NEW YORK (WFAN) -- Todd Bowles says you can't fool New York Jets fans into thinking their team is good when, put simply, they're not.
Gang Green's new head coach is taking a dramatically different approach than his predecessor Rex Ryan, who was known for talking up his roster even when it was obvious they were overmatched. Fired general manager John Idzik was also guilty of it, insisting the team wasn't short on talent during an infamous press conference last season when the Jets were 1-7.
The Jets finished 4-12 and both men were fired on Dec. 29. Bowles was hired from Arizona to replace Ryan last week, shortly after Mike Maccagnan took over as the club's new general manager.
"You don't have to walk me through it. I know it's a very passionate fan base, and they want to win and they're frustrated," Bowles said Friday on WFAN's "Boomer & Carton" show. "They're very smart, they're very intelligent football fans, probably the best in the league. So they know bad football when they see it and they know when somebody's trying to pull wool over their eyes."
Bowles said there's room for improvement on defense, but he wasn't ready to get into specifics without analyzing the film from last season.
"Obviously they had a good defense," he said, adding later on the "Joe & Evan" show that the Jets would stay with a 3-4 system to start but add in principles of the 4-3. "And Rex left me with a good defense."
The bigger project will be on offense. Bowles said he wasn't too familiar with quarterback Geno Smith, who he referred to as "a great college quarterback" in his introductory press conference on Wednesday. Smith hasn't had the same success since being drafted by the Jets in 2013 and was the focus of fans' frustrations last season.
The Jets hold the No. 6 pick in the upcoming draft. While top quarterback prospects Marcus Mariota and Jameis Winston aren't expected to fall to New York, it's a golden opportunity to land a playmaker. Having a projected $40 million in cap space to play with in free agency won't hurt, either.
"You want aggressive, but you want to be smart," Bowles said. "You don't want to go after all the big-name players. Sometimes you need solid pieces."
The 51-year-old rookie head coach will be leaning on Chan Gailey running his offense. Bowles -- a top coaching candidate thanks to his two years as architect of the Cardinals' vaunted defense -- said he wanted Gailey because of his track record of working with all types of quarterbacks and establishing balance between the pass and run games.
"I'm turning it over to him, but I'll have my fingerprints on it as well," Bowles said. "It's not a matter of being an offensive- or defensive-minded coach. The two Super Bowl teams have defensive-minded head coaches, but you've gotta be a well-rounded head coach and you've gotta understand what your strengths and weaknesses are."
And if your weaknesses show, you'd better believe Jets fans will see them.
"I understand very well what they're feeling," he said.
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