of the leaders Bowles and Rodgers rely on. “It’s a great thing to see. They can be tough on each other, but at the end of the day they have one common goal and that’s to win; bring guys together and help the young men in this locker room to be successful on and off the field.”
Bowles said Thursday there’s “still a chance” Rodgers can coach on Sunday when the 2-3 Jets face Andrew Luck and the 1-4 Colts at MetLife Stadium. Rodgers, 49, missed last week’s victory over the Broncos due to what has been termed “a serious” illness. He was in the office briefly Wednesday, which offered some assurance to his players.
“I stopped by his office and spoke to him and stuff like that to make sure everything was OK,” safety Marcus Maye said. “It was good just to have him in the building and see his presence. To see him up and moving was definitely a plus for us.”
Bowles, a former longtime defensive coordinator, took over the defensive play-calling against the Broncos, who earned 436 yards of offense a week after the Jaguars gained 503 against the Jets. The difference is the Jets looked terrible in a 31-12 loss in Jacksonville, but stomped the Broncos 34-16.
Bowles might have been calling the plays, but Rodgers built the foundation: play hard, play fast, be disruptive. The Jets had four sacks, an interception and limited the Broncos to just 4-of-14 on third-down conversions.
“We just executed better on the field,” Maye said. “We were all on the same page. It was the same plays, same calls, stuff like that. There wasn’t much of a difference. Just the execution part was a lot better from the players on the field.”
Bowles said he’ll be more comfortable in his role of defensive coordinator this week. Should Rodgers return to the coaching booth, Bowles likely will continue to do the defensive play-calling.
“It’s better to be more prepared,” Bowles said, knowing there are no guarantees that more preparation results in victory Sunday. “If it goes great then yeah, it was better [to have more preparation],” he said. “If it doesn’t go great, then it’s not very good.”
The Jets must play a game, but Bowles will be worried about a friend and the defensive players will think about their leader.
“The only thing I can do is pray for him,” McLendon told The Post. “I know the true meaning of the power of prayer, and I have seen prayer change things. So that’s all I can do is continue to pray for him and leave it in the Master’s hands.”
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