- Last Updated: 4:06 AM, July 30, 2012
- Posted: 12:14 AM, July 30, 2012
CORTLAND — He is straddling a bicycle outside the Jets practice field, his back to the blazing sun. His compelling story, like too many others, has gotten lost in the monotonous All-Tebow-All-The-Time shadow, and that’s a shame, because they don’t make ’em like Mike Westhoff anymore, and he will be impossible to replace.
For the first time, the Jets special teams coach is asked to explain why his decision to retire at the end of this season is etched in stone.
“That’s a good question, and I debate it myself off and on, but there’s several reasons,” he begins.
“Number one, I’ll be 65 years old, and I’ve had 30 years in the NFL. That’s a long time. It’s not that I feel like I have to, but there are times when it becomes a little bit tough for me physically, there are times when I wear out, because of all the injuries and all the surgeries I’ve had. So there are times when that gets to be a little much.
“I just read Colin Powell’s newest book “It Worked for Me,” And there was a chapter in there — “It’s Time to Get Off the Train.” And that’s how I feel, it’s time for me to get off this train.
“And then, in this day and age, the system is tougher. It’s harder to keep the young guys for more than two years, that’s frustrating for me. I take so much pride in being good at this, and all of a sudden I get a third-year guy who I look at, and I love this guy as a backup player/special teams player, and all of a sudden he’s being looked at maybe like he’s two roster spots by upstairs, and that’s frustrating for me. Now, I’m not being critical of it — it’s the system. The system has evolved.
“Now I think what I’ve done a pretty good job of, is I’ve evolved with the system. I have a special teams system that’s extremely easy to learn, and we don’t make many mistakes, and we’re ranked pretty high almost every year, and I’ve been able to do it with a lot of different guys. I haven’t had the return guy that everybody in the country, the world wanted, but yet, we lead the league. And so I like this system, I believe in it. But at the same time, I get frustrated.
“I used to love going out, taking that young kid, and then developing him. It’s a little tougher to develop with the new rules and things in the offseason, we’re limited with things ... I’m not saying it’s right or wrong, but when it affects what I want to do then I’ll do what I want to do.”
It’s a shame he never got to be a head coach.
“Probably maybe I didn’t prepare myself as well as I could have,” Westhoff said. “And there’s also a thing where I think sometimes you get pigeon-holed. People see you in a certain role, they see a guy as a special teams coach, although I think John Harbaugh maybe wrecked that a little bit.
“I wish I could have been a head coach, I think I would have done that well. But I didn’t. It didn’t happen. So we don’t get everything we want in life.”
He was on the fast track in Miami when fate derailed him.
“The next thing you know I’m in the hospital, trying to get out,” he recalled. “All of a sudden I get a big curveball thrown at me. I had to fight around that a little bit always ... and so I realized that maybe this is what I’m going to be and then I made it my goal to be the best that’s done it. I think I’m in that argument.”
He was forced to leave Eric Mangini’s Jets to undergo a radical surgery to replace his left femur at Sloan Kettering.
“I was going to quit, I thought I’d have to,” Westhoff said. “I thought, ‘My coaching career’s over.’ ”
He never feared his life could be.
“I guess I never thought of it because I just believed in the people that I saw,” he said. “And they kind of gave me a game plan, they said, ‘Look, if you follow this, you’re going to make it.’”
He made it.
“I’ve always thought that I’d like to write a book talking about the fortune that I’ve had as a coach, with the problems I’ve had and how fortunate I am,” he said, “and that book always starts with my standing on the sidelines at the Super Bowl.”
Last Train to New Orleans. So happy to have Tebow aboard as fullback on his punt team. “I’ve had a ball,” Mike Westhoff said. “I’m the luckiest guy in town. How many people would want to be able to come out of that tunnel and get paid over 600 times?”Follow @NYPostsports