The Story Behind the Saban-Belichick Stolen Jets Playbook Story

The back story of why Cleveland Browns head coach Mike Pettine alleges that Bill Belichick obtained the defensive playbook of the New York Jets may be more interesting than how the Patriots coach may or may not have obtained the material. There’s “no question Pettine left the Jets on a bad note,” Dan Leberfeld, editor of Jets Confidential, tells Breitbart Sports.

Pettine told MMQB earlier this week that Jets head coach Rex Ryan had handed University of Alabama head coach Nick Saban a defensive playbook despite Saban’s well-known friendship with Belichick. Pettine claims that Tom Brady boasted of possessing the Jets defensive schemes at Wes Welker’s 2012 wedding. Saban denied the charge and Belichick curtly dismissed it.

Despite Pettine’s loose-lips-sink-ships allegation against Ryan, the new Browns coach allegedly served as a frequent anonymous source during his final season with Rex Ryan. “Over the course of Pettine’s last year with Jets team in 2012,” Leberfeld explains, “beat writer Manish Mehta of the Daily News broke a bunch of stories on the Jets, and also had a lot of unnamed quotes. Most people in the building and who cover the team believed Pettine was his source.”

The mentor-mentee relationship had apparently deteriorated to the point where Rex Ryan's one-time "right-hand man" leaked stories behind his back to the media. This week's disparaging disclosure to MMBQ suggests that Pettine harbors little affection for his longtime boss after a season apart.

Leberfeld, who has been covering the Jets for two decades, holds that he hadn’t heard any rumblings about Ryan handing out playbooks until his former defensive coordinator spoke to MMQB. The SiriusXM NFL Radio host points out that coaches, like players, shift between teams, so any notion of complete playbook security may be as naïve as a Jets coach giving a playbook away to a Patriots coach’s former assistant.

“If he gave Nick Saban a copy of his defensive playbook,” Leberfeld observes, “that wasn’t a smart thing to do. As Mike Pettine pointed out, Belichick and Saban are friends. Saban used to work for Belichick. On any level, if Ryan did this, it made very little sense. And surely his new boss, John Idzik, who took over as the Jets new GM in 2013, can’t be pleased. The button-downed Idzik plays everything close to the vest, and doesn’t tip his hand on things, whether it’s with agents or the media. I know this playbook-gate supposedly happened before Idzik arrived, but he can’t be happy about it.”

Whereas Pettine's story paints Belichick understudy Saban as zealously loyal to his mentor, it shows Pettine as perhaps jealous and surely disloyal to his. Pettine’s allegation, seen from the perspective of the coach whose side he left after more than a decade together, likely appears as projection.

“It’s hard to tell how Ryan felt about this because he showed little ankle on this issue, but there is no question, the Jets hierarchy, like owner Woody Johnson, knew they had to get rid of Pettine after this,” Leberfeld explains. “And the off-season that followed, there was a gag order put in within the Jets organization, following the leak-fest in 2012.”

Daniel J. Flynn, the author of The War on Football: Saving America’s Game (Regnery, 2013), edits Breitbart Sports.


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