Since the turn of the century, the Jets have had four different head coaches and a myriad of assistants. And through it all, only one man has remained.
Bob Sutton, who joined the Jets in 2000 and was most recently tabbed as Rex Ryan's senior defensive assistant/linebackers coach, is set to tie both Walt Michaels (1963-72) and Larry Pasquale (1980-89) for the longest consecutive-year tenure as a Jets assistant coach.
"When you're given a job — whatever that job is — it's important and it has to be done as well as it possibly can be done because other people are counting on you," Sutton told *newyorkjets.com *this week.
The position is a return engagement for Sutton. He'll be mentoring the Jets' linebackers for a seventh campaign after a three-year stint as defensive coordinator for the since-departed Eric Mangini.
"We ask players to change roles all the time and the key for any successful transition is not to let any circumstances really frame you or the way you attack a job," he said from a second-floor office at the Atlantic Health Jets Training Center. "The title might be different, but I'm going to approach it with the same level of intensity and the same type of effort."
With personnel better suited for Mangini's defensive system in 2008, Sutton's group improved in a number of areas and especially against the run — allowing 94.9 yards per contest, best mark by a Jets team since 1993, and 3.7 yards a carry, best since 2004. Also, the Jets finished seventh in the NFL in sacks with 41 and tied for second in the league with 16 fumble recoveries.
But unfortunately last year's Jets will be remembered for missed opportunities. After starting the year 8-3, New York's AFC representative dropped four of five and finished out of the playoffs.
"For all of us who were part of that regime, we don't feel like we accomplished what we set out to do," Sutton said. "We did a lot of good things, but we didn't finish."
Just hours after the season ended, the Jets' brass removed Mangini as head coach. Sutton, still under contract, waited to see where the search would go while looking at other opportunities. Then shortly after Ryan was hired on Jan. 19, he asked Sutton to sit down for a talk.
"We visited for about an hour or so and the way I described him to everybody was that this was a real genuine guy," Sutton said of Ryan. "I knew he was a good football coach because you can see that when you study his team, there was no question. This is a guy who's down to earth, really enjoys the players and loves to coach."
While a number of Ryan's defensive assistants have intimate knowledge of his system, Sutton is carefully reviewing all the basic concepts. But he gained valuable experience working under another member of the Ravens defensive coaching tree.
"I think the system that Rex brings is one that obviously has a proven track record. Although it's 3-4–based, it's different and has more fronts than the way we've played here in the past," he said. "I'm also really fortunate to have talented coaches and players with tremendous knowledge of the scheme when you talk about guys like defensive coordinator Mike Pettine, secondary coach Dennis Thurman, Bart Scott, Jim Leonhard and Marques Douglas.
"But it's really the system we used here in '04 and '05 with Donnie Henderson. There are different parts that have changed, but a lot of the core things are still part of that system because Donnie came off the Baltimore tree."
After adding Scott in free agency, the Jets could have one of the better 'backer corps in the NFL. The wild card of the bunch is Vernon Gholston and Sutton said last year's sixth overall pick from Ohio State will be in a system more similar to the one he was in at Ohio State. But in addition to Gholston, Sutton stresses the importance of building depth.
"We all know it's hard — particularly at those high-contact positions — to make it through the year with the same four guys. A lot of times you have to take kind of a lesser-known guy and get him in position so he can contribute," he said.
A fixture at Army for 17 years as defensive coordinator (1983-90) and head coach (1991-99), Sutton has become an NFL coaching rarity. The man, who runs religiously here in the off-season and is a voracious reader of military history, sees some parallels in football and military strategy.
"It's organized confusion because very seldom is it exactly the way you say it is going to be," he said. "The opponent changes, they adapt and they have their own gameplan. So that ability to anticipate what's going to happen coupled with that ability to adapt to what's happening is really the art of command."
And after holding various ranks throughout his football life, Bob Sutton's become an expert in preparing and adapting.
Here are the eight men with the longest unbroken tenures as Jets coaches:
|Weeb Ewbank||1963-73||11||All 11 years as HC; crowning jewel: SBIII|
|Walt Michaels||1963-72||10||Returned in 1976, HC from '77-82|
|Larry Pasquale||1980-89||10||ST coach now solid studio TV analyst|
|Bob Sutton||2000-||10||Serving under his fourth Jets HC|
|Bob Fry||1974-82||9||OL coach on NFL No. 1 run offense in '79|
|Joe Gardi||1976-84||9||Rose to asst. HC/DC in 1983-84|
|Joe Walton||1981-89||9||Became HC in '83 for seven seasons|
|Mike Westhoff||2001-||9||Annually rated among top ST coaches|