FLORHAM PARK: It wasn't long ago, three years to be exact, that Cleveland Browns head coach Mike Pettine roamed the sidelines at MetLife Stadium each Sunday. Then the defensive coordinator for Rex Ryan's Jets, Pettine combined wits with the boastful son of Buddy to help build New York's 'D' into one of the league's best.
He then made his way to the Buffalo Bills, and eventually to Cleveland. But that doesn't mean the man in his second year leading the Browns has forgotten his three spent with Gang Green.
"I have great memories," Pettine said via conference call on Tuesday. "Not all great, but mostly great memories of New York. It's a great environment, a great stadium. I know it'll be a heckuva atmosphere for the opener."
Having coached with the Jets from 2009 through the 2012 season, Pettine isn't just familiar with the Jets green-and-white jerseys, but also with many of the players who will be wearing them on Sunday. He coached Darrelle Revis and Antonio Cromartie for three seasons, and Muhammad Wilkerson for two. In fact, of the projected 11 defensive starters, the only players Pettine hasn't coached at all are safeties Marcus Gilchrist and Calvin Pryor, along with rookie defensive end Leonard Williams.
Still, Pettine said his knowledge of the Jets roster won't necessarily help him on Sunday, at least not with Todd Bowles now as head coach. Having replaced Rex this offseason, Bowles has brought his own philosophy to Florham Park.
"If Rex was still there and it was the same structure," Pettine said, "I think it would be much more information to gather from that. But just from knowing the players, that helps a little bit, but it's nothing significant."
When assessing the overall Jets defense, Pettine said he does see some similarities between what the Jets would like to accomplish, and what he works on with his own team. Actually, at times, he says it's like "looking in a mirror." Both groups want to stop the run and be physical, and both have Pro Bowl corners on the outside (Revis, Cleveland's Joe Haden).
Pettine built his defense the same way New York has been constructed. The result is a group that Pettine believes can becomes one of the league's best--Both against the pass, and on the ground. This Sunday, he knows the ground game will be tested by Chris Ivory.
And he hopes his Browns are up for the challenge.
"We know his mentality," Pettine said. "I believe Ivory is a very underrated back. It's a priority of ours going back to the draft and in the preseason we emphasized it (to stop the run). We believe we've made significant strides in that area, but we won't truly know until Sunday."
The Jets and Browns are set to face off this Sunday at 1 p.m.