Jets downfall started with Mark Sanchez contract


The Jets went to the AFC championship in back-to-back years with Mark Sanchez at quarterback, but his play didn’t exactly leave a lasting impression on all of his coaches.

Or perhaps it did — just in the wrong way, at least for one coach.

“I’m sitting where I live, I live right on a golf course in Florida and there’s a lake right behind my house. I’m sitting here looking at it,” former Jets special teams coach Mike Westhoff said on The Post’s “Gang’s All Here” podcast.

“If Mark stood by my swimming pool, he couldn’t throw the ball in the damn lake.”

Westhoff was with the Jets from 2001-2012, during which he saw the likes of Vinny Testaverde, Chad Pennington, Brooks Bollinger and Brett Favre under center. The Jets then drafted Sanchez fifth-overall in 2009 and he became the starter for the team that fell a win short of the Super Bowl in 2009 and 2010.

But Westhoff said the three-year, $40.5 million extension Sanchez signed in 2012 was a price too steep to pay for a quarterback that wasn’t the main reason why the Jets were successful. Before the extension, Sanchez had completed 55.3 percent of his passes for 55 touchdowns and 51 interceptions.

“Because we started this big contract, all of a sudden I’m going to lose guys and now I’m really upset,” Westhoff said. “[Then-general manager] Mike Tannenbaum came by my office one day, I said, ‘Mike, why would you give Mark Sanchez this big new contract?’ He said, ‘Well that’s what a championship-game quarterback is paid.’ I said, ‘Well if he had anything to do with us getting there, I probably would agree with you. But for crying out loud, he had nothing to do with us getting there.’

“We led the league in rushing, we were really good on defense, I had a freaking All-Star team [on special teams] and we had an offensive line that was tough as nails.”

Shortly after Sanchez signed the extension, the Jets also traded for Tim Tebow, but Westoff said they never gave him a fair shot to be used in the right way — which Westhoff believed was in the Wildcat formation.

Mike Westhoff
Mike WesthoffAnthony J. Causi

“Tony [Sparano] didn’t want to do it as an offensive coordinator,” Westhoff said. “Next thing you know, Tim had kind of bulked himself up. He got heavier. He can’t throw anyway, we all know that, so quit trying to make him a throwing quarterback, it’s not going to happen. It just didn’t happen. But he could run the football. As a Wildcat guy, I thought there’d be a place for him. It didn’t materialize.

“If we had him in that role that he was really prepared for — I think that was really a misnomer on our part. We never even did give him a chance at all. … He kept his end of the bargain. I don’t think the New York Jets kept their end.”

As for the current state of the 0-8 Jets, Westhoff said sweeping changes are needed to turn the franchise around.

“I’ll be a little bit harsh, I’d bring the exterminator into that building and I’m going to clean that place up,” he said. “I’m talking about people that don’t think they’re gone, they’re gone, because I just think it’s a mess. Really, I was so proud of my time in New York. … It was a tremendous time. Now, I see it’s like a joke, and it’s been a joke since I left.

“I would make an absolutely dramatic move and make changes all over that place and start from scratch.”


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