Westhoff: Beating New England is heaven on earth

March, 15, 2011
3/15/11
2:55
PM ET
The ever-quotable Mike Westhoff, the Jets' special teams coach, delivered a motivational speech Tuesday at the Daytop rehab center and school in the Rockwell-ian town of Mendham, N.J. Anybody who caught Westhoff last summer on HBO's "Hard Knocks" knows he can take over a room with his dynamic, non-nonsense personality (and sometimes salty vocabulary).

In a 30-minute speech to about 70 students and counselors, followed by a chat afterward with two reporters, Westhoff touched on some Jets-related topics (the rated-G version).

• He referenced last season's memorable upset of the Patriots in the divisional playoffs, saying, "I'd rather beat them than maybe go to heaven." He got big laughs for that line. You can only imagine the reaction in the Foxborough bunker.

• He used special-teams star Brad Smith as an example of someone who overcame naysayers by establishing a plan for himself. Westhoff said he discovered Smith on a scouting trip to Missouri, where Smith was a record-setting quarterback but was told his skills wouldn't translate to the NFL. Cracked Westhoff, "Tell Mike Tannenbaum I can scout pretty good."

• Westhoff on how potential free-agent defections could hurt the special teams: "Is it unnerving? Not any moreso than it normally is ... We'd like to keep as many as possible. To be honest with you, I don't drive myself crazy over it. I know we're going to do what's best for the team ... I love Brad Smith, (but) I have confidence in our system ... I want to try to come up with a system where I can take mine and beat yours or take yours and beat mine."

• For the record, the key special teamers with expired contracts include Smith, PK Nick Folk, P Steve Weatherford, Eric Smith and James Ihedigbo.

• Westhoff, 63, who said last summer that he planned to retire when his contract expires after the 2011 season, left the door open a crack for a possible return. "I'll go one more year and see what happens," he said.

• During a Q&A with the students, the fifth question involved Danny Woodhead -- as in, why did you let him go? Imagine that; right after questions about the lockout, Mark Sanchez, the team's Super Bowl chances and the upcoming draft, somebody wants to know about Woodhead. Amazing. Westhoff said they "took a chance" on exposing Woodhead to waivers -- they wanted to sign a receiver -- and ... well, you know the story.

• Westhoff told a touching and funny story about former Dolphin Bernie Parmalee, now a Chiefs assistant coach. He bumped into Parmalee, one of his all-time favorites, at the recent scouting combine in Indianapolis. Parmalee met Westhoff's son, a law student at Indiana, and told him, "Your dad changed my life."

Parmalee was a truck driver/out-of-work football player when Westhoff discovered him. He was cut several times, but he kept returning to the Dolphins because Westhoff kept lobbying then-coach Don Shula to keep him around. One time, Westhoff went over Shula's head, surrepticiously inviting Parmalee back to practice even though he had just been released. He wound up having a long career, finishing with the Jets in 2000.

• Westhoff said the Jets have been unfairly branded as "the Bad News Bears" of the NFL. "We've had our share of issues, sure, but for the most part, it's first class."

Rich Cimini

ESPN New York Jets reporter

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