Out with the Old, in with the Middle Aged: Jets Revamp Coaching Staff

Matt KaufmanContributor IMay 28, 2009

FLORHAM PARK, NJ - MAY 02:  Head coach Rex Ryan of the New York Jets holds up a picture of rookie running back Shonn Greene as he speaks to the media during minicamp on May 2, 2009 at the Atlantic Health Jets Training Center in Florham Park, New Jersey.  (Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)

In order to fly smoothly, there needs to be some degree of stability.  The New York Jets coaching staff in recent years has been anything but stable.


Entering the 2009 season, thirteen out of the twenty-three members of the Jets coaching staff are about to being their first year in New York.  Only three members have been with the team for more than five years, and one of those is Head Strength and Conditioning Coach Sal Alosi. 


Gang Green will have many new faces on the sidelines this year, many of which have experience in other organizations, hoping to add stability and success to a franchise which has had back to black playoff appearances just four times since the merger.  Here is a look at some of the key members of this year’s coaching staff:

Rex Ryan: Rex could hardly stew in Baltimore’s AFC Championship loss to Pittsburghbefore Mike Tannenbaum came banging down his door. 


Beginning his first head coaching gig, Ryan brings a wealth of experience and bold predictions, proclaiming that the Jets will earn a trip to the White House in the next few years during his introductory press conference. 


Still, there is no denying his resume, which is loaded with credentials, especially on the defensive side.  After spending more than ten years in the NCAA, including one year at Oklahoma, Ryan landed his first NFL job with the Arizona Cardinals, coaching the defensive line in 1994 (where the team was third in overall defense despite an 8-8 record) and the linebackers in 1995. 


In 1999, he joined the Baltimore Ravens, where he remained until 2008, solidifying his status as one of the premier defense coaches in the league.  Since 1999 the Ravens defense ranked first in a plethora of defensive categories, including points allowed per game, rushing yards allowed per game and takeaways.


Now in his first head coaching position, Ryan will have to bring some of his “mad scientist” persona to the offense in addition to the defense.

Mike Pettine: When Ryan came to New York, he brought a friend.


“Mike is a rising star in this league,” said Ryan.  “We’re fortunate that we were able to get him on our staff.”


Pettine will serve as the new defensive coordinator after working with the Ravens since 2002, spending the past four seasons coaching the outside linebackers, including such standouts at Terrell Suggs, Adailus Thomas and Jarret Johnson.  Prior to his NFL debut, Pettine spent five seasons as the Head Coach of North Penn High School in Towamencin Township, PA, a suburb of Philadelphia, where his father previously held the same position.


One of Pettine’s major challenges will be to get some production out of second year OLD Vernon Gholston, who recorded just one tackle and eight assisted tackles in 2008. 


His other major task will be to improve the pass defense, which ranked 29th in the NFL last season.  To do that, Pettine will have to work with new defensive backs Coach Dennis Thurman, another Baltimore transfer.


Pettine stated that “We’ve always been in the mindset of you fit your players to the system, not the players to the system,” a mantra he will have to hold fast to since the Jets defense is not quite at the Ravens’ level just yet.

Brian Schottenheimer:Even after being snubbed for the head coaching position, Schottenheimer will stick around and enter his fourth season with the Jets, making him one of New York’s longest tenured coaches.


After short stints in the NFL and NCAA with St. Louis, Southern Cal and Syracuse, Schottenheimer spent four years as the quarterbacks coach with the San Diego Chargers from 2002-05, where he worked with Drew Brees (who produced his lowest interception total in 2004) and a young Philip Rivers. 


Despite Brett Favre having to quickly learn the playbook in 2008, the Jets offense still performed, scoring over 400 points for just the third time in franchise history.  Individual success stories include the AFC’s leading rusher in Thomas Jones, the continued emergence of Leon Washington, and Pro Bowl appearances for Alan Faneca and Nick Mangold. 


Still, Gang Green ranked 16th in overall offense and 16th in passing yards.  Having a quarterback that will spend more time than Favre learning the offense should help in both of those categories and allow for more offensive creativity on the part of Schottenheimer.

Matt Cavanaugh: Perhaps the most important, but overlooked member of Jets coaching staff this year.


Cavanaugh rejoins the NFL ranks after spending the past four years as the offensive coordinator at the University of Pittsburgh, where he was named the best at his job in the Big East in 2007. 


He coached with Ryan in Baltimore from 1999-2004, serving as the offensive coordinator there as well, earning a Super Bowl ring.  Cavanaugh has also held that post for the Bears (1997-98), and was the quarterbacks coach San Francisco (1996) and Arizona (1994-5), where he also was on the same staff as Ryan.


Cavanaugh will be working with inexperience at the quarterback position.  Both Kellen Clemens and Mark Sanchez need work to make it as a starter, and unless Jets management freaks out and phones Vinny Testaverde, one of them will be under center in week one. 


The offense’s success typically runs through the quarterback, and it is Cavanaugh’s job to make sure the Jets signal caller is ready to go when the season begins.  He’ll also have to hope for a strong year from the offensive line, coached by Bill Callahan, in order to give his young quarterbacks more time in the pocket.

Henry Ellard: Ellard comes to the Jets after eight seasons with the Rams, working as offensive assistant his first two years and then as a wide receivers coach, the position he will fill in New York.  During his tenure, Torry Holt produced seven straight 1,000-yard seasons.  Ellard also coached at Fresno State in 2000.


Ellard is in a similar position to Cavanaugh in that there is inexperience at the wide receiver position.  Jerricho Cotchery is the number one receiver, but after that Ellard has his work cut out for him, needing to get production out of Chansi Stuckey and David Clowney, both entering there second seasons (although Clowney was sidelined with an injury for most of last year). 


Also trying to work their way up the depth charts are quarterback/receiver Brad Smith and special teams member Wallace Wright.  With a young quarterback, Ellard needs to make sure his receivers have their routes down pat and that they can create opportunities to score.