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Westhoff: Jets' use of Tim Tebow was 'an absolute mess'

Tim Tebow talks with special teams coordinator Mike

Tim Tebow talks with special teams coordinator Mike Westhoff during the Jets' first day of training camp at SUNY Cortland. (July 27, 2012) Credit: Getty Images

We knew it was inevitable.

That first interview with recently-retired special teams guru Mike Westhoff -- a man known best for delivering witty one-liners and unadulterated honesty. In his first public interview since the conclusion of the Jets' 6-10 season, Westhoff sounded off on his former team, detailing the many ways in which the Jets came up short.

Most notably, he said, in their use of Tim Tebow.

"It was a mess. It was an absolute mess," Westhoff said Friday morning on Florida radio station WQAM. "I was very, very disappointed. There are things Tebow as an NFL QB -- he's very limited in some things. And if you throw him right 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 felt we were going to do, but we never did it." 

Westhoff said he expected Tebow to be used as at H-back, tight end and occasionally as a Wildcat QB. But instead, Eric Smith's knee and hip injuries forced the special teams coordinator to use Tebow full-time.

"It was supposed to only be a fraction and it ended up being his only role," Westhoff said of Tebow's punt protection duties. "That was really disappointing why that didn't really come about.

"To be honest, I don't think anyone's ever really answered that question: 'Why didn't we do it?' 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."

Westhoff said Tebow can be "outstanding" in a myriad of roles, "but we didn't do it. And it was a distraction and it's really a shame, cause that's a hard-working young man."

(Despite a recent report suggesting the Jets planned to use Tebow as a running back, similar to Shonn Greene and Bilal Powell, a league source told Newsday on Wednesday that that was never the case.)

Westhoff said the situation took a toll on Tebow, who completed just six passes for 39 yards and rushed 32 times for 102 in 12 games.

"It was a shame to see when you saw a demeanor change -- you saw that swagger come out of him a little bit and that was very disheartening to see that," Westhoff said of Tebow, who is expected to be traded or released this offseason. "I would just encourage him to keep his head up and that his opportunity would come, and a few things like that."

Westhoff has made his TV aspirations known, so his harsh assessments of his former team came as no surprise. Here’s what else he had to say about the 2012 Jets:

Westhoff said quarterback Mark Sanchez was “a manageable quarterback on a good football team” during their two AFC titles runs. “Then all of a sudden the burden was thrust on Mark and that’s just too much for him in my opinion. I think a whole offense needs to be designed around Mark.” Westhoff admitted there are “some thing (Sanchez) just doesn’t do as well,” adding that a strong running game and special teams unit significantly will help Sanchez’s play.

It’s been reported that the Jets’ salary cap situation – $19.4 million over the projected 2013 salary cap (the most in the NFL), according to ESPN’s John Clayton – has scared off potential GM candidates. But it also had an affect on how the Jets, and former GM Mike Tannenbaum, shaped their shaped their roster.

Said Westhoff: “Well when you’re paying a handful of guys 40 percent of your salary cap, what the hell are you going to do with the rest of them?”

Westhoff was complimentary of former defensive coordinator Mike Pettine, saying new Bills coach Doug Marrone made a wise choice in snatching up Pettine.

“Look out on defense, in my opinion. Look out,” Westhoff said, referring to the Bills. “That football team will be a factor immediately.”

But Westhoff also pointed out several “weaknesses” in Pettine’s unit this past season.

“When our defense played the long field, they were a little suspect in the middle and people drove the ball up to midfield on us. On a shorter field, our defense, because of our really good corner play, constricted and played really well and hold people. But then they would punt us and Mark Sanchez would start on the 10-yard line.

Though Westhoff wasn’t asked specifically about the Jets’ special-teams woes this past year, the former coordinator did admit: “There’s plenty of blame to go around.” 

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