Mike Pettine, the Cleveland Browns new head coach and former Jets defensive coordinator, was featured in MMQB today in an article by Greg Bedard. It’s a good piece that goes in depth on the former high school coach who has risen to the top of professional football and his defensive philosophies. Of course, the segment that will get the most notice is when he brings Alabama coach Nick Saban into it. ESPN already has a story up referencing the “latest chapter of skullduggery.”
The initial playbook itself is actually quite thin, and that’s by design. “I don’t put a lot of graduate-level information in it,” Pettine says. “We know in places like New England, it’s only a matter of time that they somehow mysteriously end up with our playbook.” Pettine told a story of how, at Wes Welker’s wedding, Tom Brady bragged a little bit to Jets outside linebackers coach Mike Smith, who was Welker’s college roommate, that the Patriots may or may not have had possession of a couple Jets defensive playbooks. “It didn’t shock me because Rex would give them out like candy anyway,” Pettine says. “He gave one out to [Alabama coach Nick] Saban and I was like, ‘Don’t you know Saban and Bill [Belichick] are pretty good friends? I have a feeling it’s going to end up in New England.’”
Fair? Who knows. Relevant? Probably not. As Pettine notes, it’s thin, and not full of graduate-level information. If they are sharing information, it is likely basic stuff and concepts. As this tweet notes, it’s not as if the Jets basic playbook is a secret. Or take offensive systems like the West Coast, or other passing concepts. You can go on Youtube and find coaching clinics breaking down the plays and route combinations that you will see teams run on Sunday. The Patriots probably have a dossier on Rex Ryan’s defense.
They also have plenty of game film to look at. It’s not like having a basic outline would be of any value, or that Saban would have been in possession of a state secret. The key pieces of information would be terminology, language, audible and play calls, and specific game plans . . . and a pipeline into the play caller’s head. If you knew the specific calls on a play, matched up signals with videotape like was actually alleged and ruled on back in 2007, well, that would be a competitive benefit. Knowing the general playbook of a team is probably not a huge advantage. Rex Ryan, in fact, likes to disguise things against even the most veteran quarterbacks who study his defense, and rely on their having some concept of his playbook. As Pettine later said in the piece:
We might run the same pressure three weeks in a row, and it’s going to look different three times. We have a defensive back doing an end’s job; the next week it’s a different grouping with a linebacker doing it. So to somebody else it’s going to look completely different, but for us it’s the exact same call.”