Mike Westhoff is never satisfied, no matter how the New York Jets' special teams unit performs.
The longtime coordinator strives for perfection, and it rubs off on his players.
"We were messing around with him the other day and asking him if he's ever happy because we played OK on Sunday," wide receiver Brad Smith said Friday. "One of the guys said, 'Hey, you can smile now,' and he was like, 'No.' He wants to win every single play, and that makes him different. It makes us want to win every play."
It also makes the Jets' special teams unit one of the best in the league year after year.
"Just to hear the players talk about him, how much respect they have for him and the passion that he coaches with, the guy is a master coach," offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer said. "He's awesome at what he does."
Coach Rex Ryan said the special teams unit was the biggest difference in New York beating Tennessee 24-17 last Sunday and improving to 3-0.
"I use this analogy with our guys all the time about basketball," Westhoff said. "I say, 'We're not all Michael Jordan, but somebody's got to get him the ball.' That's what we are. We're the guys that get him the ball, but at the same time, I think we have enough guys that we can make the winning shot if we have to."
The Jets rank sixth in the league in starting position behind Leon Washington, with an average start close to their 30-yard line. And, it's about more than just kick returners, kickers and punters. They're also fourth in kickoff defense, with opponents' average start around the 22-yard line.
"Special teams has to do it for both offense and defense," Smith said. "It has to be the unit that performs consistently and tries to make it easier on both sides of the football."
Westhoff, in his ninth season with the Jets and 27th in the NFL, has long been regarded as one of the league's special teams gurus.
"He's cocky, very cocky," said Ahmad Carroll, who tied for the team lead last season with 26 special teams tackles. "He's one of the cockiest coaches I've ever been around, but he knows what he's talking about, so he has every right to be."
Known for his fiery personality on the field, Westhoff might be even more intense while studying game film.
"One of his strengths is game planning each week," said special teams ace Larry Izzo, who also played under Westhoff in Miami for a few years. "It's his understanding where we can take advantage of an opponent in any of the phases, whether it's a return or coverage, and how we can best handle them each week."
Last Sunday was a great example as Westhoff told his group that the Titans were vulnerable to turnovers. Sure enough, the Jets caused two with both leading to touchdowns _ including the go-ahead score.
"You hear that a lot that it's sometimes overlooked," Izzo said. "People inside of football understand the importance of the kicking game and how much field position changes and momentum can change with a play that happens in the kicking game."
After quarterback Mark Sanchez's bash-and-roll 14-yard touchdown run on the Jets' opening drive, Tennessee's Ryan Mouton was hit on the ensuing kickoff by Jason Trusnik, who forced and recovered the fumble.
"He fell right outside and I gave him a nice little pop," said Trusnik, the AFC's special teams player of the week.
Five plays later, the Jets scored again to take a quick 14-0 lead.
With the Jets trailing 17-14 in the third quarter, the offense stalled and was forced to punt. Mouton muffed the punt and Izzo jumped on the ball and recovered it. Four plays later, the Jets scored the go-ahead touchdown.
What really made the play wasn't in the stat sheets, though. After Mouton muffed the punt, Smith jumped on top of him like a wrestler and pinned him to the turf _ a play Ryan called "tremendous" _ before Izzo got to the ball.
"Even after I hit him, I was thinking for a second, 'Man, I'm going to get this ball,'" said Smith, a former college quarterback. "The guys were like, 'I didn't know you were a wrestler,' and stuff like, 'I didn't know you were that strong.'"
One of Westhoff's biggest gripes after last Sunday's win was that the Jets narrowly missed an opportunity for Eric Smith to block Reggie Hodges' punt early in the game.
"We had it blocked," Westhoff said. "If we would have blocked the punt, the score would have been 21-0 and the game would have been over, but we missed it.
Yep, Mr. Perfection strikes again.
"All you have to do is pull out the numbers at the end of the year," Ryan said. "The way I am about defense, he is about special teams, there's no doubt, and maybe even more so."