Mike Westhoff

NFC Notes: Seahawks, Carroll, Foster, Saints

Appearing on Dave Dameshek’s podcast, Cliff Avril said that following the Seahawks‘ loss to the Patriots in Super Bowl XLIX, Pete Carroll started losing the trust of his players. The former Seattle defensive end said “a lot of guys got turned off” when the head coach opted for a potential game-winning pass instead of handing the ball to Marshawn Lynch.

Of course, we know what happened next. With the ball at the one-yard line, quarterback Russell Wilson ended up throwing a game-deciding interception to New England cornerback Malcolm Butler.

“If we win that Super Bowl I think we would have won another one,” Avril said (via Michael David Smith of ProFootballTalk.com). “I do think the team would have bought in more to what Coach Carroll was saying, instead of going the opposite way.

“Guys started kind of questioning him more instead of following his lead if we had won the Super Bowl.”

The Seahawks ended up losing in the divisional round during the 2015 and 2016 playoffs, and they failed to make the postseason in 2017. The team ultimately let go of a number of veterans this offseason.

Let’s take a look at some more notes from around the NFC…

  • Seahawks linebacker Bobby Wagner has left Athletes First and is without an agent, reports Liz Mullen SportsBusiness Daily (via Twitter). Wagner signed a four-year, $43MM extension (about $22MM guaranteed) with the Seahawks back in 2016, and he still has two years remaining on that deal.
  • According to Tuscaloosa County District Attorney Hays Webb, 49ers linebacker Reuben Foster had “several months of clean drug screen results” during his pre-trial diversion program (via the San Francisco Chronicle’s Eric Branch on Twitter). Foster ultimately completed the program. In this past week, Foster has seen both of his offseason arrests lead to dismissed cases. Yesterday, the former first-rounder had a misdemeanor marijuana possession charge dismissed, and we learned earlier this week that he wouldn’t be charged in a domestic violence case.
  • The Saints are still hoping that special teams coach Mike Westhoff will return to the organization after he successfully completes recovery from offseason surgery, according to Josh Katzenstein of NOLA.com. The 70-year-old underwent surgery for “an issue from his hip all the way down his leg,” and he’s yet to return to New Orleans. Sean Payton had previously expressed some optimism in Westhoff’s return, but he also said he didn’t expect the coach to come back until training camp. After retiring in 2012, Payton convinced Westhoff to return to the NFL towards the end of last season.

Saints Notes: Fairley, Kelemete, Kuhn, Line

After missing the entire 2017 season as a result of a heart ailment, free agent defensive tackle Nick Fairley wants to play during the upcoming campaign, tweets Nick Underhill of the Advocate. The Saints, who inked Fairley to a four-year deal last offseason but released him last month, are not expected to be involved in a potential Fairley pursuit, per Underhill. Fairley was an excellent interior defender at full strength, but it’s unclear if any NFL club would be willing to bet on his health. Indeed, Fairley hasn’t been medically cleared to play, as Underhill tweets, so a return to the league seems unlikely.

Here’s more from New Orleans:

  • Free agent offensive lineman Senio Kelemete is experiencing a “healthy market,” according to Josh Katzenstein of the Advocate, and while the Saints will likely be interested in retaining him, any reunion will be based on cost. New Orleans isn’t likely to offer Kelemete a chance to start, as the club is set with Terron Armstead, Andrus Peat, Max Unger, Larry Warford, and Ryan Ramczyk from left to right. Kelemete’s versatility and ability to play nearly every position on the line is his key asset, but he’d surely prefer a starting job to a reserve role.
  • The Saints and free agent fullback John Kuhn have mutual interest in a return, sources tell Herbie Teope of NOLA.com. Kuhn, who was sidelined for the majority of the 2017 campaign after suffering a biceps injury, is currently considering whether he’ll continue his playing career or enter the coaching ranks, per Teope. Fellow Saints fullback Zach Line, who appeared in 12 games for New Orleans following Kuhn’s injury, is drawing interest around the league, reports Katzenstein, but the Saints have interest in retaining him, as well.
  • Saints assistant general manager Jeff Ireland orchestrated arguably the NFL’s best draft class last spring, and he’d like to become a primary decision-maker again in the future, as Underhill writes. “Absolutely, why wouldn’t it be?” Ireland said when asked if getting a second GM job is his goal. “I’m not in a hurry. I told myself when I got to New Orleans I was going to help this team build. I’d really have to think twice about leaving the New Orleans Saints before we won a Super Bowl.” Ireland previously served as the Dolphins’ general manager from 2008-13, and the club posted a 46-50 record under his lead.
  • Although he hasn’t expressed a willingness to accept a full-time position, the Saints would like to have special teams consultant Mike Westhoff return next season, according to Katzenstein. Westhoff is currently recovering a surgical operation which could limit his availability, but New Orleans is willing to allow the 70-year-old a varied schedule. He wouldn’t be accepting the lead special teams coach role, as the Saints intend to retain Bradford Banta (primary ST coach) and Kevin O’Dea (assistant).

NFC Notes: Panthers, Cards, Lions, Falcons

Although rookie wideout Curtis Samuel is done for the season after suffering an ankle injury, the Panthers have not made contact with old friend Corey Brown, according to Joe Person of the Charlotte Observer (Twitter link). Brown has enjoyed two separate stints with the Bills this season, but he’s yet to actually see the field. The 25-year-old spent the 2014-16 campaigns in Carolina, averaging 26 receptions, 340 yards, and two touchdowns during that time. However, Person suggested on Monday that the Panthers will fill their wide receiver vacancy from within.

Here’s more from the NFC:

  • Cardinals defensive tackle Corey Peters has a high ankle sprain and will be sidelined for “awhile,” head coach Bruce Arians told reporters, including Kent Somers of the Arizona Republic (Twitter link). High ankle sprains are typically four-to-six weeks injuries, which means Peters will be a candidate for injured reserve, especially since Arizona isn’t in the playoff hunt. Peters, 29, has played the second-most snaps among Cardinals defensive lineman this season, so his absence will certainly be felt. Backups Robert Nkemdiche, Rodney Gunter, Olsen Pierre, and Xavier Williams could now be line for more action.
  • The Lions are now paying practice squad tight end Hakeem Valles at the active roster rate ($32K per week), reports Field Yates of ESPN.com (Twitter link). That’s because the Cardinals recently attempted to poach Valles when they lost fellow tight end Ifeanyi Momah for the remainder of the season, tweets Ian Rapoport of NFL.com. Valles, who entered the league as an undrafted free agent out of Monmouth in 2016, spent the 2016 campaign with Arizona, appearing in 11 games (one start) for the club). Detroit, meanwhile, currently has three tight ends on its 53-man roster: Eric Ebron, Darren Fells, and Michael Roberts.
  • Before he decided to sign with the Saints, running back Jonathan Williams was also offered a contract by the Falcons, New Orleans head coach Sean Payton told reporters, including Josh Katzenstein of the Times-Picayune (Twitter link). Williams had been earning $30K weekly (nearly an active roster rate) while on the Broncos’ practice squad, but he jumped at the chance to be placed on the Saints’ 53-man squad. Atlanta needed another running back while Devonta Freeman deals with a concussion, and it ultimately signed Terrence Magee of the Browns’ taxi squad.
  • New Saints special teams assistant Mike Westhoff wasn’t looking to get back into coaching, but New Orleans presented him with an appealing opportunity. “I don’t want to regret something I didn’t try,” he told Brian Costello of the New York Post (Twitter link). Westhoff added his new role isn’t a long-term gig, and he’ll only coach for this season. The Saints have struggled on special teams for the past two-plus years, a track record that forced the club to hire a new ST coach (Brad Banta) this offseason. However, New Orleans ranks 27th in special teams DVOA through 10 weeks.

Saints Add Mike Westhoff To Staff

The Saints are beefing up their coaching staff midway through the season. Special teams guru Mike Westhoff is joining New Orleans on the sideline, according to Jason La Canfora of CBSSports.com (Twitter link). Mike Westhoff (vertical)

The Saints currently have Bradford Banta as their Special Teams Coordinator with Kevin O’Dea and Deuce Schwartz as his top assistant. It’s not immediately clear if any of those three men will be displaced by Westhoff’s arrival or whether they will now be reporting to him.

Westhoff, 69, has built a reputation over the years as one of the league’s most knowledgeable special teams coaches. After serving as the Dolphins’ special teams and tight ends coach from 1986-2000, he joined the Jets in 2001. He retired after the 2012 season, but the coaching itch apparently has not subsided.

The Saints are atop the NFC South with a 7-2 record. Next up for New Orleans is a home contest against the Redskins on Sunday.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.