Bills hope opposites attract with new coordinators
PITTSFORD, N.Y. (AP)
With a preference for wearing black even on the hottest days of training camp, Bills defensive coordinator Mike Pettine is fine being referred to as Darth Vader or Johnny Cash.
If that's the case, that makes offensive coordinator Nathaniel Hackett Buffalo's ''Jumping Jack Flash'' with his infectious, high-fiving, fist-bumping, cheerleading style.
Hackett is so enthusiastic celebrating touchdowns, he joked he nearly pulled a hamstring running down the field to chest bump Marquise Goodwin following a touchdown catch last week.
That led receiver Stevie Johnson to wonder what Hackett might be like on game days.
''He might get more fines than me this year,'' Johnson said with a laugh, referring to the flags the receiver has attracted following some of his more colorful touchdown celebrations.
Pettine's approach is completely the opposite. With his shaved head and steely glare, he can send a message with just one look.
''If he's angry, you know it,'' linebacker Bryan Scott said. ''Sometimes he doesn't have to say a word.''
The two new coordinators have distinct personalities, each reflecting how they want their respective units to perform.
''We want to portray to our guys that type of demeanor,'' Pettine said. ''You want to be menacing when you're on defense.''
As for Hackett, his frenetic pace is an extension of the up-tempo, no-huddle game plan he's introducing.
They'll both get an opportunity to get a first glimpse of their units Sunday, when the Bills open their preseason at Indianapolis.
Differences aside, Pettine and Hackett also have plenty in common as part of rookie coach Doug Marrone's new staff.
They're both sons of former coaches. Hackett's father, Paul, enjoyed a 41-year career coaching at both the college and NFL levels.
Pettine's dad, Mike Sr., retired as the winningest coach in Pennsylvania high school history.
What's more, the two face the daunting challenge of instilling a spark to a pair of underperforming units.
''I wasn't here, so I don't know the circumstances,'' Pettine said, referring to a defense that has allowed at least 425 points the past three years. ''One of the biggest things that attracted me to this job was the talent that was already here.''
The question is whether Pettine will finally be the person to get the most out of a roster that includes high-priced defensive end Mario Williams, tackle Marcell Dareus, two-time Pro Bowl safety Jairus Byrd (who remains unsigned) and up-and-coming cornerback Stephon Gilmore.
Pettine joined the Bills after spending the past four seasons in the same role with the New York Jets. His Big Apple departure was regarded as a slight surprise, given that Pettine had a close bond with Jets coach Rex Ryan, and was unfamiliar with Marrone.
Pettine said he was looking to make a change, and not simply to get out of Ryan's shadow.
''Rex literally and figuratively casts a large shadow,'' he said, ''and I think that's why a lot of people instantly said that.''
What Pettine won't deny is the opportunity to establish himself as his own coach in Buffalo, and with much of the same attacking style of defense he oversaw in New York.
Pettine puts a premium on players' versatility and their ability to pressure quarterbacks from a variety of spots.
''We're going to be aggressive,'' he said, ''relentless.''
Hackett is taking a similar approach to offense, banking on speed and the no-huddle to keep opposing defenses on their heels. He's taking over an offense that has only once finished in the top half of the league in yards gained in nine of the 10 past seasons.
He encourages his players to have swagger.
''Heck yeah! It's football! Let's go!'' Hackett exclaimed. ''Everybody's got to have a swagger. That's what it's all about. It's about going out there with confidence and trying to get after people.''
For Hackett, this marks a return to Buffalo after he spent the 2008-09 seasons as the Bills offensive quality control assistant. And his current role is a continuation of the job he held under Marrone the past three seasons at Syracuse.
So Hackett's enthusiasm does not come as a surprise to Marrone. And he respects Pettine's approach as well.
''You have to be yourself, because you're around the players so much. You have to be real,'' Marrone said. ''And I think both of those guys are real.''
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