- Rich Cimini, ESPN Staff Writer
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FLORHAM PARK, N.J. -- New York Jets defensive coordinator Mike Pettine didn't use the words "good riddance" to describe his feelings for departed safety Kerry Rhodes, but the message was clear: Pettine sure isn't experiencing any separation pangs.
Pettine, who clashed last season with Rhodes, believes free-agent acquisition Brodney Pool is an upgrade at safety. He said Pool is more coachable and more physical than Rhodes, who was benched for two games last season because, well, the staff felt he resisted coaching and wasn't physical enough.
Wait, there's more: Pettine also addressed Rhodes' parting shots at the Jets' coaching staff, claiming the veteran safety was off base by suggesting the coaches tailored the defense around the ex-Ravens they once coached in Baltimore -- namely safety Jim Leonhard and linebacker Bart Scott.
"When I saw what he said, it was puzzling because it didn't make sense," Pettine told ESPNNewYork.com, commenting for the first time on Rhodes' remarks. "The guys here before" -- a reference to holdovers such as Darrelle Revis and David Harris -- "played some of their best football. The fact that we accomplished what we accomplished, using a new system ... I don't know. There were some issues there I can't speak on."
The Jets traded Rhodes to the Arizona Cardinals in March, signing Pool -- a Cleveland Browns castoff -- to a one-year, $1.3 million contract. Pettine praised Pool for his willingness to learn the Jets' system, an indirect shot at Rhodes.
"Brodney has humbled himself," Pettine said. "He understands that, 'Hey, I don't know the defense. This defense has done well. I'm just part of it.' Some of the issues with Kerry were off-the-field stuff. Buying in, I think he struggled with that. Some of the comments he made after he left were kind of indicative of how he felt, that we brought guys up from Baltimore and we leaned too heavily on them. Of course we were going to lean on guys who know the system. That's the whole point for bringing them in. There were some struggles there that we won't have with Brodney."
The Jets didn't have to dig deep to cull information on Pool. The Browns' defensive coordinator is Rob Ryan, Rex's twin brother. Their secondary coach is Jerome Henderson, who held the same position for the Jets early in Rhodes' career.
Here is Pettine's early scouting report on Pool, who will compete with Eric Smith for the starting job: "Brodney will play the run better [than Rhodes]. I think he's a better tackler. I think he'll stick his face in there more than Kerry."
In terms of pass coverage, Pool and Rhodes are "very similar," Pettine said. "They're both rangy guys, good athletes."
The major concern with Pool is that he reportedly has suffered four concussions in his career, the main reason the Browns decided to cut bait after five seasons. He was off to a terrific start last season, with four interceptions in 11 games, but his season was ruined by another head injury.
A safety with a concussion issue is nothing to take lightly, considering the amount of head-on collisions, but there could be a story behind the story. Before signing Pool, the Jets' doctors examined Pool and determined that some of the so-called concussions were actually migraine headaches, according to Pettine.
"The biggest issue is, were they concussions or were they migraines?" Pettine said. "Our doctors looked at him and felt there were fewer concussions and a few more migraines."
As far as the Jets are concerned, the real headache was Pool's predecessor.