BY NICK ST. DENIS
Mike Pettine's stay with the Buffalo Bills was short but sweet. That's probably how it was intended.
Coming from the rival New York Jets last offseason, Pettine took over defensive coordinator duties for the Bills and successfully turned around the defense in one season. He was able to shed Rex Ryan's shadow and prove he could make it on his own.
And with that, he scored a head coaching job with the Cleveland Browns.
Pettine and Ryan spearheaded one of the NFL's elite defenses from 2009-12, with Ryan delegating more duties to Pettine over time. So by the latter part of his stay in New York, Pettine was as much of a defensive leader as one could be under Ryan.
Surely, he could've earned a head coaching gig at some point in the near future if he were to stay with the Jets, but there was a perception that Pettine was more or less a puppet of Ryan's and that Ryan was really the guy running the defense.
So Pettine decided to make a lateral move, taking the same job title over to the Bills, where he would be able to have full ownership of the defense and prove his worth. It didn't hurt that Buffalo had a bunch of talent waiting to be properly utilized.
Pettine went on to lead a defense that surrendered the lowest completion percentage by opposing quarterbacks (55.3) thanks to his aggresive schematic. That aggresiveness was also evident in the team's sack total of 57, which was the second most in the NFL and 21 more than it tallied a season ago.
The Bills also nearly doubled their interception total, going from 12 to 23 in 2013.
How all of that translates to a head coaching position is yet to be determined. He certainly is able to coach players up, as he got the most out of his personnel in 2013, sending four of his 11 starters to the Pro Bowl and acting as the brightest spot of a 6-10 squad.
"I want to take this opportunity to congratulate Mike on becoming the Browns new head coach and thank him for all of his time and efforts with our team this past season," Bills coach Doug Marrone said Thursday in a statement. "He did an excellent job of improving our defense and we wish him the best."
Pettine is highly regarded in coaching circles and was on teams' minds during his time with the Jets. However, he needed to break away and do his own thing, so he went across the state for a year.
The Bills were essentially Pettine's bridge from assistant to head coach. It was a route Pettine saw appropriate, and for him, it paid off.
For the Bills, we'll have to wait and see.
We have a plan in place," Marrone said, "and we will introduce our new defensive coordinator after our final decision has been made."
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