Perry, the Green Bay Packers' defensive secondary coach, had done such a fine job transforming his unit that the Philadelphia Eagles were said to be interested in hiring him as their next defensive coordinator.
Perry learned Thursday morning that the job went instead to an offensive line coach.
Talk about a kick in the gut.
"It is what it is and I'm glad my mind is on this Super Bowl," said Perry. "Otherwise you can look at some things that make you kind of scratch your head a little bit."
The former Steelers free safety and secondary coach, Perry went to the Packers with Dom Capers before the 2009 season. In 2008, the Packers weren't so much Cheeseheads as they were a cheesy defense. They ranked 22nd in points allowed, but with the help of Capers and Perry and their 3-4 zone-blizt defense, the Packers this season allowed the second-fewest points in the league behind the Steelers. The pass defense is fifth and the opposing passer rating is the lowest in the league.
"Well, we've probably got a little bit more talent this year," Perry said. "Our young guys have stepped forward. Tramon [Williams] has improved his play dramatically from last year. Speed has increased back there this year with Sam [Shields]. We've got a lot of guys who can run and that gives you a big advantage on the back end because it helps you prevent big plays."
They weren't up to the task last season against the Steelers. Ben Roethlisberger passed for a team-record 503 yards in a scintillating, last-play, 37-36 win over the Packers.
"I think just overall the guys have a clearer understanding of what we're trying to do in terms of their techniques and how it all fits together," Perry said. "Last year we were good but I think this year through experience, and just understanding the concepts of what we're trying to do overall has allowed the guys to play faster."
To help his Packers "understand the concepts," Perry and Capers put together a tape of 1994 Steelers defensive cut-ups mixed with the 2008 Steelers defensive cut-ups. The former was used to teach some of the base defenses and the latter showed the progression Steelers coordinator Dick LeBeau has taken the defense. Perry says the only difference between the modern defenses of the Packers and Steelers is the use of their dynamic personnel.
"The concepts are still the same," Perry said. "I just think you understand your playmakers and what they do best and therefore some of your pressures may be a little bit different."
Perry, of course, was the brains of the "Blitzburgh" defenses as the free safety back in the 1990s under Bill Cowher, Capers and LeBeau. Perry broke into coaching under LeBeau with the Cincinnati Bengals and came to the Steelers in 2003, as did rookie defensive backs Troy Polamalu and Ike Taylor.
Perry was one of the driving forces in the drafting of Polamalu, and has since been credited with much of the development of both players. But Perry left just before the Mike Tomlin era began. No explanation was given at the time, but Perry yesterday said it was his decision.
"Sometimes it's good to get out and expand your football IQ," he said. "I was with coach LeBeau and all I'd been around my whole career was the 3-4. Monte Kiffin talked to me about going out to Oakland, and he convinced me, along with coach LeBeau, that it was a good opportunity for me to learn more about the 4-3 to give my coaching background a little bit more versatility. Although we didn't accomplish a lot, it was a great learning experience for me. I did learn more about the 4-3 and if I do have to work more in a 4-3 environment I can say that I've been involved with that."
But he's back home now with the LeBeau/Capers 3-4 zone blitz and says he'll never go back. The Super Bowl just might be a celebration of this proud defensive innovation.
"It'll be pretty emotional," Perry said. "The Steelers are a great organization, and if you would've told me that there'd be another franchise that could rival theirs, I would've said no way prior to coming here. But it doesn't get any better than Green Bay and Pittsburgh. The people in both cities are fanatical about their teams, have a great understanding of the game, and they treat you well. Also, the front offices give you the resources to be a championship-caliber organization, so it's going to be an emotional time.
"I really don't know how I'll respond once it comes to kicking the ball off. It should be fun, and I'm looking forward to it, but with all of the people I know over there it's going to be strange competing with them, particularly when you've won a championship with them because you build some great relationships. There's a closeness that I don't think will ever be broken. I'm talking about with the players and coach LeBeau. It's known my feelings about him and Troy and Ike because there are some guys you went to war with, and when you deal with a little bit of adversity I think it brings you closer.
"It will be an emotional time, but we'll deal with that and hopefully we can come out on top and I won't have to say I was part of the only Steeler team to have lost a Super Bowl. We want somebody else to join us. Misery loves company I guess."