Time for Jets' coach to be Todd Bold ... before it's too late

Todd Bowles opted to punt when trailing by 13 with five minutes to play last Sunday. Reinhold Matay/USA TODAY Sports

A look at what's happening around the New York Jets:

1. Playing not to lose: CEO Christopher Johnson has tried heliskiing, which should tell you something about his personality. He also likes an aggressive approach when it comes to football matters, recently praising Philadelphia Eagles coach Doug Pederson for his daring playcalling in the Super Bowl. Johnson made that comment to reporters when discussing his front office's bold trade-up before the draft, which yielded Sam Darnold.

I wonder how Johnson felt about Todd Bowles' fourth-quarter, fourth-down decisions last Sunday in Jacksonville. They didn't exactly inspire the same thrill as jumping out of a helicopter on the top of a snow-capped mountain (not that I'd know that feeling).

If Bowles wants to turn around the season and save his job, he needs to dial up the aggressiveness. He started off with that mentality as the Jets called a bootleg throwback pass on the first play of the season. Yes, it backfired with a pick-six, but it sent a loud message to the players. They loved it because it demonstrated confidence in them, especially their rookie quarterback.

Coaches need to be bold in the NFL. You see examples of it every Sunday, none bigger than last week with the Tennessee Titans' Mike Vrabel and the Indianapolis Colts' Frank Reich, both of whom took huge fourth-down risks. One worked and one didn't, but you have to appreciate the go-for-it mentality.

Bowles went the opposite way. Trailing by 22 points, he opted for a field goal on fourth-and-8 from the Jacksonville Jaguars' 20. That almost never happens. Consider:

Since 2001, there have been 227 instances in which a team has faced a fourth down at or inside the 20, down by at least 20 points in the fourth quarter. They've gone for it 215 times (95 percent), kicking only 12, according to ESPN Stats & Information research.

Let's narrow it down to the Bowles era. Since 2015, teams have gone for it on 41 of 43 plays in that situation. The only two exceptions? You guessed it -- the Jets. (They kicked it in a blowout loss to the Dolphins in 2016.) For the record, Bowles also went for it twice, failing both times. (Hat tip to the Gang Green Nation blog for uncovering the stat.)

Bowles' other head-scratcher was a fourth-and-6 punt from his own 20 with under five minutes to play, down 13 points. When I asked a player about the two decisions, he rolled his eyes and declined to comment.

After three-plus seasons, Bowles might be set in his ways, but good coaches learn to adapt. That's what he must do before it's too late.

2. Speaking the Tru-th: It hasn't been an auspicious start for cornerback Trumaine Johnson, who surrendered a 67-yard touchdown reception to Jaguars wide receiver Donte Moncrief. Johnson also had some shaky moments against the Lions in the opener, and now he's sidelined indefinitely with a quariceps injury.

"He has a tendency to fall asleep," said an opposing coach who has watched Johnson extensively on tape.

That appeared to be the case against Moncrief. Johnson was supposed to jam him at the line, but he allowed a free release and lost the footrace.

The Jets gave Johnson the third-largest guarantee ($34 million) in team history, behind Darrelle Revis ($39 million) and Muhammad Wilkerson ($37 million). It's way too soon to call him another big-money bust, but he certainly has to raise his level of play.

"We trust him; I trust him," Bowles said. "We've just got to play better."

3. Not many L's in La-La Land: Darnold isn't accustomed to losing. In high school and college, he was 35-8 as a starting quarterback, never having lost two starts in a row. Consider:

At San Clemente High, he went 1-1, 2-1 and 12-2 in his three varsity seasons. At USC, he went 9-1 and 11-3 in two seasons as the starter.

Darnold's team lost eight straight during his junior year at San Clemente, but he didn't play in those games because of a broken foot. He suffered the injury in the first half of the third game, but he actually stayed in the game for another series and threw a long touchdown pass on a bootleg.

Now he's stuck in a three-game losing streak, beating himself up over missed opportunities.

"Nobody takes losses harder than Sam," Jaime Ortiz, his former high school coach, said this week. "That's his personality, his nature. When the team wins, he deflects the praise. When it loses, he takes ownership of it."

Darnold remains optimistic that he's on the verge of a breakthrough.

"As a team, I feel like we're really close," he said. "For me, personally, I feel like I'm just on the edge."

4. Mr. YAC: Is there anything more exciting right now than Quincy Enunwa with the ball in his hands? Dude turns into a modern-day version of Earl Campbell when he catches a pass. He has racked up 190 yards after the catch, which ranks third among wide receivers, per ESPN Stats & Information tracking data. He's behind JuJu Smith-Schuster (208) and Golden Tate (203).

5. Random trivia: The Denver Broncos are coached by Vance Joseph. Next week's opponent, the Colts, are coached by Reich. What do they have in common? See below for the answer.

6. Twist of fate: The Jets' pass protection hasn't been terrible (10 sacks), but there's one concerning trend that needs to be fixed: The offensive line has trouble adjusting to stunts.

The line has allowed at least one sack in every game on plays in which it failed to block a twisting defensive lineman. The left side of the line -- tackle Kelvin Beachum, guard James Carpenter and center Spencer Long -- has been the biggest culprit.

Much like linebackers and defensive backs defending crossing routes (another bugaboo for this team), the line's ability to pick up stunts really comes down to communication, players understanding how to react when the opponent tries something funky. Yes, it's true, the five starters didn't play a single snap together in the preseason, but they've had enough time to get acclimated.

You can bet the Broncos will try some stunting to test the Jets, although Von Miller doesn't need any tricks to get to the quarterback. He has more sacks (87.5) since entering the league in 2011 than any other player. For what it's worth, Miller said Carpenter is the Jets' best lineman.

7. Not-so-fond anniversary: Twenty years ago, the Jets and Broncos played for the AFC championship. Time flies, huh? It was Jan. 17, 1999. When the Jets took a 10-0 lead in the third quarter, I turned to a colleague in the press box and said, "The Jets are going to the Super Bowl." I don't think I've uttered those words since.

We all know how it ended on that blustery day at Mile High Stadium. The Jets blew the lead and lost 23-10, a defeat that still haunts the players on that team because they were so confident they would have beaten the Falcons in the Super Bowl. They dominated the Falcons in the regular season 28-3.

At least one player from the '98 title game will be at MetLife Stadium on Sunday -- John Elway, the Broncos' general manager.

8. Trivia answer: Joseph and Reich are links to arguably the worst two seasons in Jets history -- 1995 (3-13) and 1996 (1-15), respectively.

Joseph started six games at cornerback, including a disastrous prime-time affair against the Raiders. Most people remember Reich as Jim Kelly's backup with the Bills, but he spent one inglorious year with the Jets. Filling in for the injured Neil O'Donnell, he started seven games at quarterback, including their only win in '96.

You might say these next two games are an ode to the Rich Kotite era. Or not.