McCarthy opts for Pettine at DC
He chooses former Browns coach over three of his 2017 assistants
Green Bay — Mike McCarthy’s search to fill his vacant defensive coordinator’s job ended suddenly after nine days when the Green Bay Packers coach chose former Cleveland Browns coach Mike Pettine to succeed Dom Capers.
McCarthy chose Pettine over inhouse candidates Darren Perry, Joe Whitt Jr. and Winston Moss.
Members of McCarthy’s staff were informed that Pettine was going to be the next defensive coordinator. ESPN reported that Pettine was in the process of working out a deal, but a source said that it was finalized that he had accepted the position.
Pettine, 51, was out of football in 2016 after compiling a 10-22 record in two seasons as coach of the Cleveland Browns and spent this past season as a defensive consultant with the Seattle Seahawks.
McCarthy had interest in Chicago Bears defensive coordinator Vic Fangio, but Fangio is going to stick with the Bears. He also asked for permission to speak with Los Angeles Chargers defensive coordinator Gus Bradley, but never got to interview him. Bradley agreed to return to the Chargers last week.
Thus, McCarthy landed the one guy no one expected him to hire.
Pettine comes from the Rex Ryan coaching tree, having served with the Baltimore Ravens as a coaching assistant (2002-’03), assistant defensive line coach (2004), outside linebackers coach (2005-’08) and then defensive coordinator of the New York Jets (2009-’12) and Buffalo Bills (2013).
Ryan was on the Ravens’ staff from 1999-2008, including as defensive coordinator his last five seasons. He brought Pettine with him when he became the New York Jets coach in 2009.
Pettine accepted the Browns job in 2014.
Along the way to his head coaching job, Pettine was part of some of the NFL’s top defenses. From 2009-’12, the Jets ranked 1st, 3rd, 5th and 8th in overall defense. Ryan received most of the credit for the Jets’ great defenses, but a Cleveland.com story said that Ryan turned over much of the responsibility of the de- fense to Pettine after the 2009 season.
In 2013, after Pettine went to Buffalo, the Bills ranked 10th in defense.
The Ryan-Pettine system is pressurebased and they use both 3-4 and 4-3 concepts, meaning players must understand both. There is a lot of flexibility to change game plans week to week, but according to an NFL play-caller who has faced those defenses, players have to be flexible and smart.
“History tells you they like to pressure,” the play-caller said. “Interestingly, I read that he has been spending time with Pete (Carroll) up in Seattle. That defense is much simpler from what he ran in the past.”
According to the source, who asked not to be identified, general manager Brian Gutekunst is going to have to pick players who can handle the complexity of Pettine’s defense. The assistant coaches are going to have to be excellent teachers and the talent should be 3-4 in nature with the ability to play multiple positions.
“Smarts is a major factor when selecting players,” he said. “Smart players willing to study.”
In Cleveland, Pettine liked to have big cornerbacks who could play press coverage so that he could disrupt routes while bringing pressure. His defenses ranked 23rd in 2014 and 27th in ’15 in total yards and 10th and 29th in scoring.
After going 7-9 in ’14, the team collapsed behind a horrible offense that featured Johnny Manziel and Austin Davis at quarterback and finished 3-13.
The key to his defense is flexibility with personnel.
“You have to have the ability to have guys play multiple positions and play multiple jobs,” Pettine said in a 2013 story. “I think you have to have guys that can be a defensive end (or) an outside linebacker; a safety (or) an inside linebacker; a nickel (or) an outside corner or a safety.
“A big part of the NFL is identifying guys pre-snap, and we want to limit the amount of pre-snap information we’re putting out to an offense. That’s why we look for guys that have that type of versatility.”
Pettine got his start in the high school ranks, coaching for five years in Pennsylvania. He played at Central Bucks High School West, where his father, Mike Pettine Sr., was the head coach. His father is a legend in the Pennsylvania high school ranks, compiling a record of 326-42-4 in 33 seasons and winning four state championships.
Mike Pettine struggled as head coach of the Cleveland Browns but enjoyed success as a defensive coordinator for the New York Jets and Buffalo Bills.