Mike Westhoff was five years into retirement as a highly regarded veteran special teams coordinator in the NFL when he got a call from the Saints midway through this past season. Westhoff ended up joining Sean Payton's staff and helped to turns things around for them.
During a segment on the Dan Patrick show, Westhoff shared that during the course of the off season, he underwent a surgery and is unsure if he'll be able to return as of yet. Patrick asked Westhoff about the idea that the NFL and NCAA have been kicking around for years about eliminating kickoffs, or at the very least giving them a dramatic makeover than what we're all used to seeing.
The NCAA has already passed a new kickoff rule for 2018, effectively ending a lot of return opportunities, but Westhoff - who began coaching special teams at the NFL level in 1982 - had an interesting suggestion.
The veteran special teams coordinator, who has over a decade of experience with the Dolphins and Jets each, believes that it's not kickoffs themselves that are dangerous, but rather the schemes that are being employed. More specifically, the blindside double-team traps and kickouts, with wedge blocks behind them that return teams use to gain an advantage.
It's a suggestion I've heard mentioned by a few college coaches as well. Instead of eliminating the play, let's take a look at how to eliminate the blocks and schemes that are the root cause of the issue with kickoffs. One suggestion I've heard a few times in talking with coaches is to not let players cross the midfield mark if the field were cut in the middle longways.
"What I want to do, and I proposed this a number of years ago," Westhoff starts by noting. "I want to change it, in essence, from a kickoff return to a punt return. I want to kick off from the 25-yard line because I want every ball to be returned."
"But then what I would do, is I would have the normal restraints, and then in the next ten yards, I want the return team to have to line up eight or nine guys. So I want the blockers in a close proximity. I want to change the proximity of collision from a 40-yard run, to a 10-yard run."
"I still want to have a play so I can develop players, and quit turning the game into a singular game where it's all about the quarterback."
Hear Westhoff's full take in the clip.
— Dan Patrick Show (@dpshow) April 17, 2018