Not Just Coach: Rex Ryan Leads a New York Jets Staff That's First Class

Kevin CrawleyContributor IMay 27, 2009

FLORHAM PARK, NJ - MAY 02:  Head coach Rex Ryan of the New York Jets walks on the field during minicamp on May 2, 2009 at the Atlantic Health Jets Training Center in Florham Park, New Jersey.  (Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)

Being an NFL coach is hard enough.

Being an NFL coach in New York is, well, really hard.

Take this example: two years ago, Giants fans and personalities were ready to dump coach Tom Coughlin after an 0-2 start.  Of course, Coughlin eventually led the team into the playoffs and to a Super Bowl victory.

Glorified if you win, vilified if you lose.  Eric Mangini knows all about that.

So now it's Rex Ryan's turn.  Confident and charismatic, he appears ready to take on the season—and the media.  Let's take a closer look at Ryan and his crew of coordinators.


It's a well-known fact that Coach Ryan is a defensive specialist.  A lesser-known fact is that his career spans more than 20 years.  Before he was shutting down offenses with the Ravens, he got his start as a defensive end coach for the Eastern Kentucky Colonels at the age of 24.

Seven years later, after finding success at the collegiate level, he accepted his first NFL position with the Arizona Cardinals. Working for two years with the defensive line and linebackers under head coach (and dad) Buddy Ryan, Rex helped the Cardinals become the third best defense in the league.

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Ryan returned to the NCAA for a few years as a defensive coordinator before coming back to the NFL.  He began a 10-year stint with Baltimore, starting out as a defensive line coach and working his way up to defensive coordinator/assistant head coach.

Throughout his career, Ryan's defensive units have consistently ranked amongst the best in their leagues.  In 2008 Ryan was considered for the Ravens' head coaching position, but ultimately did not get the job.  New coach John Harbaugh saw something in Ryan however, and retained him, much like the next member of the Jets' coaching staff.


Brian Schottenheimer began his NFL coaching career in 1997 and, like Ryan, was part of his father's coaching staff the following year.  Brian worked under dad Marty three separate times in his career, before landing with the Jets in 2006.

When your last name is Schottenheimer, people expect a little more from you.  And at only 35 years old, Schotty (as he is affectionately referred to by his players) has proved he can handle the pressure.

He fine-tuned his skills working with Drew Brees in San Diego as a quarterbacks coach, and helped create an offense that played to Chad Pennington's strengths when he arrived in New York.

In addition to his diverse play-calling, Schottenheimer has proved to be a strong individual off the field as well.  He was diagnosed with thyroid cancer in 2004, but he did not let that stop him.  He continues to be a (very literally) vocal part of this coaching staff.

Schottenheimer was considered for the Jets' head coaching job, and like Ryan in Baltimore, was also denied.  But also like Ryan, he was retained by the new guy in charge.

Rex and Brian spoke about their similar situations, but it wasn't sympathy that kept Schottenheimer on board.  His creativity and will to win are traits that make him a valuable part of this staff.


Mike Pettine is yet another son of a coach—although you probably wouldn't recognize his father.  Mike Sr. coached at Central Bucks West for 33 years, and retired as the winningest coach in the history of Pennsylvania high school football, losing only 42 games in that span.

Ryan often refers to Pettine as his "right-hand man." Pettine was one of several former players and coaches in Baltimore that followed Ryan to New York. And while that speaks volumes about the allegiance these people have to Ryan, it also reveals a bit about their own personalities as well.

Part of the reason Ryan and Pettine get along so well is because they share the same defensive philosophies. Now that Pettine is in charge of the "D," offensive players in camp have many of the same things to say about him as they did about Ryan.

You often hear the words unconventional, surprising and fast-paced when opponents describe what they're seeing.

In the four years that Ryan and Pettine worked as coordinator and outside linebackers coach, respectively, the Ravens finished in the top-five overall defenses three times (the other time they finished sixth). That includes two seasons where they finished first and second overall. It's that kind of chemistry that Jets will enjoy in 2009.


Mike Westhoff is no stranger to the Jets, or to the league.  He's got nearly 30 years of NFL coaching experience under his belt and has no signs of slowing down.  Like Ryan, his recent units have ranked amongst the best in the league.

He has earned the respect of his peers through continued excellence over the course of his career.  After a brief stint with the Indianapolis Colts in the early '80s, he was a part of the Miami Dolphins for 15 years.  For four straight seasons in the late '90s, Westhoff was behind the league's best kickoff and punt coverage units.

With the Jets, his special teams dominance continued.  New York has returned 11 kickoffs for touchdowns during Westhoff's tenure, the most by any team during that time span.  He has seen two different Jets, Justin Miller and Leon Washington, make the Pro Bowl for kick returns.

But it's not just about the stats.  Even more impressive is Westhoff's resilience in battling bone cancer while continuing to coach full-time.  He's just the kind of guy that will continue to succeed under Rex Ryan.


When you add the assistants and position coaches to an already talented group, you can rest assured that this staff is qualified and ready to mentor, lead, and take this team and these players to the limit.