Special Teams Coordinator Thomas McGaughey
September 10, 2020
Q: Peppers was named a special teams captain. Is he going to going to be involved with the punt return game a lot this year?
A: Pep being named a special teams captain is an all-encompassing thing. He’s involved in all phases of special teams. Whether it be a primary or a backup. The reason why he was named a captain is because of his leadership ability, how he works every day and who he is as a person. Yes, is he is going to be involved heavily.
Q: I think we asked you a little bit about this last week about using starters in those roles. It seems like this coaching staff isn’t going to shy away from that. Putting guys who are on the field for normal first, second and third downs on there for fourth downs.
A: Yeah, that’s what it is. When you look at the history of this organization and where Joe was raised, Bill Belichick coached special teams here and on the punt team was a guy named Lawrence Taylor. If a guy named Lawrence Taylor, who is arguably the greatest football player of all time, at least on the defensive side, can play on special teams, it’s a part of playing the game, it’s a part of winning. You want to put your best foot forward every phase. You just don’t want to spend your time in one phase or the other. That’s not how this game is played. It’s a complementary game. You have to play complementary football. The only way you are going to do that is you have to play all three phases and play your best players in those phases.
Q: Is there an advantage to rotating or changing up returners on punt return or kickoff return? In an ideal world, would you rather have the same guy doing that consistently?
A: I think consistency is key in anything. Obviously, you would like to have a guy perform at a high level and doing it all the time. Like I talked to you guys before, my job is to adjust. Whoever is back there, whoever is the guy that’s best for that week, that’s the guy that we go with.
Q: We haven’t really talked to you about Graham Gano and there were no preseason games. I’m curious what you saw from him in camp? Does he look kind of back to pre-injury form?
A: He looks exactly the way I remember him. He had a great year last time I was with him. Nothing has changed with Graham, he is getting back into his groove. He’s enjoying himself. He is just acclimating himself to the building and how we operate here. I’m looking forward to great things from Graham.
Q: I have a big picture question that I should have asked before game week. Seeing Joe, a special teams coordinator, get a head coaching position, I’m sure you have aspirations down the road. Does that serve as an inspiration to you? What does it mean to you to see a special teams coordinator get this job?
A: It’s awesome. Any time you see one of our colleagues, as far as being special teams coordinators, get a job, it’s awesome. It’s been such a great experience for me. I’ve learned more football in the last six months probably than I have learned in the last 10 years. This guy has been outstanding. I can’t wait to see him grow as a coach. I know I’ve said that before, but I can’t reiterate enough, he’s been awesome.
Q: Why do you think more special teams coordinators don’t get tabbed for head job?
A: I think it’s just the stigma of what we do. People think we just coach kickers and punters. They don’t understand that we coach all 53, actually now it’s 69. We coach all positions and all players. There’s no one on the roster, other than the head coach, no one on the staff that’s going to know the roster other than ourselves and the head coach, and the strength coaches because we’re with the guys every day. It’s a business. We just have to make sure when we get these opportunities, we make the best of them.
Q: I know a couple weeks ago we talked when Cody Core got hurt about the importance of gunners. How hard is that, it looks like you guys have been rotating guys through trying to see who can do it. I would imagine there is a skill set involved, it’s not just running down and go make sure the ball gets pinned inside the 10-yard line. Where are you guys with how challenging a position it is to get the right guys to be in that position?
A: That’s part of the evaluation process. We have to put guys out there and see who is going to make plays. The hard part about it is you haven’t been able to cover any live punts. You won’t know until you get out there and see it done live. That’s the hard part of our situation. You just have to make the best of it. We have some good candidates. We just have to see who is going to make plays, that’s it.
Q: I guess the other part of the question for me would be you obviously have guys on the practice squad, you are preparing for situations that may come up. How do you work your week? It’s hard enough I would imagine to get opportunities for your front line guys. How are you keeping guys on the practice squad fresh, ready to go just in case they have to be there on game day and ready to contribute.
A: They’re no different than the guys up on the 53. We’re coaching them all in these situations. These times we’re coaching everybody on a daily basis. When they get scout team reps, those are their team reps, so they have to treat them as such. We rotate the guys through so guys are getting work. We do individual work, we do all kinds of things. That’s part of the process. That’s the era that we’re in right now, that’s the time that we’re in. We’re constantly coaching these guys. That’s part of our jobs as coaches. To continue to try and see who are the best guys out there, who has the most upside and who can make plays for us.
Q: When you talk scout team reps just in terms of the long snapper, Carson is there on the scout team now. If you don’t have another long snapper, I would imagine those reps go to Casey. Does that take away from the reps he normally would get? Is it harder to balance that when you have two guys there?
A: Again, you just have to manage it. We’ve had guys that have been on the practice squad before that are long snappers. They take scout team reps, they take reps on the side, they take our own individual reps. They are with us all day anyway, so they are getting reps. It’s not an issue. We just coach them, we let them get their reps and reps are valuable. They are doing a good job. It’s one of those deals where you keep working, you keep repping. When a situation comes up, you adjust on the fly.
Q: Along the lines of not getting a lot of reps, not getting a lot of live action, you haven’t gotten much in the way of kickoff return either. We looked at the depth chart, the name that jumped out to me is Darnay Holmes. What do you see from him, what makes you think that he can do that job?
A: He’s done it before. The thing about Darnay and all the rest of those guys, we have guys with experience. That’s a good thing for us. We have guys that have done the job before. They are capable of doing the job. We’ll see what happens. You just never know with the flow of the game. If you have been around and watched us the last three years, we put a multitude of guys back there. We rep guys in practice, we rep multiple guys in practice. We’re able to make those adjustments when they come.