Can Mike Pettine save the Bills’ defense?

As I've said a few times on this site, I'm surrounded by obnoxious Jets fans. They are the worst of the worst. Silly folks, I tell you. Obviously, we speak to each other in regards to our teams.

I'm sure we all know friends or co-workers who cheer for different teams. Anytime your team squares off against each other, it is pretty much all fair and love and war in terms of trash talking. It ranges from waiting for the person to get in the office to talk trash or taking your shit talking to texts.

We all know in sports how players and coaches change sides constantly. In these cases, the trash kind of takes a backseat and the learning process begins. You start asking if this or that player is going to make a difference. Weaknesses, strengths, leadership abilities and all that stuff.

When the Bills hired Mike Pettine, I asked the closest Jets fan in my cubicle what his thoughts were on Pettine. Pretty much he said he's good, but it is still Rex Ryan's defense.

The Jets' fan point of view was pretty much that Rex Ryan was the one who called the shots and made the defensive game plan and pretty much Pettine was riding his coattails.

This isn't an isolated incident in the football world. You can look at the Bill Belichick coaching tree to know what it is like when the birds end up leaving the nest, only to then get shot down.

You can look even into the Bills history and the two coaches that come to mind who were in the same situation are Ted Cottrell and Wade Phillips.

When Wade was the head coach and Cottrell was the defensive coordinator, the Bills ranked 6th, 1st and 3rd in yards allowed. Cottrell was being touted as a hot coaching prospect.

Then after the staff was fired after the 2000 season, Cottrell and Wade went their separate ways. Cottrell went to the Jets for three seasons, then to the Vikings for two and finally finishing his career in SD for two seasons.  Let's just say Cottrell's success was a bit on the meh side. His defenses ranked 19th, 24th, 21st, 28th, 21st, 14th and 25th in yards given up. We all know that Wade faired much better after the duo split up.

I can't really think of too many coordinators who have made a lateral move to a different team in order to get away from their head coach who had the same background.  It is also a lot harder for a defensive coordinator to get a head coaching job if his boss is considered the eyes and ears of the entity they are most familiar with.

Of the 32 NFL coaches in the NFL, only Dennis Allen and Gus Bradley came from a coordinator job where the head coach's forte was in their line of work ( Former bosses: John Fox and Pete Carroll).

If Chan Gailey was the head coach of the Jets and the defense didn't miss a beat with Pettine as the coordinator, he would be a head coach right now. Pettine left the Jets because he was in Rex Ryan's shadow.

It is the same thing that happened with Ron Rivera. As the Defensive coordinator in Chicago, Rivera had a top tier defense, yet, he couldn't get a head coaching job because he was in Lovie Smith's shadow. So, he went to SD and had success there, then finally, he eventually got a head coaching gig in Carolina.

If Pettine somehow turns around the dreadful Bills' defense, he'll be a head coaching candidate next year.

Now, are there instances where a portege can meet the standards of their mentor by doing the lateral move? Of course. I think of the Tony Dungy coaching tree with Lovie Smith going from LBs coach in Tampa to the Rams as a defensive coordinator in 2001 and having success there. The previously mentioned Ron Rivera. But as I said, it doesn't happen often.

By now, we all know what type of defense Pettine is suppose to bring to the Bills. It is a hybrid defense that is going to bring the house down and will be extremely complex.

I've seen times when the Jets didn't even have defensive linemen on the field and just LBs and DBs. I've seen them show blitz and then back off by having just two down linemen at the snap of the ball. I've seen DEs used as LBs and SS used off the edge as OLBs prior to snap. They are very innovative and attacking defenses are normally my favorite to watch. However, the make ups of both teams personnel wise are vastly different.

The Jets were never really strong on the DL, but they were stout in the secondary and LBs department. The Bills? Complete opposite. The LBs and DBs here range from Byrd being the man to a bunch of young unknowns and crappy guys. The DL was suppose to be the backbone and near the top of the league last year.

Obviously, something went wrong and coaching seems to be the scapegoat. Hence the reason Pettine is in Buffalo.

The consensus is that the Bills' DL should be able to flourish with Pettine's style of defense because they will actually blitz a ton and show way more looks than Wannstedt's vanilla scheme.

However, with all the talk about Pettine's defense being an attacking style on QBs, keep in mind the Jets weren't exactly getting sacks during his time there.

From 2009-2012, the Jets ranked 18th, 8th, 17th and 25th in sacks.  In 2009, they actually had the same amount of sacks as the Bills. Of course, the Jets ranked 1st, 3rd, 5th and 8th in total defense while the Bills were near the bottom of the league.

Now, this could be a case where sacks are overrated and it is more about getting QB pressures (The Aaron Schobel excuse). But according to Advanced Stats, the Jets had 72 QB hits in 2009 while the Bills had 70. In 2010, the Jets had 52 QB hits while the Bills had 53. Last year, the Bills had 69 QB hits while the Jets had only 62.

In other words, the Jets' success didn't seem to be based on pressure or sacks on the QBs, but rather the element of disguise prior to snaps and the back 7 being stout, especially in the secondary. I'd be remised not to mention the Jets were ranked in the top 8 in forced turnovers in 3 out of the last 4 years. So the pressure could be what causes the turnovers.

You all know how I feel about comparing the Bills' DBs to the Jets, and it is not even close. Pettine is going to have to make the DL the main catalyst for the defense to succeed. Revis, old-school Bart Scott, and David Harris aren't walking through those doors this year.

Make no bones about it, Pettine to me is the key to the Bills season.

You can complain all you want about Fitzpatrick and the offense last year, but the Bills scored 24 points or more in half of their games. The defense was the biggest problem as they gave up 35 points or more six times.

Although I think the complexity of the scheme will take time to understand, if the transition to Pettine's defense is a smooth one and they somehow perform like the Jets right out of the gate, I think the Bills can win 9 games. That's just how much I have respect for Rex Ryan's defense…

but that's the key, it still resembles Rex Ryan's defense, which I can't exactly get out of my head, especially if it's coming from Jets fans' mouths.

Joe

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