Whenever an NFL team brings in a new Head Coach or a new Offensive or Defensive Coordinator, every one wants to know about their philosophy and what schemes they will be running. But when Bills Defensive Coordinator Mike Pettine met his players for the first time, the main message had nothing to do with x's and o's.
Pettine talked about having the proper mentality, attitude and approach to the game rather than who would be lining up where. Pettine recapped his message to the players during a recent interview on WGR. “That we were going to be aggressive. That we were going to be the toughest defense in the league" Pettine said. "It was more about the attitude, that you need to play with great passion. To me, that’s where it starts from. The playbook is meaningless if you don’t have your guys with that type of mentality, that type of attack mode.”
Pettine inherits a group thats been pretty beat up over the last few years with the Bills defense having been ranked in the bottom five of the NFL. Pettine said he didn't go about trying to restore confidence but he had a message for the players who have been around for the suffering and who know all about the long playoff drought for the franchise.
"It’s a clean slate. You don’t have to carry the baggage of 13 years with you. Just as winning is a habit and a mentality, so is the opposite. We’re in charge of that. Our guys can control that and that’s been something for us, that we’ve talked about toughness from day one.
Pettine, who has 11 years of NFL coaching experience including the last four as a coordinator with the New York Jets, said toughness is something the coaches are constantly preaching to the players.
"There’s two aspects to the toughness. One is the obvious, physical" Pettine said. "We’re going to be hard nosed and we’re going to look to knock people down but do everything within the rules of the game. More importantly, for all of us, is the mental toughness. The NFL is a game that’s filled with adversity and the teams that handle it best are the ones that are successful."
Since Pettine is utilizing a hybrid defense, it demands quite a bit of playbook study from the players. It also places a lot of responsibility on the middle linebacker and right now that important position is being manned by a rookie, Kiko Alonso. The second round draft pick from Oregon has had a strong camp and has impressed Pettine with both his physical and mental ability.
“It’s a lot to walk into this defense as a rookie and make all the calls and the checks and he’s handled it great from day one" Pettine told WGR. "He’s really bought into it. Chuck Driesbach(inside linebackers coach) has spent a lot of time with him and the kid’s really responded. You know a kid is on the right track by the questions they ask and he’s already been asking very graduate level questions about what we’re doing.”
Pettine's defense had a good day in the pre-season opener, recording three takeaways, two sacks, and even scoring a touchdown. The run defense only gave up one run of at least 10 yards and third down defense held Indianapolis to a 23% conversion rate.
Here's the full interview with Mike Pettine where you can hear his philosophy on the defensive game plan, his thoughts on the potential for Stephon Gilmore and why he felt the job with the Bills was so attractive: