On a day when the Jets met at their new state-of-the-art practice facility for the first time, the Green & White had two reasons to celebrate. Mike Westhoff, six months removed from a ninth medical procedure on his left leg, will return to the coaching staff and join Kevin O'Dea to lead the special teams.
"Mike is going to come back and join us. We really weren't sure where it was going to go," said Jets head coach Eric Mangini during a conference call with reporters this evening. "He had to get medical clearance to do that, and it's nothing that he ever expected and that I ever expected."
O'Dea, who was hired as special teams coordinator in the off-season, will retain that title. Mangini hasn't decided on a title for Westhoff, but Westy will be in charge of the special teams play-calling.
"I'm not changing Kevin's title. I haven't real given Mike any specific title," Mangini said. "We could call him whatever we want to call him, I guess — emeritus, guru, whatever you want."
Westhoff, who was named the Dolphins' Ed Block Courage Award winner in 1989, has been with the Jets since the 2001 season. During his tenure, the Jets have totaled 10 kickoff-return touchdowns.
"He's a great guy, one of the best assistant coaches ever," S Kerry Rhodes said this afternoon. "He is one of the best coaches to be around and he gets the best out of his players."
A cancer survivor, Westhoff is a fan favorite in part because of his toughness. His latest operation was a 10-hour procedure as he was opened up from his knee to his hip.
"This is the hardest for me physically — I'm getting older," Westhoff, 60, told newyorkjets.com in late February. "The surgery itself didn't hurt, but being under the anesthetic for so long, it just beats you up. It feels as though you've really been through the ringer."
Mangini, in addition to his special teams expertise, appreciates Westhoff's other areas of football knowledge.
"With his wealth of experience, he's a guy that I can go and talk to about issues that come up, whether they be directly related to game management or whether it's personnel decisions or coaching decisions," Mangini said. "Any of those things, he always provides great insight."
The acquisition of Westhoff should be viewed as in no way a demotion of O'Dea. In fact, Westhoff actually assisted Mangini when the Jets made the hire.
"When I hired Kevin, Mike was part of it," said the Jets third-year head coach. "Kevin is very excited about this and is very excited about the opportunity to work with Mike and has a tremendous amount of respect for Mike as well.
"So I think the value of having two guys that are as good as they are in what they do is only going to enhance the things that we are able to do on special teams."
Last winter, Westhoff told Randy Lange, *newyorkjets.com *editor-in-chief, that he appreciated O'Dea's prowess with both punters and placekickers.
"That's not ever been a real strength of mine. I'm not Butch Harmon, PGA Tour swing coach," said the always entertaining Westhoff of coaching kickers.
The 2000 NFL Special Teams Coach of the Year will be back with the Jets this weekend when they face the Dolphins in Miami. Before Westhoff joined the Jets, he had spent the previous 15 seasons coaching the 'Fins special teams.
The man who said "I just can't picture myself totally retiring" is back. You can never ever count out Mike Westhoff.