A player like Randy Moss is so very dangerous because he can ruin an entire defensive game-plan without even touching the ball, forcing his opponent to allocate an excessive level of personnel toward stopping one-man theatrics. Suddenly the slot receiver is running free, or the tight-end is singled up against a linebacker.

 Sometimes a football team wins a game due to overwhelming talent. But often, it’s the creation of mismatches which bequeaths victors. Randy Moss, and other special talents worthy of comparison, will forever be highly sought for this precise reason, mere presence capable of tipping scales.

Yes, here resides the realm of players, where they match specific talents and wits against one another. Its essential sports, at the core, professionals plying a competitive trade. In an increasingly impersonal world, America can’t get enough, ratings for this reality show higher than ever.

 Coaches are required to make sense of all the potential madness. Coaches stick the best corner on the best receiver. Coaches decide whether a guy can masquerade at linebacker or thrive at safety. At their best, coaches are a clarifying force. At their worst, they succumb to the confusion and enhance a mystery. Just how, exactly, are football games won?

The answer is equally simple and complicated, an enigma trapped within contradictions woven into simplicity. No, this job isn’t easy. And Jets Defensive Coordinator Mike Pettine saw his get a whole lot tougher this week.  

Pettine was a football player. A quarterback in High School converted to safety in college. His father was a High School coaching giant in Pennsylvania.  He coached the Ravens’ outside linebackers before earning the coordinator position with the Jets, after Rex Ryan, his boss in Baltimore, nabbed the top spot in New York.

 Pettine’s deadpan humor and blunt honesty were a highlight of the HBO Training Camp series “Hard Knocks.” His profile is rising, after the Jets’ first place defensive finish last year. While this season’s defensive unit may seem superior on paper, they still have to prove it through sixteen games, though their complete disposal of the Bills’ on the road last week is the latest signal that they could deliver on high expectations.

While Ryan works closely with the defense, Pettine is still highly regarded. A head coaching job could be in his future. For a man who took a motivational tact when faced with potentially heading into the season without his most valuable player, Darrelle Revis, the future may be bright.

 Ryan is certainly sold on Pettine’s acumen and approach. “Not much,” said Ryan with a sarcastic laugh, when queried about what Pettine bought to his coaching stuff. “Just want to say that cause I don’t want him going,” Ryan continued, explaining his joke, and continuing it by saying, “He’s a problem… For any organization, he is a major problem.” The jovial Rex did turn serious, sending ample plaudits Pettine’s way. “He’s the brightest, in my opinion, the brightest young defensive coordinator in the league. He’s been that kind of guy for me for years. One day we’ll definitely lose him. And you know what? He’ll deserve it. After we win a Super Bowl, then you can have him. We will lose him at some point. Without question. He has head coaching aspirations I’m sure, if he doesn’t he should have.  And he’s got that kind of talent. He’s much smarter than I am, I could tell you that much.  He’s a guy that’s always been my right-hand guy. It won’t be long. He won’t be here that long. He should rent, not buy,” Ryan concluded.

 Key defensive pieces such as Drew Coleman and Trevor Pryce were just as effusive in their praise. “Pettine as a D.C….” began Coleman, slightly suppressing a grin. “Man, Pettine is… one thing I love about Pettine is that he’s exciting… he’s always up tempo, always communicating with us. He never loses his cool, [that] type of guy. He’s one of the most sarcastic guys in the defensive room.” Coleman then offered a few insights suggesting that the realistic, yet still optimistic, natures of Pettine and Ryan may set the tone for the entire staff. “The whole thing about this staff, not just Pettine, [but] D.T [Dennis Thurman], Bob [Sutton], coach [Jeff] Weeks, those guys are very fun, fun guys to be around… they make it easier to learn… we communicate with the whole defense…  Pettine is the type of guy who [will say], ‘Drew are you talking to Bart, are you talking to David Harris?’ Having him around, man, has definitely influenced us and helped us tremendously.” Coleman respects the fact that this coaching staff treats their pupils with respect, acknowledging their errors without utilizing embarrassing tactics. “That’s with the whole coaching staff, even with Coach Thurman… he’ll tell you he’s not the type of coach to jump down your throat and yell at you and bitch at you… at the end of the day they know [the offense] [gets] paid too. They [are] going to make good throws. The thing that they harp on is you’re going to be doing what the coaches are doing… having all those guys around, man, you enjoy them.” Coleman then made an interesting comparison between the Mangini era staff, and this one. “The last staff I had they [were] more of yelling, getting at you… it’s like night and day… Mangini is one of the smartest coaches… I enjoyed my time with Mangini… Terrific coach…. [But] Rex is more of a player’s coach. Like everyone know.  You love playing for guys like that, that’ll come back and ask you what you did wrong, ‘you got it?’ then go out there and get  it done.’ Just as long as you’re competing, playing hard, doing what they ask, you’ll get no complaints out of them guys.”

Rex Ryan had nothing but positives to share about his defensive coordinator Mike Pettine. When Mike Tannebaum hired Ryan, he ushered in a new organizational approach toward coaching, and the players approve.

Trevor Pryce, who worked very closely with the Pettine and Ryan combo in Baltimore, echoed those comments, specifically complimenting his current coordinator. “A zen-like calmness,” said Pryce with a laugh, adding “And I don’t mean that, but put it in anyway.” Pryce complimented the freedom in Pettine’s scheme. “It’s detailed, but it’s also, it gives you an option. A lot of coaches say do it this way. He says do it your way… you have a lot of room to roam. What happens, when you have that, you don’t want to let them down, because you have so much freedom.  You do the best you can, sometimes it works out and sometimes it doesn’t.” Pryce also thought highly of Pettine’s temperament. “He’s never going to berate you… and when he does get on you, he does it in a way you don’t feel disrespected.” Pryce held little doubt about Pettine’s future. “He’s going to make a great head coach someday… Rex would tell you that. He’s going to be a head coach in this league, I’d say sooner, rather than later.” Pettine certainly seems a beloved figure at Florham Park. He could make the ultimate difference against Moss, and the rest of supremely skilled Vikings offense. Should the Jets’ defense play as they did against the Ravens, Bills, and the second half against New England, Pettine’s stock will climb even higher. He’ll make those head coaching prognostications come true.

 Listen to Pettine at his Friday presser, and one would be led to believe all those concerns outlined by this author in paragraph one were simply a minor nuisance. Special player? Mismatches? Pettine wasn’t disturbed in the slightest, expressing faith in the Jets’ defensive system, and confidence in his players. “I don’t think it changes it much,” Pettine said, when asked how the Moss trade could alter his game-plan. The cool coordinator’s voice sounded as if it belonged to a doctor making small talk during a routine checkup, or a mechanic teaching the basics of a standard oil change. “Part of it, is we have a lot of calls in our inventory. Part of it depends on how they’re using him… calls that are designed to maybe eliminate a vertical threat, so we’ll have those options available to us on game-day…. We didn’t want to come in with an entire plan for him…. And have him come in, and he’s playing 15-20 snaps. At the same time, we didn’t want to shrug it off and say, ‘he’s not going to play much, there’s no way he’s going to be ready.’ Then he comes out and plays sixty plays against us… It’s built into the plan to handle it.”

Can the plan really handle it? That is uncertain. But one thing is. The players will believe.



Rex Ryan shared a few nuggets of news with the media:

Who was limited in practice? “Shaun Ellis, knee; Wayne Hunter, shin; Nick Mangold, shoulder; Darrelle Revis, hamstring; {Jamaal] Westerman, ankle; and we’re adding Brandon Moore, hamstring; He’s played in {93} games in a row. He’ll play. That’s just him.”

Any doubt that Revis will play? “There’s some doubt on whether he’ll play. The doctors and trainers feel good, but until the player says, hey look, I’m ready to go, especially if you’re a corner, that’s important. We’ll never pit a guy out there that doesn’t think he’s ready to come back, without question.”


Revis himself chimed in about the status of his hamstring. “I haven’t had no tweaks, and I’ve been out there running the past two practices, and I’ve been running full speed. And they’ve been monitoring me every step of the way… I think right now we’re just being cautious with every step I take out there.”
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