Getting away from Mike Westhoff proved to be the best move for Steve Weatherford.
As the Giants punter readies for his first Super Bowl in what he believes has been his best season of his career, Weatherford said on Tuesday that joining forces with Giants special teams coach Tom Quinn has taken him to the next level. The Giants punter didn't talk highly of his former special teams coach either.
"I think a lot of it has to do with playing for Tom Quinn, being comfortable, being confident and being strong. I think playing for the Jets and playing for that positional coach (Westhoff) was draining, I thought it was difficult, was physically taxing," Weatherford said on Tuesday. "Quinn lets me play to my strengths. I'm an effective directional punter and he loves that, coach (Tom) Coughlin loves that, and they let me play to my strengths. I think it's benefited myself and I think it's benefited the team and it's worked for us so I don't think we're going to change it."
After two successful seasons with the Jets, in which he made the AFC Championship Game with the team in both seasons, the Jets did not re-sign Weatherford and he eventually landed with the Giants on a one-year deal.
Leading into the first game of the season, Westhoff ripped his former punter, saying he was very happy with certain things and very disappointed with other aspects of Weatherford's game. He called out the punter for being 23rd in punting average, at 42.6 yards per punt, and for a bad punt against the Patriots.
"I was disappointed in some of the poor performances that he had at the end of the year," Westhoff said in September about Weatherford. "It wasn't very good. You were there. You were up in New England (Weatherford hit a 12-yard punt in a 45-3 loss)? The ball went straight out (of bounds). ... There were times when he just didn't do the job. I was looking to get better than what he did at that point in time. ... Wasn't good enough, in my opinion. It wasn't. I don't want to be 23rd in the NFL. That's where he was."
This season, Weatherford had the best season of his career by averaging career-high numbers in punt average as well as net average. He averaged 45.7 yards per punt and 39.2 net average on his punts and also had 25 punts downed with the 20-yard line.
He was especially clutch against San Francisco on Sunday. Matched up with arguably the best punter in the league in Andy Lee, Weatherford averaged 46.4 yards per punt on 12 kicks and was able to down two inside the 20-yard line.
"That's the worst statement of the year by any coach in this game," kicker Lawrence Tynes said about Westhoff's comments. "That guy, how could you say that? He just broke an NFL record for your team and you throw him under the bus. We're glad to have him. Mike Westhoff is a great coach but I certainly think he missed on that one."
Not surprisingly, Weatherford said he has not talked to Westhoff since the coach ripped him earlier this year, not even speaking when the two teams met on Dec. 24. The punter did, though, show some sympathy to his former teammates on the Jets who are undergoing a rough offseason after missing the playoffs for the first time in three years.
"I still have a lot of close friends on the Jets and I feel terrible for what they're going through right now because coach (Rex) Ryan was great to me, Mike Tannenbaum was great to me, Woody (Johnson) was great to me, but I'm a Giant now and believe me, I'm very thankful to be that way," Weatherford said.