The ex-NYJ head coach, Ryan, did interview with Sean Payton for his defensive coordinator position this week and was pegged as the “top candidate” for the job on February 15, but it was long-time special teams coach Mike Westhoff that was hired by the Broncos first on February 17.
ESPN’s Jeff Legwold was the first to report the news, tweeting: “Have been told Mike Westhoff has signed [a] deal to be assistant head coach for Broncos and will oversee special teams with Ben Kotwica having been hired as [the] special teams coordinator.”
Mike Westhoff Drops Broncos Breadcrumbs on Twitter
Westhoff — who was a special teams coach for the Jets from 2001 through 2012 — actually provided a clear hint that he was interviewing in Denver on February 16.
The veteran coach tweeted at the time: “Last ride in #jacksonhole before heading to @_DenverColorado to meet up with an old friend. #figureitout #nflcoach #specialteams #author”
Some interpreted this as Westhoff meeting up with Ryan, who had been interviewing with the Broncos at the time, but most connected the dots to Payton. After retiring from the Jets organization in 2012, the respected assistant did not work again until 2017 with the New Orleans Saints.
That NOLA team was, of course, coached by none other than Payton. The pair nearly made it to the Super Bowl together in 2018 with the Saints, but a controversial call pushed the Los Angeles Rams through to the big game. Westhoff later told veteran New York sports radio host Mike Francesca that the 2018 NFC Championship was “the toughest loss of his long career.”
The cancer survivor and author of “Figure It Out” had not coached again since 2018, but it appears he’ll be back as Payton’s right-hand man in Denver. If Ryan joins the organization next, Jets fans will be looking at a blast from the past on the Broncos coaching staff next season.
Mike Westhoff Told All on Jets, NFL Career in 2022
In case you missed it, Westhoff was actually in the news last spring for his tell-all memoir, “Figure It Out: My Thirty-Two-Year Journey While Revolutionizing Pro Football’s Special Teams.”
Some of the highlights from a Jets perspective were his comments on ex-HC Eric Mangini and former general managers Terry Bradway and Mike Tannenbaum. He called Bradway “barely mediocre” at his job, and criticized Tannenbaum for excluding him from the pre-draft process in 2012.
“We had gone from a championship-level team to a bulls*** operation, and this was another example,” he voiced in his book regarding Tannenbaum.
Mangini’s review was more mixed than the others, as Westhoff labeled him a “complete know-it-all pain in the a**” at first, but eventually admitted that as time went on, he saw a “good coach” and vision under a tough exterior. For example, the veteran assistant praised Mangini’s attention to detail and game management but said his practices were too long and his player relations were poor.
As for Ryan, an excerpt from Westhoff’s book had this to say about the boisterous head coach: “Rex kept things stirred up with the media. I would read something he said and just shake my head and laugh. Never did any of his craziness show itself around the team. We had an organized, disciplined program that showed no signs of Rex’s sometimes crazy media antics.”
With Westhoff in Payton’s ear, it sounds like a Ryan hire could certainly be in the cards for the Broncos.