Before new Cleveland Browns head coach Mike Pettine was a promising young NFL mind, he was the audio-visual guy and a successful football coach at a Pennsylvania high school.
Wheeling VCRs around by morning, Pettine, 47, coached Lansdale (Pa.) North Penn High by afternoon. He led the Knights to a 45-15 in competitive Class AAAA from 1997-2001.
"I was the A/V geek," Pettine told The Star-Ledger upon being named the Jets' defensive coordinator in 2009. "I just hated it. I couldn't wait until the end of the day to coach."
ESPN actually documented Pettine's 11-2 season at North Penn in 2009 for "The Season."
Added current North Penn head coach Dick Beck, Pettine's assistant in the early part of last decade: “He felt he had more to give, X-and-O wise, than high school kids could really comprehend. For him, it had to be stimulating; it had to be more a thinking game. I’ve always said he was too smart for his own good in the high school game.”
After seven prep seasons (he spent two seasons at nearby William Tennant High prior to North Penn), Pettine took a pay cut to join the Baltimore Ravens as a video assistant in 2002. From there, he eventually worked his way up to linebackers coach in 2005, joined Rex Ryan's Jets staff as DC in 2009 and took the same position for the Bills last season before mercifully putting an end to Cleveland's head coaching search on Thursday.
But Pettine's coaching tree will always have its roots at the Pennsylvania prep level. Thirty years ago, he starred as a high school quarterback and defensive back at Doylestown (Pa.) Central Bucks West, where his father Mike Pettine Sr. won a state-record 326 victories and four state championships in 33 years as head coach of the Bucks before retiring in 1999.
Even if the younger Pettine ultimately leads the Browns to their first Super Bowl appearance in his tenure, his father forever owns bragging rights, recording a 5-0 record against his son's teams in their Northeast Pennsylvania head-to-head coaching matchups.
“My foundations still goes back to my dad,” Pettine said during his introductory press conference. “He was a guy that, to me, just understood football from A-Z. He wasn’t an offensive specialist, a defensive specialist; he was just pure football through and through.
“Playing for him was a rough experience. I really wanted to get away from football after I was done playing for him, but after a while ended up circling back and just fell in love with the game. That’s what I’m most passionate about and it’s something that, again, he gave me the advice that I think a lot of good parents give: Find a job that you love and you’ll never work a day in your life. I’ve been fortunate to pair my passion with my profession.”
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