Despite Having The Homerun Threat of Brad Smith, Mike Tannenbaum Was On Board For The New NFL Kickoff Rule Change

March 25, 2011 – 7:30 am by Steven Cuce

Much of the talk this week in the NFL has to deal with the owners and competition committee coming together to vote on changing the kickoff and instant replay rules. While the media and fans have supported the change of the instant replay rule where officials will now review all scoring plays, most people have not been supportive of the new kickoff rule. Kickoffs will now be moved from the 30 to the 35-yard line and one would think most teams with a lethal returning threat in the NFL would be displeased about the new rule change. It makes a touchback for a kicker virtually a guarantee on most kickoffs. The vote to change the kickoffs went 26-6 in favor of a change with the Bears, Bengals, Browns, Jaguars, Eagles and Raiders voting against it.

What’s surprising to see is that the New York Jets weren’t one the teams who voted against the new kickoff change. The Jets have a lethal return man in Brad Smith, who has spoken out on his displeasure of the new rule change along with a plethora of other home-run threats like Devin Hester, Leon Washington and Josh Cribbs.

Mike Tannenbaum believes the rule change doesn’t really change the Jets game plan at all actually. He believes it will aid ”from a covering standpoint,” putting more teams at the 20-yard line. Tannenbaum cannot confidentally say special teams coach Mike Westhoff was a big fan of the rule, but at the end of the day it doesn’t matter what his kick returner or coaches think of the rule because it’s not changing anytime soon.

Mike Tannenbaum joined the Michael Kay Show on ESPN New York to discuss the new kickoff rule instituted by the NFL owners’ and competition committee, if the NFL game changing now with the new kickoff rule, did special teams coach Mike Westhoff want this new rule change on the kickoff, is he going nuts during the NFL lockout and his thoughts regarding his head coach Rex Ryan once again guaranteeing the New York Jets will win the Super Bowl next year.

Do you like this new kickoff rule?

“We do. We supported it. We did for a few reasons. First, player safety is always paramount to us. As you would think there should be more touchbacks, therefore fewer kickoffs, but with that said it still leaves really exciting play in the game cause there won’t be all touchbacks. Certainly as the year goes on in the northeast I would expect they’ll be fewer touchbacks as the year goes on. But for the course of the season there should be a few less. To look at it one way is obviously you have a good kicker returner, Brad Smith, and certainly that’s a factor, but the other side of it to is Coach [Rex] Ryan is a defensive coach hopefully from a covering standpoint we’ll put more teams at the 20 [yard line].”

Football is naturally a violent game. Players sign up knowing how dangerous it is and the consequences. Fans want that violence. Now by altering the kickoff rule it’s changing the landscape of the game and the contact sport that it is. Why was it changed? Are you changing the game?

“Yeah I understand your point. It’s a fair point. It’s a fair one. It’s an exciting game. Obviously it’s very a physical game. I don’t think that’s going to change, but with that said if we can take responsible steps along the way to make it safer and still exciting we have that responsibilty and as the commissioner has said we set the example for a lot of levels of football. We want to make it safe, fun, and exciting. In a rule change like this I think it was a very balanced approach where we can make it safer, but we can still make it exciting. I still think you’re going to see a great brand of football out there with some changes that will help our players.”

Did Mike Westhoff want this? Doesn’t this new rule take away from his genius and scheme?

“Yeah, you know Coach Westhoff we got history back as well and we made what we thought was the best decision for the team. He’s a great coach. He’s done a great job. Again this does not eliminate the kickoff or kickoff return. It’s a tweak of a rule and his impact will still be felt.”

Are you going nuts with this NFL lockout?

“Well you know I’m a glass is half-full guy. I really try to work on the things we can control. I’m still around Rex Ryan and Woody Johnson every day. We’re working on the draft. That’s really the focus of where we are. I just worry about the things we can control. I’m optimistic there’s going to be football this year. I’m sure there will be an agreement at some point and when they [NFL] say to go, we gotta be ready to go. That’s my job as the GM of the team. Right now our focus is really on the draft. When they say to go, we’ll go.”

Rex Ryan guarenteed that his team would win the Super Bowl again. How can he do that if he has no idea what his team will look like or any other opposing teams will look like during the lockout going into next season?

“You know that’s Rex at his purest. He… That’s him. He believes in his heart of hearts that we have a great organization, a great team, a great coaching staff and sure the team will be tweaked and changed like it is every year in professional football guys you know that as well as we do. He’s a very confident guy. He’s very proud. You know as you said our facilities were built for a Super Bowl, our stadium was, and he’s just speaking from the heart. That’s who he is.”

Listen to Mike Tannenbaum on 1050 ESPN New York here

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