For one game at least, the mentor to Bills defensive coordinator Mike Pettine hopes to be his tormentor.
When the Jets hired Rex Ryan to be their head coach five years ago, Pettine was one of two assistants who left the Ravens to join Ryan with his new team. After rising from being a coaching assistant to outside linebackers coach during seven years in Baltimore, Pettine became the Jets defensive coordinator and Ryan’s right hand man. But Pettine left the Jets this past January after four seasons with the team for the same position in Buffalo.
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“I’d be a liar if I stood here and said this game didn’t mean more to me or I didn’t want to win it. Coaches in the NFL were born with a competitive gene, a hyper-competitive gene, and you want to win at everything,” Pettine said. “When I went on vacation with Rex and we were throwing washers on the beach, I wanted to beat him just as bad as I want to beat him on Sunday. It comes down to it’s a team thing and I can’t get drawn in to the emotion of that. I have a job to do to put my players in the best position to be successful and that’s what we’re going to do. I think it makes for a good story and it’s like going against your brother. As I’ve referred to it before, [it is] brothers who fight a lot.”
Over the past four seasons, the Jets were among the best units in the league. The same can’t be said of the Bills.
A season ago, the Bills conceded 362.9 yards per game — No. 22 in the league. They also gave up the seventh-most points in the league.
The turnaround hasn’t been dramatic but the unit is playing faster, stronger and limiting major mistakes. Those characteristics were the hallmark of Ryan’s defenses in Baltimore and now in New York.
“We want to be an attacking defense and we want to cause turnovers obviously,” Bills head coach Doug Marrone said. “Right now we have a good mix of what’s going on. I think we’re getting a lot of good play out of some players that we really didn’t know we’d have to count on coming in here.”
In theory, Pettine should be able to give strong insight on a Jets offense he faced every day in practice. But Marty Mornhinweg’s West Coast offense was implemented this offseason, meaning Pettine doesn’t have the inside scoop on it.
As much as the Bills’ 3-4 alignment looks like the Jets defense and attacks like the Jets defense, it isn’t a mirror image. Much like how Ryan, who had offseason lap band surgery, doesn’t look much like the husky Pettine.
Just ask him.
“Obviously, I’ll look better than Pettine in physical appearance,” Ryan said with a smirk. “In fact, I might weigh less than him now. Just throwing it out there.”
On Sunday against an opponent they know all too well, the Jets hope that the scale will tip in their favor.
Follow Jets beat writer Kristian Dyer on Twitter @KristianRDyer.