Cimini: Westhoff's retirement might be brief
FLORHAM PARK, N.J. -- Five bad weeks can't undo 30 good years, but that doesn't mean Mike Westhoff has to accept it.
He's ticked off. This is his final year as a special-teams coach in the NFL, and it has gone horribly wrong for his unit and the New York Jets. Westhoff, who turns 65 in January, still plans to retire at the end of the season, but he's already dropping hints about a possible comeback.
"I'm definitely going to stick with my plan, but if I get frustrated enough, angry enough, maybe I'll re-evaluate after a point in time," Westhoff told ESPNNewYork.com. "I don't close any doors. This could make me angry enough to reconsider, but not right away. I'm going out the way I said. I'm going to do that."
Westhoff is such a fierce competitor -- he beat bone cancer -- that it wouldn't be a surprise to see him coaching elsewhere in 2014. It depends on how his next career works out.
For years, Westhoff has wanted to become a TV analyst. With his knowledge, charisma and shoot-from-the-hip style, he'll be a good one. He kept putting it off because he still had coaching in his system, but now he wants to give the TV thing a real go. After 12 seasons with the Jets, he believes he's about to hit his expiration date.
"I'm a big believer in a shelf life," said Westhoff, who revealed his retirement plans more than a year ago. "I think sometimes we have a shelf life with a team, especially in this day and age. I think sometimes they need to hear something from someone else. I felt that way long before the inconsistencies of this year. It's time for me to try something else."
Every coach and player dreams about the John Elway ending, walking away from the game with a Super Bowl championship. After three decades as one of the top special-teams coaches, Westhoff deserves better than this -- a 4-7 season. Eventually, the game humbles everyone.
"I want to go out on a more positive note, but we all do," Westhoff said. "I mean, who's happy? Maybe the guy doing the laundry. You can't be happy. We're all very, very frustrated. We're going to fight to the end and see what happens."
By his own count, Westhoff has coached in 619 games, including preseason and postseason. The past five have been among the toughest in a career that began with the Baltimore Colts in 1982.
The special teams have committed a mind-boggling number of game-changing errors. They've allowed three touchdowns -- a 104-yard kickoff return, an end zone recovery on a blocked punt and a fumble recovery on a kickoff. Throw in a couple of blocked field goals, and you're talking about 27 points directly attributed to the special teams.
This is weird, because it's happening on Westhoff's watch. He's one of the smartest guys in his field. This is akin to Bill Gates experiencing a computer virus. Asked if he's ever had this kind of run before, Westhoff said, "No. Absolutely not. Never."
Westhoff has made a career of inflicting this kind of torture on his opponents, and now it's happening to him. It's stunning.
Former Jets kicker Jay Feely said Westhoff's name came up this week in the Arizona Cardinals' special-teams meeting as they prepared for the Jets. Feely said he and coach Kevin Spencer agreed that Westhoff is "one of the best special-teams coaches to ever coach in this game."
Feely recalled a play from the 2008 season, when Westhoff drew up a kickoff-return play on the sideline and it resulted in a 92-yard touchdown return against the New England Patriots. The Colts had never even practiced it before.
"There are not a lot of coaches that are willing to do that and put themselves on the line, but he does that," Feely said. "Obviously, I'm sure that he's disgusted with the mistakes that they've made, but we expect a great effort this week."
Sometimes they work, sometimes they blow up. On Thanksgiving night, it was the latter. Joe McKnight had daylight on a kickoff return, and Westhoff was thinking touchdown. But they were late on a trap block and Devin McCourty came flying into McKnight and ...
"The freaking guy tackles us and we fumble, and the ball pops up and a guy who's not even in the play [Julian Edelman] gets it and runs for a touchdown," Westhoff said incredulously. "I'm looking at it, thinking, 'We got 'em, we're going to bust it.'"
Instead, they got busted.
It's a fickle game, football. Those plays will haunt Westhoff during his retirement. Unless ...
Even Rex's coaching has ruined Westy