Special Teams Coordinator Thomas McGaughey
December 18, 2020
Q: Some of the struggles you guys have had in punt coverage lately. Is that partially due to Riley (Dixon) not being as consistent in his ball placement as he was earlier?
A: It’s a little bit of everything. It’s not just Riley, he ain’t out there by himself. Obviously, it starts with our specialists, with our kick. Regardless of the kind of punt that we get, we have to be able to cover it. Obviously, when there is a hang to distance issue. We out kick the coverage and it’s not where the ball is supposed to be, that causes some issues. Riley is going to get better at it. We’ll continue to coach it better and find ways to work around those situations when they occur.
Q: With Jabrill (Peppers) on the returns, do you tell him to secure the ball wherever it is and we’ll live with it. I ask that only because, I believe it was one of the Philly games that stuck out to me and another one more recently. There seems to be a little bit of room for him to run or conversely perhaps you could have gotten the touchback.
A: It’s a decision thing for him. I know a couple of those Philly returns, if you watch his reaction after he catches the ball, he knows he left a little meat on the bone. Conversely, with those other situations, it’s a just a judgment deal. Those things happen really quick. We always tell our guys not to chase plays. Let the play come to you. When you start to press and you start to chase things, you make mistakes. That’s what we don’t want to have. The one thing we know about punt return, everybody knows who’s getting the ball back. That’s the most important thing. We’re getting the ball back to the offense. If we can get it back with a first down, that’s great. The most important thing is getting the ball back.
Q: You have worked for a lot of different coaches. I’m sure some are more or less involved in what you do, the special teams aspect of it. Is that true and also where does Joe (Judge) fit on that radar because of his experience? In a situation like this, the last few weeks, do you see him getting more involved?
A: He’s been involved from the beginning. This is the most I have ever had a head coach involved but that’s to be expected. That’s what he did his whole career and there is no issue there. We have a great working relationship. For me, it’s really refreshing to be able to have conversations with a head coach that knows exactly what you’re thinking. The situations, he’s been there before, and he knows how to work to and through those situations. It’s been a great situation. A great learning experience for me because I get to learn another system. It’s been really good for me as a coach.
Q: Is it more so now in the past two or three weeks? Maybe him saying I need to look a little bit more.
A: No, it’s been the same since Week 1. He’s been heavily involved since Week 1. Rightfully so, he’s the head coach, he should be involved. It’s been good.
Q: Have there been times with the head coach where really that’s your baby. I’ve seen head coaches BS’ing on the side when special teams is going on. Has that been the case with you some of the times in the past?
A: Absolutely, I’ve definitely been around coaches that could care less about it. I’ve been around more coaches that have really always put it to the forefront as far as talking to the team about it. Trust me, I’ve been on both sides of the coin.
Q: Is Dante (Pettis) ever going to play or is his playing on special teams mean he has to be a receiver too?
A: That’s above my paygrade. I don’t make those decisions on who plays and doesn’t play. Dante is here, he’s working. We have a good receiver group. Again, when he gets his opportunity, I’m sure he’ll take advantage of it.
Q: It looks like Dion (Lewis) has had some struggles the last couple of weeks or so. Are they kicking off differently, are they approaching the kickoffs differently? Doing something that maybe not fitting what Dion can do?
A: No, it’s a combination of the whole unit, it’s not just Dion. He’s not out there by himself, there’s 10 other guys that are out there trying to execute. That’s the issue that we’re having, just the execution part. We’ve been talking about to the guys for the last couple of weeks. We have to do a better job executing on the field and we have to do a better job as coaches making sure we put them in the right place to where they can make plays and they can execute. As a unit and as a group, we have to do a better job overall.
Q: It looks like you are going to have a new gunner this week I would think. How hard has that been? You lost Cody Core who is really an outstanding gunner for you. It seems like it’s been a struggle to find a replacement to be as consistent as he has been. How’s that been going for you?
A: Any time you lose a good player, you just hope that the next guy that comes in is ready to step up. Obviously, there is always levels to the guys’ skill level. It’s difficult, but that’s football. That’s my job as a special teams coach to make sure that we get the next guy ready and we have a line of guys. You’re going to have guys that get injured, that’s part of it. The next guy has to step up and the next guy has to do the job.
Q: This is the first time that we know of that COVID-19 hit the coaching staff. I’m wondering from a human point of view, what was your reaction Tuesday night? Did you isolate in your office when you found out about Jason’s (Garett) positive test? Did you think to yourself, how much time was I around him? Did you worry that you might have it? What went through your mind when you found out COVID-19 hit the coaching staff?
A: We’re all around each other all the time. That’s the scary thing about this virus. We try to do our best at spacing out. We’re always around each other. Me, Jason, Pat (Graham) and Joe are always in coordinator meetings together. It’s scary, the whole thing is scary. You never know. I might touch a doorknob or push a button in a elevator or go into my car. Somebody could have touched the door handle to my car, I don’t know. You go to the grocery store, you just don’t know. That’s the scary part of this whole situation. You try to control what you can control. Pray that everything works itself out.
Q: How can Joe Webb help you specifically on special teams. Joe (Judge) was telling us he is in three different meeting rooms but obviously can contribute on special teams. How exactly can he help you if he plays?
A: Like I told you guys a couple weeks ago, Joe is a swiss army knife. He can do a lot of different jobs very well. He can do a whole lot of things. He can do almost anything he wants to do on the football field. I just haven’t seen him play O-line or D-line. Joe is a really good football player. He fills a lot of holes. His energy, his passion and his experience, when you have all those things and have those tickets punched. That’s the thing that helps you. Especially in this time because you just don’t know. It could be anything at any point in time, you could lose a guy and Joe is a guy that can hop right in and do a lots of jobs.