Special Teams Coordinator Thomas McGaughey
November 5, 2020
Q: You’re probably the only staff in the NFL with three guys on it who were or are special teams coordinators. What does that brain power do? Does it allow you as a staff to do some different things? Your stuff last week with the putting pressure on the punter and not putting a guy back. What is that like, that whole synergy, with three guys who were coordinators you can kind of bounce things off of?
A: It’s a ton of experience here in the building. When we sit down to game plan, it’s a collaborative effort. We sit down and try and find ways to give us an edge as a group. Being able to have all the different experience and knowledge in the building, obviously that’s a benefit. At the end of the day, we all come together, we make a decision. Once we make the decision, we go on the field and we try to go execute. That’s the bottom line. It is good having all that experience in the building for sure.
Q: Do you find yourself interacting with Joe as the head coach more than you have done in the past with other head coaches who didn’t have that special teams background?
A: Absolutely. It’s definitely been a different experience for me as far as being a coordinator. Having a head coach who has been a coordinator before, I’ve had that experience before. Coach (Dick) Vermeil, I was a young coach and coach Vermeil was obviously an older veteran coach at the time. Being able to talk to your head coach and he understands exactly what’s going on. How to attack it or what’s the issue, what’s the problem or with the 46-man roster. All those things that go into being a special teams coordinator, all the nuances of the job. It’s excellent having him as a head coach.
Q: You guys claimed Dante Pettis yesterday. I know he’s not going to be in the building for a while. What did you see from him as a special teamer coming out of college?
A: Dante Pettis was one of the best punt returners in the history of college football. He had, I think, it’s nine punt returns for touchdown. Obviously, he’s had some success in the past. Hopefully, once he gets here, we’ll find out what his skill set is, what he can do. Find his strengths and try to play to that.
Q: On those punts last week where you had 11 guys up. Obviously, you are trying to block it. What’s sort of the overarching goal there? What are you looking for?
A: Just to pressure the operation. If we block it, then that’s gravy. Any time you can put pressure on the punter, that’s what you want to do. That was what we decided to do. Came up, not short but you wished you could’ve blocked it. We had a good net result of it, a 33-yard punt, so it was definitely beneficial.
Q: How much did the wind play a factor? It didn’t seem like either punter was really booming the ball. Does that play into it too?
A: The wind wasn’t a strong factor. We were actually anticipating 30 to 40 mile an hour winds. During the day, it was blowing really strong. Once we got into the stadium, it was non-existent. It was still a little cool out there and obviously the ball is not going to fly as far as it normally does in 70 or 80 degree weather. It was a little different for Bradley (Pinion). We just pressured him and came up a little short.
Q: It looked like you had a new kickoff returner. What did you think? He had a couple pretty good returns. That seemed to me to be the way he earned himself more opportunities there.
A: Dion (Lewis) has done it before in the past. He’s an experienced guy, he’s scored touchdowns before in the past. I think it was a combination of our guys up front blocking better and just him understanding where to fit and where he needs to go. Dion is fearless, so he is going to hit it hard, straight, and fast. We got a good result, we got a couple good results.
Q: Why make that change now? What was the thinking behind it? You obviously had him the whole time as an option.
A: It was more of a situational deal. We were anticipating the wind and all that different stuff. We just threw him back there just to see if we could make some plays and it worked.
Q: I know playing Washington for a second time in a couple weeks. Offensively, defensively we would think familiarity with both teams, maybe you look to throw some wrinkles. From your perspective, can you guys do anything differently? Are there things you may have noticed in the first game and you think we can kind of attack them a little differently now? How does that work from your perspective? Does that familiarity with the units help?
A: That’s from week to week. The tightness of the time is a little different. There’s always a wrinkle here or a wrinkle there. Something that you can do differently than what you did the last time. The most important thing is just us. It’s not about them, it’s more about us and what we do and how we do it. We talk to our players about that all the time. Just the fundamentals of the techniques and the execution of the scheme. That’s our main priority. Obviously, we’re playing Washington, but we’ll probably focus a little bit more on what we do and how we do it.
Q: Not to belabor the punt block thing. Is that just as simple as maybe you see possible weaknesses you can exploit in that specific opponent? That’s an opponent specific strategy?
A: When you look at that tape and you look at certain people across the league, again this is a people league. When you think you can take advantage of a situation or you think you can put pressure on a punter, it might be situationally, conditions, it could be very windy. Is it a situation where he’s going to have trouble handling the ball? Could the ball move? All those different things play into it. It’s not just a certain guy, it could be a plethora of things that go into game planning. When we go in, we take all those things into consideration. Once we come up with a plan, we just try and go execute.
Q: Obviously, it was a good return by Dion (Lewis), but if he kicked it outside it looked like he might have been able to score. Would you coach that point hard to a veteran the same way you would a kid?
A: I don’t have that ball in my hand. I can play coach on Monday or Tuesday when we come in and watch the tape. At that point in time, he has the ball in his hands. We put him back there because we trust him. When you get the ball in your hand and you make an instinctual play, obviously, we can go back and re-wind the tape and say, ‘hey look, you should’ve cut over here.’ He knows the same thing. He said it to me when he came in on Tuesday. I never tell those guys… they know where the play is designed to go, but if they make an instinctual play, then that’s on them.