After the departure of Manish’s mole Mike “It Is My Defense” Pettine this off-season, some consideration was given by the New York Jets and Rex Ryan to hire Rex’s twin Rob Ryan as the Jets Defensive Coordinator. However, Rex decided to promote from within and hand the job to secondary coach Dennis Thurman. Considering that Rex admitted himself that he hadn’t put his own stamp on the offense just yet, it was no surprise that continuity would be the name of the game on defense. Here’s what we can expect from Dennis Thurman this season, beginning with a look at Thurman as a player.
College CareerDennis Thurman was a two-time All American at safety for USC during the late 1970s. Hall of Famer and former Jet great Ronnie Lott even credited Thurman for helping him develop into the player he became during his Hall of Fame speech. Thurman led the Pac-10 in interceptions in 1976, and won USC’s Defensive Player of the Year Award in 1977.
Thurman was drafted in the 11th round by the Dallas Cowboys as a cornerback and played sparingly during his rookie year. In fact, his only notable contirbution to the Cowboys was that he receovered an onside kick during Super Bowl XIII in 1979. Thurman won the free safety position in 1980, but was moved back to cornerback when Charlie Waters retired. Thurman made the Pro Bowl in ’81, and had 3 interceptions in a playoff game against the Green Bay Packers in 1983. Quarterback Danny White nicknamed the secondary “Thurman’s Thieves” because of Thurman and the secondary’s knack for making opportunistic plays. Thurman signed with the St. Louis Cardinals in 1986, where he would finish his career. Thurman played 137 consecutive games and finished his career with 36 interceptions.
The Phoenix Cardinals hired Thurman as their defensive backs coach for two seasons, before Thurman returned to coach at USC. While at USC, Thurman mentored future NFL players Chris Cash, Kris Richard, Daylon McCutcheon, Brian Kelly and Troy Polamalu. After 7 seasons at USC, Thurman was hired by the Ravens, where he coached from 2002-2008 under Rex Ryan. When Rex was hired by the Jets in 2009, he brought Thurman with him. Thurman has been in charge of the secondary for the past 4 seasons before finally being promoted to Defensive Cooridnator.
What He BringsThurman brings an intimate understanding of Rex’s defense, due to their 11 years of coaching together in Baltimore and New York combined. With Thurman as the Ravens secondary coach, Baltimore finished in the top 10 in both yards and interceptions five times in the six seasons that Thurman was there.
As the New York Jets’s secondary coach, the Jets have finished in the top 10 in yards four times and one time in interceptions, including last year’s number one pass defense. Last year’s job was all the more impressive when you consider that it was done without Darrelle Revis for most of the season. Some people will argue that the Jets were behind in those games, and teams didn’t have to throw against them. That argument would be valid if Thurman’s secondary didn’t allow 20 passing touchdowns for the entire season, good for 10th overall in a passing league. A smart fan would argue that the way to beat the Jets wasn’t through the air. T
Thurman had to coach up Kyle “Finger Wag” Wilson and did a wonderful job disguisng Wilson as a legit starting cornerback in the league, as opposed to a first round bust left over from Trader Mike T. He was also partly responsible for Antonio Cromartie transitioning from a maddeningly inconsistent talent to a number one cornerback that routinely removed the opposing team’s number one wideout from the field. Some would, also, argue that Thurman’s been fortunate to have hall of fame caliber DBs at his disposal (in Baltimore, Ed Reed; in New York, Darrelle Revis). However, Ed Reed missed 6 games in 2005 in what was one of Thurman’s best jobs as a secondary coach, and Revis missing 14 games last year didn’t stop the secondary from ranking first overall in passing defense.
Even though Rex will call the defensive plays for the first time since 2009, Thurman will be responsible for developing Aaron Berry, Darrin Walls, Rontez Miles, and the young Jets DBs while continuing to coach up Antonio Cromartie and newcomer Dawan Landry, who Thurman has familiarity with from his days in Baltimore. Thurman will also be responsible for a defense that doesn’t have Revis anymore, but does have a first round pick in Dee Milliner (soon to be known as Milliner Time), as well as another first round pick in Sheldon Richardson joining two more first round picks in future All-Pro Mo Wilkerson and Quinton Coples. He will have a hand in getting the most out of Antwan Barnes, resuscitating David Harris’s career, and hiding Calvin Pace in coverage if necessary. Thurman has to do this for a coach that may not be able to afford another losing season and is very aware that his defense will keep his seat cool…based off of what Thurman’s done previously i’d say he’s up for the challenge.