Special Teams Coordinator Thomas McGaughey
Q: Do you get a bonus when your guy gets Special Teams Player of the Week?
A: I haven't seen it yet (laughs). No, I'm happy for (Kicker) Graham (Gano). He's done a good job for us and he's just Graham. He's doing what he does, and he shows up in big spots in big games.
Q: Was he kicking with something a little extra against the Panthers?
A: I'm sure he was, I'm sure he was. I'm sure if he wanted to pick a team to do it against, it would be that one. He did a great job, and he did a great job with all his kicks – kickoffs as well as the field goals. Definitely appreciate his performance on Sunday, for sure.
Q: He has the record for 50-plus field goals in franchise history. How much of a weapon is he when you put him up there from 50-plus yards?
A: He's definitely a bonus. You feel like anytime you cross the 35, you got points. That's a luxury to have and we don't take it for granted, that's for sure. Graham has done a great job and hopefully he'll continue to just keep doing what he's doing and being consistent and being, more than anything, a great leader and a pro. He's greatly appreciated around here.
Q: On most teams, (Chiefs Wide Receiver) Mecole Hardman is the fastest on the team. How dangerous of a punt returner is Mecole?
A: Oh my gosh, you put on the tape and the speed just jumps off the tape. They could probably put a four by one (100) team together and beat half of the college teams around. No, he can fly. He's scary fast. He can stick his foot in the ground, make cuts at full speed and he's a super, super talented guy. We'll have our work cut out for us for sure.
Q: You keep losing returners. Who is next on your list and possibilities?
A: The guys that have played in the game. We've got (Wide Receiver) Dante (Pettis), we've got (Cornerback) Darnay (Holmes), (Wide Receiver) John Ross, we've got some guys. We're not completely dead yet.
Q: John Ross will be the next man up as part of the punt return?
A: No, he won't punt return.
Q: Kick return?
A: Yeah, kick return.
Q: What about punt return?
A: Punt return, it could be Dante, it could be Darnay. We've got a couple guys, so we've got some options back there and we're going to keep working. Depends on how (Wide Receiver Kadarius Toney) KT is with his health. He can definitely be back there. Whoever is up, we'll block for them and we're going to try to make a play.
Q: Whenever a prominent offensive or defensive player is hurt on special teams, what do you think about that? Is it too risky to put a guy in that's important to the defense?
A: You're probably asking the wrong person. You take a risk when you step out in between those white lines. They pay you to play football. They don't say, 'Okay, you can only play this part, but you can't play that part.' It's a game. You get paid to play the game. We're trying to win games and we're going to play the best players. Thing about it is, in this game, you don't know when the game changing play is going to happen, and you don't know who is going to make it. The game doesn't care who makes the play, we do. We just want to make sure that we've got guys in the game that can plays, regardless of quote unquote, injuries or whatever. We're trying to win games. Whatever we've got to got to do to win a game, we'll do what we've got to do to win a game.
Q: When Toney is healthy, you guys would not hesitate at all to put him on returns?
A: Absolutely. That's what he's here for. You can't draft a guy and say, 'Oh, this guy has great return ability. He can do all of this,' and then as soon as he gets here, 'Oh, we can't put him on punt return. He's made out of glass, he's going to hurt himself' (laughs). He's a football player. You watch him catch the ball, catch a slant, he's hard to bring down. Guys like that are a threat. The (Chiefs Wide Receiver) Tyreek Hill's of the world are threats. They have coaches up at night thinking about how they're going to stop the threat. No, we're just going to try to use our best players and try and win games.
Q: You have to be itching. You just talked about how you want to play this guy and he can do it, he just hasn't gotten that opportunity yet.
A: Yeah, like I said, as a special teams coach, obviously, you want things to happen. You want to play certain guys, but you've also got to manage a roster, too. You've got to be smart in how you do it. We see how dynamic (Kadarius Toney) 89 is when he gets the ball in his hand. Regardless when he gets the ball in his hand is, to me, that doesn't make any difference and I'm sure (Head Coach) Joe (Judge) feels the same way. We're just trying win games, but you also got to be smart in how you make sure he's healthy and he feels good, and he feels comfortable being back there because at the end of the day, that's the most important thing. The player has to feel comfortable doing what he's doing. That's what we want. I'm not forcing anybody to do anything. I want him to feel like, 'Okay coach, I want to go back there and make a play. I feel good, I want to play, I want make a play for this football team,' and that's what we're looking for.
Q: You talked about the difference between college punt returning and in the NFL. Obviously, it's harder when you play so many teams at this level. How is Toney doing with the learning curve? How has the learning curve been for him and learning how to confidently return punts at the NFL level?
A: I think it's like anything else. Once you start getting the game reps, it's one thing to come out here and do it and catch balls off the JUGS and catch balls from (Punter) Riley (Dixon) in practice. It's a whole other different thing to get in the game and see that ball under the lights, see it turn over and then be able to just let your natural instincts kick in. I think once he starts to get game reps at it, it'll be different. I can give you a different answer, but you never know until a guy gets under the lights and you've got to return a kick with real bullets flying at you.
Q: On punt returns, punters are so good, I look at any returns as a positive. Last week, the guy punted seven times and you had three 10-yard penalties. Is that something that you've got to get your guys?
A: Yeah, it's frustrating. It's really frustrating and we can't afford to do that, period. That's something, you just can't afford to do it because it hurts the team. We're talking about impacting the team in a positive way and you can't impact the team in a positive way by having penalties. You've got to be able to play penalty free. That's just a non-negotiable. I'm never going to sit up here and justify having a penalty. We can't have penalties. That's something we've got to fix and that's something we need to help clean it up, coach them up and be better.
Q: It seemed like the amount of plays you have on special teams, proportionally there are more penalties than on offense and defense snaps.
A: Yeah, that's a good question. I wish I knew, I wish I knew. It's probably a Perry Fewell question right there. I don't know, I just go out there and coach them, that's all. I don't worry about when they're throwing the flag, they're throwing them on us, 'Hey look, stop. Whatever you're doing, don't do it again.'
Q: Did you get what you wanted on that formation without a punt returner?
A: Yeah, absolutely. It was a 28-yard punt. That was exactly what we wanted.
Q: What's the thinking on that?
A: When you do things like that, it's just situational. You've got a new punter back there, you've got to think about some things. He hasn't been in that situation before and just thinking about speeding it up and speed guys up sometimes back there. Young punter, backed up, worried about getting it blocked, you'll get a 28-yard punt.