New York Jets
Organization: Pro Football
National Football League
Special Teams Coach
Bethel Park, Pennsylvania
Lee Corso, Herm Edwards, Jimmy Johnson, Rex Ryan, Don Shula
- 2000 NFL Special Teams Coach of the Year
- 1989 Ed Block Courage Award
Mike Westhoff begins his 12th season in charge of the Jets special teams. Since joining the Jets in 2001, Westhoff’s units have annually ranked among the top units across the board in overall special teams rankings.
The Jets 12 kickoff returns for touchdowns from 2001-09 under Westhoff are the most in the NFL in that time span. Under Westhoff, the Jets special teams units have blocked five punts since 2001, four of which the Jets have recovered and returned for touchdowns.
Six different players have returned kickoffs for touchdowns under Westhoff: Chad Morton (2), Jonathan Carter (1), Jerricho Cotchery (1), Justin Miller (3), Brad Smith (1) and Leon Washington (4). Smith’s return in 2009 of 106 yards set the franchise record for longest touchdown scored.
Washington was elected to the Pro Bowl in 2008 after finishing sixth in the AFC in kick returns (25.6) and seventh in the AFC in punt returns (10.4) as the Jets finished fourth-best in the NFL in average kickoff drive start (29.6 yard line).
Miller was elected to the Pro Bowl in 2006, averaging 28.3 yards per return and taking back two kicks for touchdowns.
Punt coverage unit did not allow a return over 18 yards in 2006. In 2004, the team’s punt coverage unit was tied for fourth in the NFL in yards allowed per return, allowing opponents just 6.5 yards per return. In 2003, the highly-regarded Jets special teams finished second in the NFL in kickoff return average (24.4) and fourth in average start (31.6) and gross punting average (36.9).
During his first two seasons (2001-02), kickoff coverage and kickoff return units combined to rank first in the NFL. In 2002, return teams scored four touchdowns, two each on punts and kickoffs and placed first in punt return average (16.0) in the NFL. Punt return unit was the only unit in the NFL to have 10 returns over 20 yards, while his punt coverage team was the only in the NFL not to allow a return of 20 yards or more in 2002. In 2001, special teams units earned a combined starting field position ranked first in the NFL (kickoff coverage ranked fifth in average kickoff drive start - 26.6 yard line; kickoff returns ranked second in average kickoff drive start - 31.2 yard line). The Jets also blocked two punts and returned both for touchdowns.
Westhoff came to the Jets after 15 years with the Miami Dolphins. Cited in a vote by his peers as the “NFL Special Teams Coach of the Year” for his work during the 2000 season.
From 1996-99, Miami produced the top-ranked punt and kickoff coverage units.
Prior to joining the Dolphins, Westhoff spent a year (1985) as the offensive line coach for the USFL’s Arizona Outlaws, and before that, he served three seasons (1982-84) with the NFL’s Indianapolis Colts as the offensive line, tight ends and special teams coach.
Westhoff began his coaching career as a graduate assistant at Indiana University, where he also earned his Masters degree in educational psychology in 1974.
He was the freshman coach at Indiana in 1975 before moving on to coach the offensive line at Dayton in 1976. Westhoff served as defensive line and linebackers coach at Indiana State in 1977. He coached the offensive line at Northwestern (1978-80) and at TCU (1981).
Westhoff began his collegiate playing career at Wyoming in 1965, where he was a starting outside linebacker as a freshman for the Cowboys. He transferred to Wichita State where he started for three years at both center and linebacker, playing under defensive coordinator Bill Parcells. He was voted team MVP as a junior and served as team captain as a senior before graduating in 1970 with a history degree.
OFF THE FIELD
In 1989, the Dolphins’ players honored Westhoff’s dedication and courage by awarding him the NFL’s Ed Block Courage Award as he battled bone cancer. Despite the treatments he endured, he continued to coach full time.
Westhoff was inducted into the Western Chapter of the Pennsylvania Sports Hall of Fame in 2000. His son, John, played football at the University of Pennsylvania and attended law school at Indiana University. John and his wife, Elise, live in Indianapolis.