Monday, January 2, 2012

Dolphins interested in Jets' DC Mike Pettine

Names like Bill Cowher, Jeff Fisher and Jon Gruden have been thrown around as candidates for the Miami Dolphins' head-coaching gig even before Tony Sparano was out of a job. But the first real candidate to emerge after the conclusion of the Dolphins' season is a logical, albeit far less notable, one.

Manish Mehta of the New York Daily News reports the Dolphins are interested in current Jets defensive coordinator Mike Pettine for their vacant head-coaching position. Coincidentally or not, the private jet of Dolphins' owner Stephen M. Ross is scheduled to fly from South Florida to Morristown, New Jersey this afternoon.

While most have assumed an offensive-minded coach would be the way to go considering he team's strong defense and coordinator Mike Nolan running that unit, it seems Dolphins management is not discriminating when it comes to their search, and that's probably a good idea. The Dolphins have also been linked to Jets' offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer, who is reportedly a candidate for the Jaguars' job.

Pettine doesn't have a whole lot of NFL experience but has risen rapidly through the ranks and is highly-regarded around the league. Originally a graduate assistant at the University of Pittsburgh in the mid-1990s, spent seven years coaching high school football before landing an assistant role on Brian Billick's staff with the Baltimore Ravens in 2002.

After two years of working with defensive playbooks and scouting reports, and video analysis, Pettine became the assistant defensive line coach under Rex Ryan in 2004 and was promoted to outside linebackers coach a year later in a role he would serve for four seasons while working with the likes of Terrell Suggs and Adalius Thomas.

Pettine followed Ryan to New York in 2009, becoming the Jets' defensive coordinator. The Jets' scoring defense ranked first in the NFL in 2009, sixth in 2010, and 22nd in 2011, although that drop could be attributed in part to a Jets offense that ranked fourth in the NFL in turnovers with 31. Despite his consistent  title over the past three seasons, Pettine only began calling the Jets' defensive plays (a role previously held by Ryan himself) in 2011.

I find no issue with Pettine as a head coaching candidate. While I'd prefer a veteran and/or an offensive-minded coach, Pettine is a rising star in the coaching ranks. He has plenty of 3-4 experience from Baltimore and New York and has had an impressive tenure with a Jets defense that has at times been the league's best.

He's also the kind of coach that is going to allow GM Jeff Ireland to stay in place and run things, which is obviously ideal for Ireland. (It's debatable whether or not that's good for the Dolphins.)

My one concern is that Pettine's arrival could signal the end of Mike Nolan's tenure in Miami. The Dolphins' defense has flourished for the most part in two seasons under Nolan and he's one of the NFL's best defensive coordinators. However, I'm not sure how well Nolan, who already has head coaching experience in the NFL, would take to working for a rookie, defensive-minded head coach that actually worked for him when he was the DC in Baltimore from 2002-2004.

I expect Nolan to land another head-coaching gig eventually because he's simply too good of a coach, but the hiring of Pettine might facilitate things and make 2012 Nolan's last season in Miami. If they end up hiring Pettine, they'd better hope he can bring his own defensive savvy and keep the unit among the NFL's elite, or it's going to be another step backward for the franchise

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