In honor of Joe McKnight's recent ST Player of the Month award, I would like to take this opportunity to heap some praises on Special Teams coach Mike Westhoff, who in my humble opinion has proven to be the "Darrelle Revis of special teams coaching."
Let's start by taking a look at some his success stories after the jump.In the Rex Ryan era, we have had not an extremely high number of players prove themselves as dynamic kick returners - Leon Washington, Brad Smith, Jim Leonhard, Antonio Cromartie, Kyle Wilson, and most recently, Joe McKnight. Look at what some of these players have done: Washington has been a repeat Pro Bowl/All-Pro KR, Brad Smith got a big contract with Buffalo for his versatility and KR abilities, Leonhard/Wilson/Cromartie have proven to be unique double-threats in the secondary and on special teams.
And now we have Joe McKnight, a man who most of the media wanted booted off the team in favor of Danny Woodcock for his poor conditioning in training camp last season. Well this season he is proving to be dynamic every time he gets near the ball: he made a critical block that led to a TD against Dallas, he's a great tackler on kick/punt returns, and now has the highest average KR in the league (a full 10 yards more than the 2nd highest).
Westhoff seems to have a Midas touch - everything he touches turns to gold, or in this case, elite KR players.
Now look at the kicking game: When the Jets brought in Nick Folk last season I was scared to death because of his '09 season in Dallas, and rightfully so. He had 4 or 5 consecutive games with a missed FG - unacceptable.
And now look at him! He has made 2 extremely clutch field goals whose attempts would make even some of the All-Pro Kickers wet themselves (shout out to our good friend Nate Kaeding, thanks for the 3 misses in '09). And while he did have a few misses last year, you really can't look me in the eyes and say he was responsible for any of the team's losses in 2010.
Meanwhile, his kickoffs have been good - he gives them a lot of air time instead of distance, encouraging the player to come out of the endzone, only to be met by the Jets players between the 15 and 20 yard line, which is part of why opponents have some of the worst starting field position in the league.
When Steve Weatherford suffered a heart problem before the '09 Playoff game against the Bengals I was worried his absence would damage the team's field position, but instead Jay Feely showed some versatility of his own and kept the team in very good position for the whole game.
But enough about the players - let's get to the man behind the players. Mike Westhoff. If any of you saw Hard Knocks, you would know that he is a cancer survivor who lost nearly his entire leg during treatment. But he stayed with the team and is now one of the most respected men in the entire organization.
In this year with the new kickoff rules Westhoff has made the adjustments to make the team absolutely flourish. In all honesty, I get extremely excited when I see the Jets special teams on the field because I know I'm going to see something that no other team in the league can do.
And that is why I appreciate Mike Westhoff. Do you?