To many outside the New York Jets organization, it was a bit curious that the Jets made no effort whatsoever to bring back former defensive coordinator Mike Pettine, who left to take the same position with the Buffalo Bills.
Pettine’s motivations were clear. He wanted to make a name for himself and get out of the shadow of Rex Ryan, one of the best defensive minds in the NFL. But the Jets didn’t shed a tear when he walked out the door.
One reason is the rumor that Pettine was a mole within the organization that continuously leaked unflattering information to the press, and no matter how good a coordinator he was, the Jets couldn’t wait to let him go.
Another reason is because of the man replacing him, Dennis Thurman. Thurman has done an outstanding job coaching the Jets’ defensive backs the last few years, and has now been promoted to defensive coordinator.
“He is a developer of talent,” Ryan said about his new DC. “He’s about as smart a guy as I’ve been around, and he understands the game. He is a commanding figure. Everybody respects him.”
Thurman played nine seasons in the NFL and coached alongside Ryan with the Baltimore Ravens from 2002 to 2007. He came to the Jets with Ryan in 2009 and has done an excellent job coaching up the Jets’ secondary.
Last season, without Darrelle Revis for most of the year, Thurman coached Antonio Cromartie to a career year, and new Jets LaRon Landry and Yeremiah Bell never missed a beat thanks to Thurman’s tutelage.
Young cornerbacks Kyle Wilson, Ellis Lankster and Darrin Walls also saw noticeable improvement in their games in 2012, and the Jets were second in pass defense despite losing their superstar cornerback to injury.
The Jets will have new coordinators in all three phases of the game in 2013, after hiring Marty Mornhinweg to run the offense and promoting Thurman and Ben Kotwica to run the defense and special teams, respectively.
With the future of Revis and Cromartie unclear, among others, Ryan and Thurman will have their hands full trying to reshape a Jets defense that’s been the heart and soul of the team over the last four seasons.
It goes without saying that Rex Ryan knows a thing or two about defense, and the trust he has in Dennis Thurman speaks volumes about his ability to make the leap from position coach to coordinator.
While the Jets offense remains work in progress, to say the least, the defense will remain stout as long as Ryan and Thurman are wearing Green and White. You can count on that without a doubt.