As Roberts tightroped along the sideline, eluding tackles, the Jets bench went berserk, with players tossing water into the air. But nobody was more “hysterical,” according to Coach Todd Bowles, than the much-maligned special-teams coordinator, Brant Boyer.
“It was like, ‘Oh, my God,’” Boyer said. “I got the damn monkey off my back.”
The monkey, as it were, has not been kind to Boyer. The Jets’ special teams were led for years by Mike Westhoff, the colorful and innovative assistant who carried an uncanny enthusiasm (some might call it an obsession) for the fine details of a unit with many moving parts. His teams were always among the best in the league. The Jets did not always do a lot of things well, but they knew how to field a punt.
Westhoff retired in 2012 at age 64 (he returned this season as the New Orleans Saints’ special-teams coach). But since his departure, the Jets’ special teams have been an annual source of disappointment and frustration. It was not just the absence of momentum-swinging, highlight-reel plays. It was the poor punts and shallow returns, the frequent miscues.
Two years ago, the unit was ranked last in the league in efficiency by FootballOutsiders.com. In December of that year, Boyer, not even a full season into the job, sounded as if he thought his tenure could be short.
“I want to finish the job that I started,” he said at the time. “I don’t want to get fired.”
A former linebacker for the Miami Dolphins, Jacksonville Jaguars, and Cleveland Browns (where he played under Bowles, an assistant defensive coach), Boyer maintains the intensity he brought as a player. His booming voice can be heard throughout practice. On Thursday, he was sprinting alongside the gunners during a kickoff-return drill, yelling, “Let’s go!” as he ran.