Mike Westhoff critical of Jets

Updated: January 11, 2013, 6:41 PM ET
By Jane McManus | ESPNNewYork.com

Liberated from his title of special teams coordinator for the Jets, Mike Westhoff was free to be candid in the wake of a disappointing and at times comical 6-10 season.

Westhoff, who retired when the season ended, gave an interview Friday morning to the "Joe Rose Show" on 560 WQAM in Miami, during which he was critical of the way the Jets managed the salary cap, starting quarterback Mark Sanchez's ability to shoulder an offense and, most pointedly, Tim Tebow's baffling role in the offense.

"It was a mess," Westhoff said of the Tebow situation. "It was an absolute mess. You can say whatever else you want, it was really a mess. I was very, very disappointed. There are things that Tim Tebow as an NFL quarterback, he's very limited in some things. If you throw him in the middle of a drop-back passing offense, he will look very, very average at best. But if you incorporate him in different facets of your offense, I think he can be a factor. That's what I thought we were going to do, but we never did it."

Westhoff said there were some legitimate questions after a season in which coach Rex Ryan and one-term offensive coordinator Tony Sparano failed to incorporate Tebow into the scheme with any success. Westhoff worked with Tebow as a punt protector -- a role that became full time after safety Eric Smith was injured -- and was impressed with Tebow's work ethic and skills.

Westhoff envisioned Tebow would be used as a combination tight end/halfback/fullback/quarterback, and was dismayed to see that Tebow's largest role was essentially on special teams after his ribs were fractured Nov. 11 during a game in Seattle.

So what happened to the secret offense that was supposed to be so innovative?

"To be honest, I don't think anyone ever answered that question, 'Why did we do it?' " Westhoff said. "I honestly don't know. I know we didn't practice it;, we didn't practice it in training camp. We were going to unveil it. Well, I'm still waiting for the unveiling. And it didn't happen."

Tebow's future is in doubt until a new general manager and offensive coordinator are hired. The one team to express interest in Tebow last season, the Jacksonville Jaguars, is no longer interested. After a season with the Jets, Tebow finds his prospects of starting in the NFL are dim.

"It was a distraction, and really a shame because that's a hard-working young man," Westhoff said.

As for Sanchez, Westoff expressed doubts that he could be the kind of talent who shoulders the burden of an imperfectly designed offense. The first two years of Sanchez's career, when the Jets twice went to the AFC Championship Game, were the result of an all-around good team, Westhoff said.

"[Sanchez was the] manageable part of a good football team," Westhoff said. " ... Then all of a sudden, the burden was thrust on Mark and that's just too much for him, in my opinion. Also, I think the whole offense needs to be designed around Mark, and you can say that it was, but there are just some things he doesn't do as well."

Westhoff also critiqued the way the Jets' personnel was put together, a task that fell to general manager Mike Tannenbaum, who was dismissed Dec. 31.

"So much of the money is directed at the very top," Westhoff said. "Sometimes if you don't budget your team well you can destroy the middle and the bottom of your football team. And that's what happened to us. It happened. It's tough, if you're playing a handful of guys [that are] 40 percent of your salary cap, what the hell are you going to do with the rest of them?"

Westhoff even took a swipe at the defense, though he praised defensive coordinator Mike Pettine, who was hired this week by the Buffalo Bills.

"I want to stop teams in the top 10, not the bottom five," Westhoff said when discussing the unit.

In the short term, Westhoff is shopping for a broadcast-style job that would allow him to discuss special teams the way other analysts take on quarterbacks. When asked if he would ever coach again in the NFL, Westhoff said, "There's a possibility, sure."

About the only subject he didn't tackle was the tattoo on Ryan's arm. A snooping photographer caught the artwork while Ryan was poolside in the Bahamas last week.

"We all probably have quirky things we don't want the world to know," Westhoff said.

Later Friday, Westhoff said in an interview with Michael Kay and Don LaGreca on ESPN 98.7 FM in New York that he wasn't sure Tebow could be a starting quarterback in the NFL.

"I'm not as confident in that," Westhoff said.

The Jets said Friday they would not respond to Westhoff's comments.

Jane McManus has covered New York sports since 1998 and began covering football just before Brett Favre's stint with the Jets. Her work has appeared in Newsday, USA Today, The Journal News and The New York Times. Follow Jane on Twitter.

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