On his first true full day in the office, Rex Ryan went to work on assembling the rest of his coaching staff. But Ryan's right-hand man was already in place from the moment he was hired.
"We just joke about the relationship and I don't know if we could survive without each other," said Mike Pettine, the Jets' new defensive coordinator.
Both men are the sons of coaches. While Buddy Ryan made his name on the pro stage, Mike Pettine Sr. led on the high school level and produced a 326-42-4 record in 33 seasons as head coach at Central Bucks West High School.
Before Pettine Sr. retired as the winningest coach in the history of Pennsylvania HS football, his son got his coaching career started on his Bucks staff from 1988-92.
"Being coaches' kids, we developed that gym rat mentality for football," said the new Jets assistant of himself and Ryan. "We shared a lot of the same philosophy type things when it came to football."
Of Pettine Jr.'s 22 coaching seasons, he spent only the past seven in the NFL, all with Ryan and the Ravens.
"There aren't too many high school coaches, guys who primarily have a high school background, to make it in the NFL. I used that to motivate me," he said during a conference call with reporters this afternoon. "I always wanted to remember my roots, where I came from and how I got into the league."
Only days removed from a Ravens playoff run, Pettine (pronounced PET-in) will spend countless hours reviewing the Jets' personnel over the next few weeks. He did say he'll inherit "a heck of a" nose tackle in Kris Jenkins and safety in Kerry Rhodes, and he also called Darrelle Revis "one of the best corners in the business."
"The cupboard's not bare. There are certainly some things to work with," he said. "Between free agency this year and the draft, I feel confident that we'll be able to put a pretty good defense out there on the field."
Ryan and Pettine will adjust to their personnel and play to their strengths.
"The cornerstone of our system is its flexibility. As we evaluate the roster, we're going to find out very quickly what we do well and what we don't do well and match our specific schemes to fit that as we move on," said the new DC.
Just as it was in Baltimore, Ryan will call the plays and Pettine will tell him what he can see from his view in the coaches' box. And they'll again work together to formulate their game plans.
"We like to line up guys all over the place. We want to line up guys in non-traditional positions. … If you let teams read your mail, so to speak, you'd better be much better than everyone else talentwise because the offenses are too good in this league," he said. "If they know what you are in, you are in a lot of trouble."
He laughs that some people threw the Ravens into the 3-4 category because they constantly changed their looks. He referred to Terrell Suggs as a 'tweener because he can line up just as easily at OLB as at DE.
Ryan and Pettine know a thing or two about putting players in position to make plays. Their imaginative approach proved to be a winner for Ravens defenders.
"They know there's some creativity there and they're going to get a chance to do some non-traditional things. It's not just the same-old-same-old. I think they like it too because it's been successful," Pettine said. "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 come up with big plays that way — the guys absolutely love it."
Pettine, who was the outside linebackers coach with the Ravens, says he'll still probably spend some of his time with the Jets' OLBs. But he's more than ready for his new role under his old buddy.
"It's a challenge I've been looking forward to for a long time, but I think Rex has prepared me very well for it, anticipating this might happen to me," he said.
Get Gholston Going
Since Pettine has some expertise tutoring outside linebackers, he was asked what he remembered thinking about Jets OLB Vernon Gholston before April's draft.
"There was a lack of consistency in some of his play," he said. "He would flash brilliance for two or three snaps, and then for a while in the game he would disappear."
The 6'3", 264-pound Gholston, whom the Jets took with No. 6 overall selection out of Ohio State, finished his rookie season with five defensive tackles and one quarterback hurry.
"He has all the tools," Pettine said. "I'm looking forward to meeting Vernon and finding out what makes him tick and what he does well, and get him going and get him some confidence and moving on from there."