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Mike Pettine (Defensive Coordinator) Press Conference

This week the NY Jets announced that they hired Mike Pettine from the Baltimore Ravens to be their new Defensive Coordinator.  The Jets released this transcript of his press conference:

I just completed my 21st season in coaching — it was 12 in high school and seven as a high school head coach. I coached as a graduate assistant at the University of Pittsburgh for two years in the early Nineties [1993-94]. Then I was fortunate enough to get on board in Baltimore in 2002.

The first year wasn’t really under an official coaching contract, but I did do some work with the video and the computer departments. I helped out after the fact with some quality control stuff. I was fortunate to get promoted on staff in 2003. I was a member of the defensive staff since the ’03 season.

I have been very fortunate to be able to attach myself to a coach of the caliber of Rex Ryan. He and I were drawn to each other from the beginning. We made a pretty good team in Baltimore. We joke about the relationship and don’t know if we could survive without each other. It’s something that has blossomed the last couple of years since he has become a coordinator. I couldn’t be happier for him when the Jets finally saw fit to hire him as the head coach. Yesterday was a thrill for me to be a part of.

On how unusual his path to the NFL has been…

I think the path helped me. Whether it was real or perceived, I always felt that I had something to prove, especially being somebody that didn’t take the traditional path of either being a former player or working at a big-time college for a bunch of years and then working up into the NFL that way.

Obviously, it was a very unique way. There aren’t too many high school coaches, guys that primarily have a high school background, to make it in the NFL. I have used that to motivate me. I always wanted to remember my roots and where I came from and how I got into the league.

On why he thinks he and Ryan were drawn to each other…

One is the background. My dad was a head high school coach in Pennsylvania at Central Bucks West High School for 30-plus years and had 17 undefeated seasons. He retired, percentage-wise, as the winningest coach in Pennsylvania history. [Ryan] has a background with his dad being a very well-known coach.

Both of us being coaches’ kids, I think we both developed that gym rat mentality for football. We shared a lot of philosophies when it came to football — everything from how to teach a certain technique to getting off blocks, to what to call in certain situations, when to be aggressive, when not to be aggressive. There are so many shared philosophies that it was just a natural connection.

On if he will double as linebackers coach…

We’re in the process now of assembling the staff, like Rex said yesterday, to put together the absolute best group of guys we can. We do have some flexibility in the system, the way that it is implemented and taught, for who is going to coach who. Sometimes our outside linebackers are part-time defensive ends or part-time inside linebackers. There is some flexibility with how we teach it and how it’s applied on the field.

Right now, there is nothing cast in stone as far as how it’s going to play out. We’ll cross that bridge once we put the staff together and see what everybody’s strength is; and we’ll move from there.

On how familiar he is with the Jets’ defensive personnel…

From a roster standpoint, I really haven’t had that much time. As Rex was preparing for the interview, I would have loved to have sat down and put on some film and pulled out a media guide and studied it. Obviously, I was doing other things. I was getting ready for playoff opponents and preparing for Tennessee and Pittsburgh along the way.

I never really got a chance to study it the way I would have liked, but what I do know are the obvious things. There is a heck of a nose tackle in Kris Jenkins. I met him yesterday. He definitely looks the part. The edges on the defense are pretty good. The outside linebackers are a good group. There is some flexibility there with Calvin Pace. Rex addressed it yesterday with Vernon Gholston. I got a chance to meet with David Harris for a little bit. He was impressive when I sat down with him. They have a heck of a safety in Kerry Rhodes and one of the best corners in the business in Darrelle Revis.

When you look at it, the cupboard’s not bare. There are definitely some things to work with. Between free agency this year and the draft, I feel confident that we’ll be able to put a pretty good defense on the field.

On if he will be making a tweak to this 3-4 system or an overhaul…

The one thing about our system is that it is player-driven. We are going to evaluate during the spring what our players do well and what they don’t do well. We’ve always been of the mindset that you fit your system to your players and not your players to your system. Over time you can bring in the guys that you want that you really feel fit you best.

In the short term, for us to be successful immediately, we need to do what we do well and at the same time work on what we don’t do well. We’re not going to come in here with a set playbook and say we’re going to try to squeeze the New York Jets personnel into the Baltimore Ravens defensive playbook. That’s not the case. What’s made it successful is the fact that we’ve been flexible and we’ve been able to change week to week depending on injuries or game plan, who was available and who wasn’t.

The cornerstone of our system is its flexibility. As we evaluate the roster, we’re going to find out very quickly what do we do well and what don’t we do well and match our specific scheme to fit that as we move on.

On his biggest challenge in making the transition from position coach to defensive coordinator…

For the last three years, Rex and I have implemented the defense. I don’t feel that this is a huge job for me in actual work responsibility. He and I, every Tuesday, locked ourselves in his office and worked on a game plan. When it came to game time, it was a collaboration. He primarily called the game. A lot of our calls had already been determined based on down-and-distance situations, when a team comes out in a certain personnel group and they’re on a certain hash mark on a certain area on the field. Our calls were already set.

The game plan really runs itself and that’s something that he and I both set up together. That’s really not unfamiliar territory for me. Rex and I have stood up in front of the defense and presented to the team. That’s not unfamiliar for me as well. For the challenge, I’ve been looking forward to it for a long time. Rex has prepared me very well for it, I think anticipating that this might happen some day.

On LB Vernon Gholston…

I thought that he was a tremendous athlete if you just look at what he did at the combine. But being in shorts is one thing, how it carries out on the field is another. We liked him. Some of the issues were a lack of consistency in some of his play. He would flash brilliance for two or three snaps and then, for a while in the game, he would disappear. That’s one thing that we had in our notes. If he became a Raven, he was going to have to work on being more consistent.

From a physical standpoint, he has all the tools. I’m looking forward to meeting Vernon and finding out what makes him tick, what he does well, get him going and get him some confidence and move on from there.

On his thoughts when Ryan said in his introductory news conference, “If Vernon can’t get it done under me, he’s not going to get it done anywhere.”…

That’s Rex, that’s his confidence. But he knows if the guy has it in him, we’re going to get it out of him. That’s just what we believe in. We’ve had that mentality in Baltimore for a long time on defense, ever since Rex has been there.

What we’ve done a good job of doing is identifying what a guy can do and let him do that — let’s turn him loose and let him play to his strengths at the same time we’re working on what he might be deficient in. A guy like Vernon, we’re going to find out early what he can do. I think a big part with him is getting him some confidence early.

On if they will consider having someone tutor Gholston…

That’s a possibility. I don’t think any decision will be made on that until we’ve got the staff together and see the staff and what everybody’s strengths are. It’s more than likely that I won’t be associated with one position defensively. What I’ll probably do is be part-time with the outside linebackers. Sometimes they’re defensive ends, sometimes they’re standup linebackers. I’ll be in a position to give Vernon some tutelage one-on-one, as will Rex.

On if he will be in the coaches’ box during games…


On if he was in the coaches’ box in Baltimore…

Yes, I was.

On if coaching from the box is a personal choice or how they run their system…

That’s how we run it. When Mike Nolan was the coordinator, he tried to be on the field, but didn’t really like it so he moved up top. He and I worked together up top. Rex and I have worked it out very quickly where he’s down on the sidelines and I was up top. I was basically his eyes and ears up top. That’s something that started from day one. It went so smooth that there was no reason to ever think about changing it.

On if they’re committed to running a 3-4 scheme…

When people talk about the 3-4, there are two ways to look at it. The 3-4 itself is an alignment, when you say they line up with the nose guard right over the center, the defensive ends over the tackles, two outside linebackers and two inside linebackers. In a traditional sense, we’ll run some of that, but that’s really a very small percentage of what we’ll do. When Baltimore is categorized as a 3-4, we almost laughed about it. It’s more of three-and-a-half and three-and-a-half. What we’d like to do is we personnel out of the 3-4.

Terrell Suggs was a unique position as everyone saw as his contract situation played out last year. They had to end up inventing a new term for him when he got franchised last year. His agent wanted him franchised as a defensive end. The Ravens wanted him franchised as a linebacker. When they came to me — there was going to be a deposition and all that stuff. They ended up avoiding it by inventing a new term. I don’t know what they ended up calling it, a rush linebacker or something like that. It actually split the money right down the middle.

What we do actually caused that category to be created. When they asked me, I almost jokingly, out of the gate said, “We should just split it down the middle because he’s both.” Depending on what mode we’re in defensively, we could be in a traditional 3-4 with two outside linebackers, two inside linebackers and three guys down inside. Very easily, we can transition to a 4-3 by taking that weakside outside linebacker and making him a defensive end. When people say we’re a 3-4, we always laughed a little bit about that because we were 3-4 in personnel because we considered Suggs an outside linebacker, but that is where the similarity to a 3-4 ended.

One thing about our system is we like to move guys all over the place. We want to line up guys in non-traditional positions. If you line up against NFL offenses and you allow them to easily identify your personnel — these are the four down, those are the three linebackers, these are the guys in the backend — if you do that, “let guys read your mail,” you’d better be much better than everyone else talentwise because the offenses are too good in this league. If they know what you’re in, you’re in a lot of trouble.

On if the players like playing in a hybrid system…

I think they do because they know that there is some creativity there. They’re going to get to do some non-traditional things. It’s not going to be same-old-same-old. I think they like it, too, because it’s been successful. If we can confuse an offense and every once in a while create a free runner because they didn’t identify who they needed to identify in the protection the right way and you cause big plays that way, the guys absolutely love it.

Especially when we get down to our third-down package, a lot of times we will move those guys all around. We have certain things that we run that one week there are three or four jobs that might be given to certain guys. Then the next week, we’ll make the same call and just rotate who gets those jobs. It’s a fun thing for players because there are certain jobs that they might get that are the “thankless” jobs. Rex calls them the “as far as you know” jobs. They’ll ask, “Am I going to get a sack on this one?” The answer will be “As far as you know.”

There are a lot of jobs like that that a player doesn’t mind doing for a couple of weeks, knowing that down the road he might end up being the guy that’s schemed up to be the free runner weeks down the road.

On if the team is aware of the free-agency status of some of his former players…

Absolutely, but I know that the scouting department here likes to have a full range of draft picks. I really can’t comment on it. We’ll get the list and for us we already know a lot of the names that are going to be on there.

On if he has a plan to keep DT Kris Jenkins rested throughout the season…

You have to walk that fine line through having a player out there and making sure he gets his rest. If Kris Jenkins is standing next to Rex for too many plays during a game, your pens will be very active. On the other hand, if you overuse a player and wear him down, that’s an issue as well.

Depth is such a big part of the NFL given the limited amount of players you have up on gameday. Developing your depth is a huge part of it. What we say to each other as coaches is “A true measure of a coach is how do his backups play.” You can get yourself a really good player. For me it was real easy to pound my chest and say “Look at me, I coached Terrell Suggs,” but he was the 10th pick in the [2003] NFL Draft. He makes it easy. What I’m more proud of is taking a kid like Jameel McClain last year, who was an undrafted rookie, who ended up being a significant part of our playoff run late in the year.

Our guys on defense, if they’re up on gameday, they are going to have an active role. The key is making sure those guys are quality guys and they’re ready to play. Then you get the best of both worlds. You get to rest your starters without there being a huge dropoff from when you put your backups in.

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