Mike Westhoff leaned against the wall in Weeb Ewbank Hall with his crutches loose under his arms and held court with a few reporters Friday. As always, the special teams coordinator had a refreshing take on things, such as Ellis Hobbs’ NFL-record 108-yard kickoff return against his coverage unit last Sunday.
"It’s funny," Westhoff said. "Some people asked me, ‘Aside from the kickoff return, how did you assess the play of your special teams?’ That’s like saying, ‘Aside from the iceberg, how did you enjoy the cruise?’ "
But don’t let that familiar saying make you think Mike is down on his specialists. Far from it.
"We flew down the field and ran pretty much past their blocking," Westhoff analyzed. "I thought we were going to tackle the guy at the 7. It wasn’t that we slowed down, thinking he wasn’t going to come out.
"We have a good group," he said. "I felt very disappointed in the fact that we could’ve made that play, have made it in the past and will make it in the future. But we’ve got a good group. We’ll be all right."
There’s no question in head coach Eric Mangini’s mind about that. Mangini gave Westhoff unsolicited praise during his Friday news conference, in effect saying that while people are quick to give credit to, say, Bill Walsh for the West Coast offense or Buddy Ryan for the 46 defense, they ought to consider Westhoff in the same class on special teams.
"What I like about Mike is his ability to reference back to things that have happened in the past. He’s seen most returns and developed a lot of the returns himself. He’s been an innovator in the league for many, many years," Mangini said. "Mike’s one of the best I’ve seen."
Westhoff’s players chimed in along similar lines.
"Coach Westhoff," Erik Coleman said, "is, I believe, the best special teams coach in the league."
And Mike Nugent left no doubt how he felt: "He’s a genius on paper and as a coach. He really knows what’s going on."
Westhoff aw-shuckses all the kudos, knowing that he needs to whip up his troops for "a force to be reckoned with" in Ed Reed and the Ravens’ special teams Sunday.
"I’m not planning to leave coaching anytime soon. I love doing it," he said when asked what kind of ST innovation he’d like to have his name attached to after or even before he leaves the game. "I think more than anything I’d like to be known as a good coach. I like being inventive. I feel incredibly honored to work in this business. All of us should keep those things in mind."
As I reported at the end of yesterday’s Radar entry, Westhoff will be conducting his business at Baltimore from the field rather than the coaches’ booth, where he went last week for the first time in his NFL coaching career due to precautions he’s taking for his leg, which got another surgery back in February.
"I have a graft in my femur," he explained. "Unfortunately, [since the surgery] I fractured the bottom part of my graft and that will probably require some attention. When I’m on crutches, it’s inconvenient, not painful. But I’m becoming very mobile on the crutches. And I prefer to be on the field."
Tags: Ed Reed, Ellis Hobbs, Erik Coleman, Mike Nugent, Mike Westhoff
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