LIVINGSTON, NJ - Former New York Jets coach Mike Westhoff was a pioneer of football special teams. Having spent 30 years in the NFL, including the last decade as the special teams coordinator for the Jets, Westhoff has set sail on a new career, broadcasting.

To gear up for the NFL season, which started yesterday, Westhoff spent some time talking to The Alternative Press about the gridiron game.

Q: Weigh in on the Mark Sanchez vs. Geno Smith situation.   Would you have handled it the same way and what do you think that the outcome will be?

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A: They created a competition which was fairly contested in training camp. During the first pre-season game, Geno injured his ankle which threw a curveball into the competition.  However, Geno was able to start the (game against the) New York Giants and the competition continued.  Mark now has the shoulder injury and we will see what happens next.  I would have done it the same way for the most part and I think it’s a fair completion and they will make a decision, I’m not sure how it will go.  There have been some bumps in the road but that is expected.  During training camp, I felt Geno was slightly ahead but there were always questions about how he plays in completely live situations.  I don’t know if he did enough in the pre-season to become the starting quarterback.  However, that doesn’t mean anything because there is a lot of season left and we will see how he develops.   I’m excited to see what happens. 

Q: What is your prediction for the NY Jet’s this year?   What must they do to defy the critics and have a winning season? 

A: It’s very difficult to make a prediction because they are entering the season with so many question marks, one of which is the Quarterback position.  I think for the Jets to have a successful season they have to have a dominating defense, more than just statistically.  They have to change field position, they have to force teams to turn the ball over, and they have to keep people in the hole.  I saw some glimpses of that in the first half against the Giants.  Though the first play was catastrophic, they came out and played very well in that game and that’s where it starts.  Also the Jets can have a very solid running game because of their offensive line.  I think the Jets offensive line has a chance to be pretty good.  Even with the uncertainty at quarterback, I think the real factor is lying in those other areas.   If they can dominate in those areas then they can give the Jets a chance to minimize some of the quarterback and receiver inconsistencies.

Q: It seems that there are a few surprise teams every year in the NFL (ie: Seattle last year)  Who do you think could fill that role this year?

A:  I have several teams in mind.  I’m not sure I should consider them a surprise team because they were pretty good the last few years but I think the Cincinnati Bengals could be even better than what people are expecting.  Also I think the Dolphins are possibly on the cusp of being a surprise team.  A lot of that will depend on their offensive line which I think is a big question mark, but I believe they are in a relatively good position.  After that I just don’t know if there is anybody, possibly the Detroit Lions could also be a team that surprises a little bit.

Q: Who are your pre-season favorites for the Superbowl?   Do you like the idea of having the Superbowl in NYC?

A: I like the idea of having it in New York very much, I think it’s a good thing.  You do have to be a little concerned with the weather but I still think they should have the game here, also the stadium is great. As for my super bowl favorite, I think the tides have turned from the AFC more towards the NFC.  I think the San Francisco 49ers are right up in there at the top along with the Seattle Seahawks.  If I had to pick based on what I’ve seen so far it would be hard for me to un seat San Francisco right now.

You can hear Westhoff every week during live interview spots with the Stephen A. Smith and Michael Kay Show on ESPN Radio-New York. He will also appear on the ESPN Radio-NY during the Jets pre- and post-game shows.