Special Teams Coordinator Thomas McGaughey
Q: You got a kicker today?
A: Yep, got one. Yeah, had a little bug, so he'll be back. He's here.
Q: If something were to happen to (Kicker) Graham Gano, is that something (Punter) Riley (Dixon) works on?
A: Yeah, well from time to time he'll do some kicking. Maybe once every three or four weeks. It's nothing that, you know, you don't want to screw with that leg swing. That's a whole different set of circumstances. We deal with it when we have to deal with it.
Q: Do you have other players that would want to do that?
A: (Guard) Will Hernandez. He can kick (laughs). No, he's been bugging us to try and kick off. He'll tell you, he'll show it to you if you ask him to.
Q: You don't ask him, do you?
A: No, not at all (laughs).
Q: Does he have that straight on approach too?
A: You know what? Will has a soccer background. It's not the old toe punch.
Q: Before the Raiders game, you tried out a couple of punters. Was that purely a guard against positive COVID tests?
A: Yeah, we're always just in case. You just never know with all this COVID stuff. It's just always having a short list of guys that you can go to in a pinch. That's something that we're always doing – kickers, punters, long snappers, making sure we always have a list of guys that we can go to if something happens.
Q: What did you like about with (Wide Receiver) Pharoh (Cooper)?
A: Pharoh Cooper is what we thought he was. He's a pro. He comes in here with really good recommendations from guys that have coached him in the past that I know. He's done exactly what we thought he was going to do. He works his tail off. He's smart and he's a former Pro Bowl returner with experience. We just have to do a better job of blocking for him and giving him space to let him work.
Q: Why do you think you guys haven't had that return specialist kind of guy in the past few years?
A: I think the past few years has been a little different than it is now. I think we kind of had a run on guys that were just kind of, we were trying to make it fit within the roster and we did. Guys like (Lions Defensive Back) Corey Ballentine and some of those guys that we had in the past. It's all cyclical, it depends on different times, the year, what you have on the roster. We've got a lot of depth on the roster. We've had a rash of injuries, that's just part of it, that's football. Whoever we got out there, we're going to coach them up, get them ready. It's just when you start going through injuries and all that different stuff, it just gets crazy sometimes. You've just got to make do with what you've got.
Q: It also seems rare because sometimes you don't even know who the kick returner is depending on who you play. Do you think that factors into it? Is it that there are fewer of those guys that are around the league than maybe there were in the past?
A: Yeah, definitely. That goes without saying because of the rule change and all that stuff. In the Northeast, it's a little different because the ball doesn't fly like it does in Charlotte or in Tampa or dome teams. Teams in the Northeast, they're going to have, most of them are going to have a return specialist because you're going to return kicks when you start getting into the meat of the season. In November, December, January, where it's 30 degrees, 20 degrees, you've got wind, ball's not going to fly out of the back of the end zone, so you want to have a guy that you can depend on to return kicks.
Q: Since everything is sort of connecting, in all of your years of running special teams, when (Buccaneers Quarterback) Tom Brady is on the other side of the field, have you ever made decisions knowing he's on the other side of the field? Does he affect something you did because of special teams?
A: Yeah, I mean Tom is a great player. Anytime you can start him in five to 10 or backed up, you know, make the field longer and really that goes for any quarterback. When you know you can pin a guy like that back there and to really take away a potential advantage that he would have, the stakes are a little higher and you want to make sure, hey look, we want to get this ball down inside the 10. We want to make sure we tackle the ball inside the 20 and not let him get the ball out to the 35-yard line where they get two completions and they're in field goal position. It happens so fast, they've got a big play offense. He is who he is. You always want to make sure that the field position game is a crucial part of it.
Q: With all the great quarterbacks…
A: Absolutely. With the (Green Bay Quarterback) Aaron Rodgers of the world, these guys that can get in a two-minute situation, you look up and the ball is at midfield just like that. Especially if the ball is at the 25-yard line. You want to make sure that you can push them back as far as you can.
Q: I saw (Defensive Back) Keion (Crossen) on kickoff return at one of the back two spots. He is a bigger body. What is the thinking there?
A: Ball handling, ball handler. Obviously, he's fast, he can get out into space. If somebody just happens to kick it to him, he can run with it. Having Keion back there is always a good option for us, and he's got what we depend on too.
Q: What did you say to him about that penalty he got last game?
A: Wasn't smart. I'll be the first one to tell you and he'll be the first one to tell you, you've just got to pick your spots. Everything in this league is optics, especially when it comes down to these penalties out in space, what does it look like? You've just got to be smart, like you just can't – there's some things that you can't do. You've got to make sure that you're playing with good fundamentals, you're playing with good technique, good knee bend, and you play within the context of how we're trying to play the game. Being smart, being physical, but not being dumb.
Q: Were you okay with him picking up that ball when he thought it was touched by (Raiders Wide Receiver Hunter) Renfrow?
A: Yeah, yeah, I'm fine with that. He thought that they hit the ball and obviously that ball had a head of steam and it probably could have rolled inside the five, but in his mind, he's thinking, okay, they potentially could have hit the ball, we want a clear recovery and he's doing what he's taught to do. Yeah, I'm fine with that.
Q: Your thoughts on Jaelon Darden
A: I've watched this kid for a long time. I watched him all through the COVID year because my son worked out at the same place where he worked out. He's from Eisenhower High School in Houston and they work with this guy named Richard Whitfield, footwork king, and this kid is lightning quick. He is lightning fast, he could stick his foot in the ground, change direction, he's dangerous. I've seen him for a while, we watched him coming out, we liked him coming out, but he is lightning quick. He has some game-changing, big play ability.
Q: There are no punt return touchdowns this year at this point. I think that might be the first time this late in the season that has ever happened. Why is that?
A: That's a good question. Could be a number of things. You've got to realize, too, the opportunities because the ball, a lot of touchbacks, the ball is coming off the 25-yard line, two first downs and now you're in plus-territory. So, the ball is at the 25-yard line, offensive drive down, they stall out at midfield. Now the ball is going to be punted down inside the 10 or the 15 and your chances to return and for a touchdown diminishes as opposed to the ball being backed up. You punt from the 10, you catch it at the 40 or whatever, you get the chance to return it. It's just hard. It's just the opportunity to return a punt for a touchdown is not as prevalent as it's been in the past because of where the ball starts for the most part.