Special Teams Coordinator Thomas McGaughey
August 5, 2021
Q: Coach, the impact on special teams of losing (Tight End) Levine Toilolo. How much of an impact is that?
A: Leadership. Levine is a great man and shows up every day ready to work. The leadership he provides, being that quiet leadership, guys follow him by example, him working his tail off every day and just his presence in the room. When you lose a guy, it’s hard to replace the leadership part of it, but he’s a great man. He works his tail off. He’ll get back. Once he’s healthy, he’ll get back. He’s a good man.
Q: Coach, what have you seen from (Wide Receiver) C.J. Board? I know last year he played some gunner for you and contributed on special teams. What has he shown you this year so far?
A: Speed. C.J. is getting better and I’m excited for him and the opportunity that he has out in front of him to compete every day and get out here with these guys. He’s done a real good job, so I look forward to watching him in the preseason and see how he progresses.
Q: From the outside looking in, when you look at the gunner position, some of us think, ‘This guy’s got speed, just put him at gunner and make it work.’ Tell me why there’s more to that position than just the guy’s fast?
A: It’s a great question. At that position, you have to have -- obviously, the first thing is speed, you have to have some savvy at the line of scrimmage because a lot of times you’re getting double-boxed. When you get an opportunity to put that speed on the field, use it, and obviously you have to be able to tackle in space. All these guys are working at it, they’re all getting reps. Our guys (Assistant Linebackers Coach/Special Teams Assistant Anthony) Blevins and (Defensive Backs Coach) Jerome (Henderson) and (Assistant Defensive Backs Coach) Mike Treier, all these guys are working with these gunners and they’re doing a heck of a job of bringing them along. The maturation process of a gunner is not easy. It’s not just speed – speed helps, but what happens when they get a good jump? What happens when they trap you? What happens if a guy gets his hands on you? What’re you going to do? We’re working on all those things and getting better at them and making sure that C.J. and all the rest of the guys get better every day.
Q: You were able to self-assess, I’m sure, after last season and into the offseason. When you look at the special teams units as a whole, what are you saying, ‘Okay, this year we need to do X better. We really need to improve in this area’?
A: Consistent. Just be more consistent overall and that’s what this thing is all about. When you go out on the field and you know what you’re going to get, you feel a lot better as a coach. When you know I’m going to get X, Y and Z from this group and I’m going to get X, Y and Z from that group, you feel a lot better. And, to me, the consistency part is the most important.
Q: How do you get that because you have such a revolving door of players in those regards?
A: And it’s hard. You want to be as consistent as you can possibly be. It’s no different O-line, D-line or offense and defense, right? You want to have consistent people in the same spots all the time, but we all know that doesn’t happen in special teams, right? So, you want to be consistent in how you teach and you want to be consistent in how you drill so when the next guy has to step up it’s the same thing.
Q: The other day, (Safety) Jabrill (Peppers) was talking about fielding punts and (Wide Receiver) John Ross (III) was back there, and he said about John Ross, ‘He was there and then he wasn’t.’ That’s him, right? If he can be there and then not there, that’s going to benefit the team.
A: That’s a good trait to have. Speed is always good. John Ross is a very fast human being. I don’t think I’ve ever been around a guy that fast. But it’s good to have all those guys. Man, the depth at that spot at the returner position, it’s a fun thing.
Q: Can he be an explosive returner?
A: We’ll find out here today. We’ll find out here in a minute. I’m excited for him, the opportunity that he has and we’ve got a bunch of guys back there we’re confident in.
Q: How about (Wide Receiver) Kadarius (Toney)? You see him having a spot with you guys?
A: Kadarius is just like all the rest of these rookies, he’s gotta earn his way. He’s no different than a rookie free agent out of Georgia Southern, (DL Raymond Johnson III). I mean, he’s gotta earn his way, he’s gotta earn our trust, he’s gotta earn his teammates’ trust and that’s just the reality of the situation because nobody comes in here and is given anything. You’re going to earn everything you get.
Q: What intrigues you or excites you about him as a returner?
A: We all saw the tape about the kid. We’ve seen it. He has speed, he has quickness, all those things, but this ain’t the Swamp. This is the Meadowlands.
Q: You talked about earning trust way back in the spring. Has he made strides in doing that?
A: Well, all of the rookies are trying. They’re all attempting to make those strides. But you want to see it in the meetings, you want to see it on the practice field, but ultimately it’s going to be there, it’s going to be right there in that stadium when the lights are shining the brightest to see what they do. To us, the practice part of it is the most important thing that we do, but obviously game day is going to make the deciding factor to us as coaches when we look at it.
Q: Thomas, you know what you’re getting with Jabrill as a returner. How much do you have to balance how much he does for the team versus keep on running him out there?
A: Jabrill is a football player and he’s one of those guys that if you take things away from him, it takes away from him as a player. The more you give him, the better he is. I think if you put Jabrill at tailback, it wouldn’t matter. He’s just a football player. You put him in any position and you trust him because you know he’s going to give his best, he’s going to work his tail off and he’s going to be a great teammate. He’s going to bring the energy, he’s going to bring the juice and when it’s time to make a play he’s going to be looking to make one regardless of if it’s hands team, if it’s onside kick, if it’s third-and-three. Whatever it is, in any package he’s going to be looking to make a play.
Q: Thomas, how do rookies earn your trust?
A: Being consistent, being coachable, being able to execute when called upon because a lot of times rookies don’t get a lot of reps, especially some of those down the line guys. When you put them in there, put them in the game, they step up and they make a play, that’s how they earn trust.
Q: After the offseason, the first time you looked at (Defensive Coordinator) Patrick (Graham), did you do a double-take or anything, like where did he go?
A: That’s a good question. He’s worked his tail off and I’m happy for him to be able to lose that weight. He lost it and I found it, you know? But I’m happy for Pat.
Q: T-Mac, I don’t know if you saw this article, but there was an article about why special teams coaches make good head coaches. I’m just wondering, have you seen an increase in your responsibility and your contributions given that you basically do have your hands in working with offensive line, the receivers and a variety of positions? Do you actually see an increase in what you contribute to the meetings and with the feedback?
A: My job hasn’t changed. The situation with being a head coach in the league and all of that stuff, I just focus on the Giants. I focus on whatever my responsibilities are given and I’ve always found in this league that if I take care of the job that I have, the next job will jump in my lap, you know what I’m saying? Every one I’ve ever chased I’ve never gotten, but the ones that I always get just kind of jump in my lap because I’m just going to focus on what my job is. I’m not trying to do any more or any less. I just want to do my job and make sure our guys are getting the best coaching they can possibly get and that’s it.
Q: How does John Ross compare to some of the fastest returners you’ve ever seen or coached?
A: He’s fast. Just put it this way, he is right at the top of the list. He has what we call ‘who-eee’ speed, but it’s fun to watch in practice. When he gets his opportunity to get out there and go play, I look forward to watching him.
Q: We know (Running Back) Gary Brightwell was drafted with an eye on special teams. Where does he fit in in your mind?
A: Teams, as a backup running back, and he has to find his role on this team. He understands why he was brought in here and he knows that. He knows we’ve got 26 back there and he’s just trying to find his way like all the rest. It’s our job as coaches to make sure they figure it out, so we’re just trying to push him along and have him understand what he needs to do to help this football team take the next step.
Q: T-Mac, as someone with a preexisting condition, did you make any kind of impassioned plea to the players over the previous month or so about the vaccine or does anything make you uncomfortable about it?
A: There’s so many different things about the vaccine and I’m not getting all into it, but it is what it is. The situation is what it is. I control what I can control, what I put in my body, where I am on a daily basis. I take a lot of supplements to try and counteract some of this stuff, so I concern myself with me. I just try and take care of me because I’ve had a whole bunch of other things, preexisting conditions. I just try and do the best I can taking care of my health and if anything happens, that’s life.
Q: You feeling good though? Everything positive in regards to check-ups and stuff?
A: I’m great. Had a checkup probably (a few) weeks ago and everything is good, so I can’t complain. Got a clean bill of health and just trying to stay healthy and make it on through the year, trying to get better every day.