The decision maker and play callers from the Jets new coaching staff all have very strong football pedigrees, both professionally and in many cases, genetically. All indicators point to the Jets to incorporate a run-first but aggressive offense and an aggressive, attacking defense.
Head Coach Rex Ryan grew up around football. His father is former Bears defensive coordinator and Eagles and Cardinals Head Coach, Buddy Ryan. In fact, Buddy began his career as an assistant in pro football with the 1968 Jets under Weeb Ewbank. The older Ryan earned his first Super Bowl ring when the Jets captured their only Super Bowl title that season.
Rex’s twin brother Rob is also a member of the coaching profession. Rob is now the defensive coordinator with the Cleveland Browns and has won Super Bowls as an assistant with the Patriots in 2001 and 2003.
After Rex ended his playing career at Southwestern Oklahoma State, he spent seven seasons as a college assistant including his first defensive coordinator position at New Mexico Highlands in 1989.
Ryan gained his first NFL experience when he joined his father’s staff with the Arizona Cardinals as an assistant in 1994 and 1995. Like his father, Ryan concentrated on the defensive side of the ball, first coaching the line for a season before moving on to linebackers coach. The 1994 team was ranked third overall in the NFL in defense.
Arizona played the 46 Defense which Buddy Ryan perfected with the 1985 Bears. It’s an aggressive style defense that essentially lined up as many as eight players along the line of scrimmage and dared the offense to run on them or throw the ball before the pass rush got there.
Although Rex Ryan’s teams operate out of a base 3-4, there are similarities to the 46 defense. The blitzes in the defense’s Ryan ran in Baltimore were designed to create numerical mismatches on one side of the ball to get to the quarterback or the ball carrier before a play can develop.
“Read and react is for somebody else,” Ryan said at his first press conference as Jets coach. “We’re going to attack … you’re going to see the fur fly.”
After leaving the Cardinals, Ryan returned to the college ranks and acted as Defensive Coordinator at football powers Cincinnati and Oklahoma. The Sooners finished 6th in the nation in team defense in 1998 under Ryan’s leadership.
In 1999, Ryan joined Brian Billick’s staff with the Baltimore Ravens. He was with Baltimore in 2000 when the Ravens crushed the New York Giants 34-7 to win Super Bowl XXXV. Baltimore never finished ranked lower than 6th in the NFL in total defense during Ryan’s tenure with the club.
Ryan was named the NFL’s Assistant Coach of the Year by Pro Football Weekly in 2006. In 2008, he was promoted to Defensive Coordinator under John Harbaugh. Ryan’s defense finished second in the league in yards allowed per game, third in points allowed and led the league in takeaways and interceptions.
His aggressive style and defensive expertise appealed to the Jets and landed Ryan his first NFL head coaching position in the coming season.
Brian Schottenheimer, the Jets Offensive Coordinator, also has a strong NFL pedigree. His father, Marty Schottenheimer, has been a very successful NFL head coach, leading the Chargers, Browns and Chiefs to multiple playoff berths and having a career winning percentage of .613 in 21 NFL seasons.
Brian worked on his dad’s staffs in San Diego, Washington and Kansas City. He also gained experience at the college level working as a tight end coach at Syracuse and USC.
While Marty is known as a conservative play caller, Brian favors a more diverse attack from multiple formations. He also features a no-huddle offense at times to keep defenses off balance.
Brian did learn some things from his dad: he favors the run attack first. Thomas Jones made the Pro Bowl and ran for more than 1,300 yards in 2008 under Schottenheimer’s play calling. The Jets finished 9th in the league in rushing yards and 5th in the league with a 4.75 yard average per rush. The Jets also scored more than 400 points in a season for only the third time in franchise history in 2008.
Schottenheimer has also helped quarterbacks excel during his coaching career. Chad Pennington had a career-high 3,352 yards in 2006m while Drew Brees also had a breakout season under Schottenheimer’s tutelage, throwing for 3,576 yards and 24 touchdowns back in 2005.
The Jets offensive coordinator is no stranger to overcoming adversity. He was diagnosed with thyroid cancer in 2004 and had his thyroid gland removed. He still takes daily medication for the condition although it has not slowed him down on the football field.
Defensive Coordinator Mike Pettine also had a father who was a football coach, although not one that would be as well known to NFL fans as Schottenheimer and Ryan. Mike Pettine Sr. coached at Central Bucks West High School in Pennsylvania for 33 years and set a state high school record with 326 career wins.
He has been in the Ravens organization since 2002, first coaching the defensive line and then guiding the team’s outside linebackers for the last four seasons.
While this is Pettine’s first coordinator position, he is very well versed in the system that Ryan wants to incorporate in New York. In fact, Ryan made Pettine the first addition to his coaching staff after being named as head man of the Jets.
“Mike is a rising star in this league,” Ryan said. “We’re fortunate that we were able to get him on our staff.”
The final coach who will have a significant influence on play calling is Quarterback Coach, Matt Cavanaugh.
Cavanaugh is entering his 12th season as an NFL assistant and his first with the Jets. He was with Ryan during his last stint with the Ravens (1999-2004) where he served as Offensive Coordinator. He spent the last four years at the University of Pittsburgh working in that same capacity.
During his 12-year NFL career as a quarterback, Cavanaugh played for standout coaches like Bill Walsh and Bill Parcells and Rex’s father, Buddy Ryan. He won two Super Bowl rings and was the quarterback of the University of Pittsburgh’s 1976 National Championship team.
Cavanaugh’s teams have tended to be on the conservative side with their play calling, but his time under Walsh means that Cavanaugh knows the West Coast Offense well and has incorporated some of the timing plays and the deadly short passing attack originated in San Francisco.