Old tricks for this new Dawg

It has to be a record of some sort. John Pettas, in three years, has gone from being a Division-one offensive coordinator, to graduate assistant and then back to offensive coordinator. But such is the life of a college coach nowaday, leading a virtual nomadic existence and jumping at the next opportunity that presents itself. For Pettas, being a Washington Husky the second time around is a bittersweet blessing indeed.

"We don't like to see what happened to Rick (Neuheisel)," Pettas told Dawgman.com when we sat down with him Tuesday, his first day on the job at the Huskies' newest OC. He was assigned to the position by Washington's new head coach, Keith Gilbertson. "We want the best for him. He's part of our family and he's part of ours because he's the one that hired us initially. But we've got to do what we do best - coach. We aren't the decision-makers in terms of those rules. We just try and do the best we can with what we have. It was a little bit of a distraction going through it, but it's over now and we still wish the best for Rick. Now we've got to move on as a group. The only way you win in this business is moving on as a group, as a team. And that's where we're at right now."

John was brought in by Neuheisel this spring to take over the quarterback coaching duties after Steve Axman left to take the offensive coordinator job at UCLA under new head coach Karl Dorrell, another former Husky OC. Now he's added some new things to his job title, but it's nothing Pettas hasn't seen before. "Basically I've got Gilby's old responsibility now," he said. "Now I've got to worry about a few more things other than just your own position. Now I'm in charge with making sure the playbook's good, the game plans are up to date. You've got four or five other guys you have to be on the same page with, make sure they are up to speed. And we just hired Scotty (Pelluer) and we've got to get him up to speed offensively and he's got his special teams together too. So we've got some work ahead of us."

During Neuheisel's tenure, the chain of command offensively was a bowl of spaghetti at best. Now that Pettas is the QB's coach and OC, it takes a lot of the potential miscommunication out of the play-calling equation. "It's pretty much inter-mingled, and I think it kind of runs hand in hand," John said of his dual roles. "In the past, Ax (Axman) would meet with the QB's, but down the line he would meet with the QB's and Keith, because Keith had to coordinate the game.

"Well, this makes it just a little simpler. You're coordinating everything together during the day with your staff, getting the game plan together and then you can give it to the QB's first-hand. So that way it comes out of my mouth first-hand from the guy that's going to call it, the way it's going to be."

Which goes directly to the next question. Who's offense is it going to be? With the architect of the offense now roaming the sidelines as the head man, he's given Pettas the keys to the car. But, like a 16-year old that just got his permit, John is banking on Gilbertson's input, as well as his presence, while Pettas takes it out for a spin. "It's Keith's and I'm going to bring some things to the table," he said, matter-of-factly. "When Keith and I first talked about it I told him that he wasn't going to get too far away from things. It's his baby and we're only a week away from getting into this season. He knows the offense in and out and we're not going to change it because all the players already know it, but he's told me to run with it. He's given me that flexibility, but I get to still pick his brain. He's too smart and too good to just let him be the head coach.

"I'll bring something to the table. For example, Danny (Cozzetto) and I have worked together for a long time, so we'll bring some of the things we've done in the past back to the table. And a lot of is similar anyhow."

Pettas broke down where he sees his three quarterbacks going into fall camp.

Cody Pickett - "He's had a great summer, he's been here all summer. He's as good as any I've been around. He's as good as Jake (Plummer), who I think is the best I've been around and I think Cody is right there with him. Wins and losses will make the difference as to how he's perceived down the road. But he's got tremendous ability, he's a competitor that can run and throw. He has everything you would want in a quarterback. He's the real deal in my eyes and I'm fortunate to coach the guy.

"I tried like hell to get him (at Arizona State). I think I would have got him if he wasn't in all of this with his family. I think he had grandparents up here and everyone else that wanted him to come up here. That was the difference. He tells me now that he always wanted to play for me. He said I wanted to come to Arizona State and play but maybe he's just trying to make me feel good now. It's work out. We have a great relationship and I think the world of him and I think he's going to have a great season."

Casey Paus - "He improved in the spring, but he's got some to go. He needs to improve on his throws and his decision-making to show us that he's a top-notch Pac-10 quarterback. And he's been here all summer working at it, so I'm anxious to see how he's progressed. We've talked a lot this summer and he's worked hard at it, so he'll get an opportunity."

Isaiah Stanback - "Well, the first thing we wanted to find out this spring was whether or not he was a quarterback. There was a lot of talk about him playing receiver, but we didn't want to mess with that too much. In fairness to him, he did some great things at the end of spring and showed improvement. He can do some things with the football because of his athleticism. So we're going to let Casey and Isaiah battle it out."

Pettas left open the possibility that Isaiah just might see the field in another capacity, even if he did win the backup job over Paus. "Once that's settled, then we'll see about maybe having him split time at another position," John said. "But that's a bridge we'll cross later. He's a great athlete and he doesn't need to be standing next to Coach Gilbertson on the sideline.

"What eventually makes a quarterback isn't so much the technical stuff - it's his decision-making. Thinking on his feet and making things happen. And the more time you can spend on that, the better you are. And a guy that's raw, you have time to groom him into being a technically-sound kid, but you also have to teach him decision-making and being a play-maker."

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