What Does Mike Pettine Bring as Defensive Coordinator for Buffalo Bills?

Erik Frenz@ErikFrenzSenior Writer IJanuary 9, 2013

Dec 18, 2011; Philadelphia, PA, USA; New York Jets defensive coordinator Mike Pettine prior to the game against the Philadelphia Eagles at Lincoln Financial Field. Mandatory Credit: William Perlman/The Star-Ledger via USA TODAY Sports
The Star-Ledger-USA TODAY Sports

The Buffalo Bills wasted no time in naming Doug Marrone as their head coach. Marrone is wasting no time in naming his coaching staff.

It started with naming Nathaniel Hackett the offensive coordinator, and as of Wednesday morning, multiple reports indicate former Jets defensive coordinator Mike Pettine will join the Bills in the same position.

Bills have hired former Jets defensive coordinator Mike Pettine to be their defensive coordinator, via @mortreport .

— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) January 9, 2013

There are big ramifications for the Bills with this move (and the Jets), so let's take a look at what Pettine brings to the table.


The first question that comes to mind with any new coordinator is: What style does this coach bring?

In terms of the scheme, the Jets ran a base 3-4 defense, but Pettine hardly fits into a box. 

Bleacher Report Jets featured columnist Ryan Alfieri shares his thoughts on Pettine's style: 

Pettine is not going to run either a 3-4 or 4-3: He's multiple. He'll do whatever makes the most sense in any given situation.

— Ryan Alfieri (@ryanalf17) January 9, 2013

The Jets did run more 4-3 packages in 2012, but stats from 2011 reveal just how adaptable and innovative Pettine is.

A quick look back over the past couple of years reveals that the Jets have been versatile in their defensive packages.

In fact, according to ProFootballFocus.com, the Jets were not afraid to take it to the extreme on either end of the spectrum when it came to personnel groupings in 2011:

They go with seven backs on 17% of their plays, which is 15 percentage points higher than the next closest team. In fact, of the 250 snaps where seven or more defensive backs were on the field across the entire NFL in 2011, the Jets were responsible for 169 (68%). Although they used the 2-2-7 on a half dozen snaps, the Jets’ favorite seven-defensive-back formation was the 1-3-7. Only four teams had six or more defensive backs on the field more than the Jets in 2011.

Interestingly, the Jets weren’t afraid to go low at defensive back either. Only the Lions (7%) went with fewer than four defensive backs more than the Jets (6%).

Pettine is an innovator on defense, and is not afraid of thinking outside the box.

How much was Pettine responsible for the Jets defense, though?

Pettine and Ryan shared play-calling responsibilities for much of their time together with the Jets, including the second half of the 2012 season, so it's not far-fetched to think that we'll see a lot of the same tactics from Pettine with the Bills that we saw with the Jets over the past few seasons. 

Bills head coach Doug Marrone led an attacking, blitz-heavy defense at Syracuse, and he'll get that style from Pettine, as well. In 2012, the Jets blitzed on around 39 percent of passing plays (according to ProFootballFocus.com), with the league averaging around 31.5 percent blitzes as a whole.


One of Marrone's prerequisites for his coordinators was that they both have NFL experience:

Obviously with the coordinators, we're going to want people that have thorough NFL experience, especially on the defensive side of the ball. Offensively, we want people with NFL experience. I think (with) our coordinators, we want to make sure that they fit in this league. This is a very, very difficult job, being an NFL coach.

He may not have gotten exactly what he said he wanted on the offensive side of the ball in hiring Syracuse OC Nathaniel Hackett, but he got a great deal of experience with Pettine, who has coached in the NFL for 11 years. He followed Ryan the whole way up to this point, as a defensive line coach and a linebacker coach with the Ravens and then as the Jets' defensive coordinator.

Pettine has been involved with some very good defenses in his career.  

He has always had plenty of talent at his disposal, but the Bills have their share of talent on defense as well. 

Now, it's up to Pettine to use the skills he has learned in his 11 years and apply it to the Bills' defense to get them back on track.

Knowledge of the Division

Rex had to be stirring in his seat a little bit when the Bills made this hire.

In speaking about Pettine at his press conference on Tuesday, Ryan began by jokingly saying that he hoped Pettine wouldn't take the job, before wishing him well:

I’m hoping he doesn’t take that job. I’m hoping he goes somewhere else. Mike and I have been together for over 10 years and he’s a tremendous coach. We had the conversations and right now, Mike thinks it’s best that he goes to a different team as a defensive coordinator and I wish him all the best—unless he goes to Buffalo. 

As mentioned above, Pettine's 11 years in the NFL have been spent almost exclusively at Ryan's side. He knows the Jets' defensive playbook, and has intimate knowledge of what the Jets like to do schematically on defense. 

He also has extensive knowledge of the Jets' personnel on both sides of the ball, running the defense and practicing against the Jets' offense every week.

That being said, there are some advantages for the Jets in the situation, because they now have intimate knowledge of what the Bills will likely be running a lot next year.

Part of what has made the Jets so successful against Buffalo has been their ability to slash through the Bills defense.

If Pettine can help them change that, the Bills stand a much better chance of pulling off division wins in 2013.

Erik Frenz is the AFC East lead blogger for Bleacher Report. Be sure to follow Erik on Twitter and "like" the AFC East blog on Facebook to keep up with all the updates. Unless specified otherwise, all quotes are obtained firsthand or via team press releases.


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