Back in 2002, Brian Billick was preparing to start his fourth season at the helm of the Baltimore Ravens when a young and hungry up-and-coming coach named Mike Pettine, Jr. from Doylestown, Pa. joined the staff as an assistant.
More than a decade later, Billick was proud of his former charge, who was named the 15th full-time head coach of the Cleveland Browns last Thursday.
“Regardless of how long it took or whoever else they interviewed, they got a good man,” Billick told ESPN 850 WKNR’s Hooley and Jerod afternoon show earlier this week. “That’s the bottom line. I’m sure once they sat down with Mike, they saw the strength of personality. He’s got a great football mind. He is very organized.
“Make no mistake, you have a very firm, strong-willed head coach right now, and he will make sure, in no uncertain terms, that the players understand that, the coaches understand that and the organization understands that. I mean that in a positive way. There’s no ambiguity as to what Mike wants and how he wants it done.”
Pettine’s NFL coaching career started as a video assistant, where he helped put together playbooks, scouting reports and conducted video analysis for the defensive coaching staff. Initially, Billick did his best to convince Pettine not to give up a successful high-school coaching career to take on the less glamorous position with the Ravens.
“I wanted someone with more of a football background, a guy that we could actually sit down with, give instructions to and he would kind of understand what we were expecting,” Billick recalled. “Mike’s name came up and it was one of those things where once he came in and I saw how confident he was, I basically tried to talk him out of the job because I wanted him to understand what the job was.
“I did everything I could to say, ‘You’d be an idiot if you took this job,’ and when I was done, he said, ‘Yep. Fine. I want it.’ I said, ‘Okay, you’ve got it.’”
Although Billick thought Pettine should not take the opening with the Ravens, he knew his newest assistant had what it took to rise through the coaching ranks, especially after he grew close to then-Baltimore defensive coordinator Rex Ryan.
“Mike immediately came in and you saw he had the comprehensive abilities,” Billick said. “He started on the video side and he understood computers and grew into whatever coaching job you gave him. Rex relied on him heavily in terms of scheming, keeping that side of the ball organized. I worked closely with Mike. He organized the defensive cards and I ran both of the scout teams. You saw the organizational ability. From a personnel standpoint, (Ravens general manager) Ozzie Newsome and his staff came to recognize that Mike was an excellent evaluator of talent. He’d check off all of the boxes as he progressed through our organization that whatever task you gave him, he did it.
“The minute he got there, through his confidence, you were like, ‘Okay, this guy knows what he’s doing.’ It was a great hire. Whatever you needed done, he jumped on it. He never made himself an issue, wasn’t in the office constantly begging for more, just went out and proved himself and then, in a smart way, got next to Rex and became Rex’s special assistant. One thing led to the next and they were off and running.”
SAPP BATTLES STRAHAN
Former New York Giants defensive lineman Michael Strahan is a finalist for the Pro Football Hall of Fame, but one of the newest inductees into Canton, former Tampa Bay and Oakland defensive tackle Warren Sapp, believes Strahan should not be selected when the votes are tabulated Saturday.
“When you stack it up, he only has four straight Pro Bowls and a mythical sack record that y’all still walk around like it’s something to be praised,” Sapp said on the NFL Network Tuesday, according to CBSSports.com. “I mean y’all have got to get off your high horse in New York and speak about the real. And when you really measure him up, he comes up short.”
Never one to shy away from attention, Strahan responded to Sapp’s comments.
“Football was part of my life, but it is not my entire life,” Strahan said. “So for some guys, maybe that’s their entire life and that’s all they have to hold on to. Playing football, sacking quarterbacks, that was part of my life, and I did it and I moved on. The tiger does not pay attention to the opinion of the sheep.
“I am, I’m all hype. I lasted 15 years, all hype. I had 141.5 career sacks, all hype. I was always a starter. I played left end, and that made me get sacks. My coaches kept putting me in the game because they felt it gave us the best chance to win, and that was all hype.”
MEDIA DAY MESS
Seattle running back Marshawn Lynch is known for running over, around and through tacklers and is never one to shy away from contact. However, on Super Bowl XLVIII Media Day, Lynch showed up for only six of the 60 minutes members of the media get to interview players on the Tuesday leading up to the NFL’s championship game.
Lynch’s refusal to be an active participant offended some members of the media and prompted the Pro Football Writers of America president, D. Orlando Ledbetter, to call out Lynch and the NFL for his lack of full participation in Media Day.
The NFL said they would, “continue to monitor the situation,” according to ProFootballTalk.com.
“The Pro Football Writers of America, the official voice of pro football writers fighting and promoting for access to NFL personnel to best serve the public, is extremely disappointed in the lack of meaningful access to Seattle running back Marshawn Lynch at the Super Bowl XLVIII media day on Tuesday,” the PFWA said in a statement issued by Ledbetter.
“Several of our long-standing and high profile members were appalled by Mr. Lynch’s conduct and refusal to answer any questions. We find the statement that by the league that ‘Players are required to participate and he participated’ to be an affront to our membership. However, we are encouraged that the league will continue to closely monitor this situation.”