A look at what's happening around the New York Jets:
1. Heeeeere's Johnny: Barring a change of heart by ownership, coach Todd Bowles will be back for a fourth season. He has done a terrific job of navigating a potentially disastrous season, and it really started in January with a hire that had people wondering, "Who's he?"
Bowles entrusted his offense to relative unknown John Morton, a first-time coordinator who accepted a job that few wanted. It was a big gamble by Bowles, who didn't get his first choice (Philadelphia Eagles quarterbacks coach John DeFilippo), but it's hard to argue with the results.
If the Jets score 10 points Sunday against the Denver Broncos, they will surpass last season's points total (275). The Jets are ranked 18th in scoring and 17th in total offense, exceeding expectations by a country mile. Back in training camp when the offense had the look of a dumpster fire, it would've been pure folly to suggest a middle-of-the-pack ranking for this outfit.
Quarterback Josh McCown deserves most of the credit, but his success wouldn't be possible without Morton and new quarterbacks coach Jeremy Bates. They created a system tailored to McCown's strengths.
It hasn't been perfect. Morton's pass-happy game against the Atlanta Falcons caused some players to grumble, publicly and privately, and the goal-line fiasco against the Carolina Panthers left people in the organization scratching their heads. Frankly, I think Morton tests Bowles' patience at times, but this is his first year on the job and there will be growing pains. Even veteran play-callers get second-guessed; it comes with the territory.
After last season, the Jets' coordinator job might have been the least attractive in the league, but Bowles somehow managed to find a diamond in the rough -- a decision that has helped lower the temperature on his hot seat.
2. Very fast friends: Big-play Robby Anderson has a big fan in Wesley Walker, the greatest deep threat in modern franchise history. For those who didn't get a chance to see him play, Walker averaged at least 20 yards per catch in eight of his 13 seasons, back when contact rules favored defensive backs. In Anderson, Walker sees a little of himself.
"I love him, I love him," Walker told ESPN. "I just wish he got the ball more."
Spoken like a true receiver.
"If you look at it, since I retired (in 1989), who have they had as a deep threat? They haven't had that home-run hitter until now," Walker said. "I think Robby has (Pro Bowl) capability. He's one of the most exciting players they've had in a long time. All he needs is more opportunities."
Anderson is averaging 16.8 yards per catch. The Jets' best deep threat in the post-Walker era? I'd go with Santana Moss, who averaged 18.6 in 2004.
3. Oh, what a talent drain: Remember the not-so-long-ago time when the Jets enjoyed an embarrassment of riches on the defensive line? When Bowles was hired in 2015, he inherited Damon Harrison, Sheldon Richardson and Muhammad Wilkerson, with Leonard Williams arriving that year via the draft. They were the envy of most teams.
By March, when they're expected to release Wilkerson, only one of the original "Sons of Anarchy" will remain -- Williams. That is a staggering decline for one position group. Harrison signed with the New York Giants, Richardson was traded to the Seattle Seahawks and Wilkerson has failed to live up to his big contract. The Jets will actually need a defensive lineman in the offseason. How crazy is that?
In defense of general manager Mike Maccagnan, it should be noted that they got wide receiver Jermaine Kearse and a second-round pick (2018) for Richardson. For Harrison, they were awarded a third-round compensatory pick, which they parlayed into three rookies -- wide receiver Chad Hansen and cornerbacks Derrick Jones and Jeremy Clark.
So, no, the Jets haven't come away empty handed, but they've also lost a potentially dominant unit.
4. Going the distance: To say McCown has owned the quarterback position would be an understatement. The man has played every snap, which got me thinking: When was the last time the Jets, a franchise known for quarterback instability, had a wire-to-wire performance at the position?
Because snap counts are unavailable before 2001, we'll have to use pass attempts as our guide. That said, the last time the Jets had a season in which one quarterback was responsible for every throw was 1980. The starter was Richard Todd and the backup was Pat Ryan, who collected dust on the sideline.
Can McCown keep it going for another four games?
5. Another "one" bites the dust: Maybe you saw the line last weekend in the transaction wire: Calvin Pryor was released by the Jacksonville Jaguars, yet another former Jets draft bust tossed on the scrap heap.
From 2012 to 2014, under two different regimes, the Jets drafted seven players in the first two rounds. Those players should comprise the backbone of the current team, but five of the seven are out of the league: Pryor, Jace Amaro, Dee Milliner, Quinton Coples and Stephen Hill. The only two survivors are Geno Smith and Sheldon Richardson, neither of whom is with the team.
That's some bad scouting.
6. Star-crossed QB: Poor Geno. He'll forever be an ignominious footnote in the history of the two New York football teams: The guy who lost his starting job because he got his jaw busted by a teammate (Jets) and the guy who ended Eli Manning's iron man streak (Giants).
7. Misery loves company: While in Los Angeles covering the recent USC-UCLA game, I saw former Jets GM John Idzik chatting in the press box with Jerry Reese, then the embattled Giants' GM. At the time, Reese was experiencing what Idzik endured in 2014 -- a 24-hour cycle of vitriol from fans and media. It appeared to be a "hang-in-there" message from Idzik, because Reese thanked him at the end.
And now Reese is out of a job.
8. No favors from the schedule maker: The odds will be stacked against the Jets when they face the New Orleans Saints next week. The Jets will be returning from a long trip to Denver while the Saints will be coming off a mini-bye after playing last Thursday night. Oh, yeah, and the Saints happen to be one of the best teams in the league.
9. Mo money: Not only was Wilkerson benched for a quarter last week for showing up late to a meeting, but he was fined by the team. Quite substantially, I'm told.
10. The last word: From third-string quarterback Christian Hackenberg, who probably won't get into a game for the second straight year: "Everyone has their own path and their own things they have to overcome. That's what's so cool about this league."