The Todd Bowles question that will hang over Jets this year

It is etched in stone that Sam Darnold will be the Jets quarterback next season, and the evidence is mounting that he will be the Jets quarterback this season.

What we don’t know for certain is whether Todd Bowles will be his head coach in 2019.

Which brings us to the questions that will hover around Bowles for much of this season:

What are the criteria for him to return?

Will it matter if a 20-28 coach misses the playoffs for the fourth time in his fourth season?

It mattered to Woody Johnson, who fired Eric Mangini (23-25, one playoff appearance) immediately following the end of his third season, when he lost at home with a wounded Brett Favre to Chad Pennington to miss the 2008 playoffs.

The circumstances are far different this time.

A third straight 5-11 season would not and should not sit well with anyone.

And yet Bowles doesn’t have to win this season as much as he would have to win next season … if he can only get to next season.

A third straight 5-11 season would not and should not sit well with anyone.

And yet it wouldn’t necessarily seal Bowles’ fate.

You try slaying Tom Brady and Bill Belichick with a rookie quarterback.

Bowles’ overriding mandate is for him and offensive coordinator Jeremy Bates to develop Darnold to such a degree that Woody and Christopher Johnson — and GM Mike Maccagnan and the players — remain united in their belief that Bowles is the right man to get them where they themselves, after more free-agent reinforcements arrive, will expect to go in 2019.

Remember this as well: Maccagnan and Bowles tore down their Win Now team of aging veterans after the 2015 season, which, barring a catastrophe and a 2017 Giants-style locker-room meltdown, figures to buy Bowles time.

“We believe we can go to the playoffs,” cornerback Buster Skrine told The Post as training camp ended Wednesday, “and we believe we can go to the playoffs with Coach Bowles.

“The team is behind him.”

Maccagnan and Bowles are committed to a program that can enjoy sustainable success, and the players have bought into Bowles’ One Team One Goal mission statement.

“Highly respected by each player and coach,” Skrine said. “He’s just a good leader, and we all appreciate having him.”

Bowles shows a different side to his team behind closed doors that rarely surfaces during his press conferences.

“Sometimes he’ll crack a joke here and there,” Skrine said, “but when he wants to get his point across, he lets you know. He’s not the type of guy that something will pop up like, ‘Hey, you’re not playing well,’ he’s gonna let you know, so you can always respect a person like that.”

Skrine’s head coach when he was a rookie Browns cornerback was Giants coach Pat Shurmur.

“Offensive guru … one thing about Pat, he knows how to get his tight ends open … he was a good coach … didn’t have the franchise quarterback (Colt McCoy, Brandon Weeden) really to be successful,” Skrine said.

Neither, of course, has Bowles (Ryan Fitzpatrick, Josh McCown).

“I think we all really appreciate him, and we’re all behind him,” receiver Quincy Enunwa said. “I think we all know that he’s a firm coach, but he’s able to have fun, and at the same time, he’s played the game, so it helps us to kind of get that much respect for him.”

Bowles is smart and tough and a Bill Parcells disciple, and he hasn’t let this market change him. He appears to have ratcheted up the discipline — the penalty pushups at practice, publicly scolding Terrelle Pryor for breaking club policy by revealing an offseason injury.

“He sticks to his guns, but he’s also reasonable,” Enunwa said. “That’s his big thing. If we’re able to come as a team as a complete unit and show that we feel like there’s something that should be changed or something that could possibly go a different way, he’s open to discussion.”

Belichick was 20-28 in his first three seasons with the Browns before an 11-5 fourth season and a playoff win with Vinny Testaverde over Parcells’ Patriots. Walt Michaels was 3-11, 8-8, 8-8, 4-12 with the Jets before a 10-5-1 playoff appearance. Hall of Fame Steelers coach Chuck Noll started 12-30 before winning four Super Bowls.

Darnold will be Bowles’ first franchise quarterback. Unless 2018 is an abject Buttfumble, bet that he’ll be Darnold’s head coach in 2019.

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