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DC Mike Pettine: "I'd be a liar if I said this game didn’t mean more"

Posted Sep 18, 2013

The Bills defensive coordinator talks about returning to MetLife Stadium to face his former team for the first time.

Defensive Coordinator Mike Pettine

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Q: Little bit of a different feel this week?
A: It is, but I addressed the defense after we put the Carolina game behind us that there was a lot was going to be made of this for obvious reasons. No different than what Andy Reid is going through this week as well. It’s going to come down to the Bills versus the Jets, not me versus Rex (Ryan). It makes for a good story, but again it comes down to the players and I wanted to make sure the players didn’t get caught up in this or lose sight of that.

Q: Do you have a better feel looking at tape this week compared to the last two weeks?
A: Offensively, not really. You get a grasp of the personnel, but there’s still a lot of new faces on their offense. From a coordinator standpoint, from a schematic standpoint, they’re completely different. The quarterback is new and again a lot of those guys that were there before are jumping off the tape as being better than they were before. It’s not a lot to pull from my experience there from the offensive side. Looking at the other side of the ball, sure there is a lot of things to pull from that, but I can see kind of the direction hat Rex is heading with that defense. He has 10 years of playbook material to draw from so it’s not like you can just look at it and say these are the three or four calls you’re going to get and be helpful with that information here. Those are a great group of guys I worked with and it’s great to see them doing well, just don’t want to see them do well on Sunday.

Q: Will you talk to coach (Nathaniel) Hackett more this week than other weeks about what he might see?
A: I’ve talked to Nate (Hackett) some but it’s probably not as much as you’d think. I think you can get caught up in this too much. I went through the same thing leaving Baltimore and coming in and having the ability to sit down with Brian Schottenheimer before we had played the Ravens knowing what they were personnel-wise and schematically. I think the strength of the system that was built defensively was its flexibility. The ability to adapt each week to a particular opponent, so again Rex has 10 years’ worth of material to draw from and tighten that down to a 30 or 40 call game plan. You’re just chasing ghosts when you go, ‘You might see this or you might see this.’ To me it comes down to execution and you’ve got to get your players lined up and play sound and hope that your guys can out execute their guys on that given day.

Q: Wouldn’t you be pretty familiar with those 10 years of plays?
A: Sure, but you’re also talking hundreds of defenses for a game plan. I know the mentality, but I think there’s just too much volume to sit there and say, ‘Ok I’m going to put myself in Rex’s shoes and here is what his game plan is going to be against you and here is what you need to practice against all week.’ As Rex said earlier, the strength of the system is to make it player driven, as we’ve done here. We’re not significantly different from New York, but we are different with the personnel that we have here. Just as his personnel has changed slightly in New York and he’s adjusted his system accordingly. You get in a lot of chase and go if you try to sit on the other side and say what you’re going to get.

Q: Given the mutual respect between the two of you, there has to be some inner motivation to prove yourself against him?
A: No question. 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. 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, brothers who fight a lot. To me when you get in this league long enough you start to realize that almost every week you play there is someone on the other staff that you know or you worked with. Just against the Panthers there was Lance Taylor who was the assistant receivers coach with the Jets and John Matsko who I worked with who was the offensive line coach when I worked in Baltimore. The longer you’re in the league it’s almost week-in and week-out that you go against someone you’ve worked with in the business.

Q: People see you making a lateral movement in terms of position title and assume there was a falling out between you and Rex. Is that true?
A: Not at all. He and I have been texting each other since I left there and that’s even picked up even more so this week. Just funny things back and forth. Rex and I will be friends for a long time. I think the falling out thing was just people did the math on the circumstances. I was given some good advice a long time ago by Mike Tannenbaum. He said, “You’re in a team business where team and loyalty is preached, but at the end of the day you have to be the CEO of yourself.” That’s why when I was offered a contract the year before, on the advice of my agent I didn’t sign it and wanted to let the year play out and had a better opportunity present itself. You feel selfish when you do that because you’ve been somewhere and you’ve worked with guys. It’s no different than a player who goes to free agency and loyalty wants him to stay where his with familiar surroundings and friends. Familiar with everything else. Ultimately you do have to be selfish. That was the circumstances behind me leaving. I know a lot of things were made of it and people tried to fill the holes in and put negative things in it and that was upsetting because that wasn’t the case. Rex and I, there was never a falling out and we’ve never fallen out of touch and our relationship today is just as strong as it was before.