Special Teams Coordinator Thomas McGaughey
Q: How are you liking this trip?
A: It's been good, it's been good. It's kind of like a, not a vacation, but just to kind of get away from a normal surrounding and enjoy some nice weather, especially in December. You can walk outside and its 75 degrees, that's a beautiful thing. It's been good. Guys get a chance to work in some warm weather, it's been good for us.
Q: (Running Back) Gary Brightwell has been the star of the week here locally, but he said yesterday that when he retires, he wants to be a special teams coach. What does that do to you when you hear that?
A: Well, hopefully I can be a good example for him. I had a great example when I was in college (Former Special Teams Coach) Frank Gansz Jr. was my example and a guy I didn't know, a guy by the name of Tommy Kaiser, and they were great coaches. Anytime you can help a guy with his future and be a positive influence on him and help him down the road, definitely, that's exciting to hear.
Q: How has Gary developed as one of your special teams' guys?
A: He's not your typical rookie. He has a special skillset. When you watch him cover kicks, he's hard to block one on one. It's a hard, hard win against Gary Brightwell and that's unusual for rookies. We haven't seen a guy cover kicks like him since (Former Giants Running Back) Ahmad Bradshaw. He's a different animal that way and he's along those lines. Not quite the monster that Ahmad was, Ahmad was just heavy handed and so physical, but Gary is so savvy and just really, really slippery and it's hard to get your hands on him and he can play with power also. He's developing nicely.
Q: I asked him about if he's disappointed since he's not getting any touches or carries on offense and he said that he hadn't even thought about that.
A: He's playing football.
Q: He's a running back, but is that what you see from him?
A: He knows his role. See, that's the thing you guys got to understand, like he knows exactly why he got drafted here. He understands there's a guy that wears number 26 that's in front of him, that's going to get the majority of the carries and you get a veteran guy in (Running Back Devontae) Booker, he understands his role. That, to me, that shows maturity, that shows selflessness and when you get a chance to get a guy like that and coach a guy like that and he understands exactly what it is and he's patient and then when he gets the chance to prove himself, I guarantee. He gets a chance to prove himself, you'll see. You'll see who he is as a running back and he's going to be a really good football player, he really is.
Q: We kind of take (Kicker) Graham Gano for granted a little bit, but how different of a feeling is it on a special teams unit and for a team to have a guy who you just don't think about?
A: Yeah, it makes my job a lot easier. It makes (Head Coach) Joe's (Judge) job a lot easier, it makes (Senior Offensive Assistant) Freddie's (Kitchens) job a lot easier when you know once you get to a certain point of the field, you've got points and you feel like you've got points. What he does, and this is so underrated, but what he does as a kickoff specialist, he is a weapon. It is kicks on call, like I can tell him, 'Hey, Graham, I want this ball to be right here.' 'Alright, right there?' 'Yep, right there. Alright Graham, I want this one to be on the 15-yard line, 3.8 hang.' 'Boom, got it.' If it's not within a yard or two or within a tenth or two of the hang time you want and the yardage you want, it's just, I can't explain it enough. It's rare, it is rare to have a guy like that.
Q: Any other kickers you can think of off the top of your head that you've worked with or seen in the league that are that good kickoff wise?
A: That could just do it on command? It's hard, it really is. I've had guys that have really powerful legs, I've had guys that were good directionally, but to be able to make a kick on command, just to be able to do it and not kickoff during the week, that's different. Graham doesn't kickoff during the week. It's just different, it's just the skillset and being able to do it and have the foot talent and the confidence to do it. It's just different.
Q: So, the players don't need to practice then?
A: No, not saying that. Not saying that. He kicks field goals during the week, but kickoffs. Kickoffs can be a little taxing, especially to older players, and Graham's had some injuries.
Q: Is that why he doesn't do it?
A: Yeah, it's just maintenance. Yeah, it's maintenance and he's had enough reps, muscle memory over the years of kicking off, playing soccer and all that stuff. He's such a great ball striker, he understands placements of the ball and where they need to go, and he has a talent to do it.
Q: I know what you're trying to do is win the game and you need two scores at the end, but you sent him out to try a 56-yard field goal, which is not a high degree of success even for him. He's got to go do it, but he also gets a miss and is frustrated by that, of course.
A: That's part of it, a situation we're trying to score quick, saves some time, get a field goal, come back, try to get a surprise onside and then throw a Hail Mary to the endzone. It's situations, you're just trying to work through the situations. That's part of it. Even for a guy as good as Graham, a 56-yard field goal is a 56-yard field goal and you look at the stats and it's about 50-50 for all the kickers in the league. Maybe (Ravens Kicker Justin) Tucker and Graham might be the only ones that are in that higher percentage that makes those kicks because Graham's, I want to say, is 65 percent, I think, he is from 50-plus.
Q: What about 55-plus?
A: Well, I remember when he hit 61 yards, so I mean, it is what it is. It's just you're trying to win a game, you're trying to give yourself the best chance to win the game. If it doesn't happen, it doesn't happen.
Q: We're getting close to that time with the Pro Bowl. Why in your mind do you think he's deserving?
A: Consistency. I mean, you look at his body of work over the years, I might be reaching, I don't think I am, but I want to say his last three years, his average is probably 91 percent, 90 percent, right at it. There's not very many guys in this league, especially in this conference, that can say that. Tucker's probably the only other guy that can do it, maybe (Falcons Kicker) Younghoe Koo down there in Atlanta. He's a young cat.
Q: That's why it makes it tough, because he is pretty good. It's possible that they don't take three kickers.
A: He's really good. He is, but you get one from each conference. Last year, I want to say Graham was 93 percent or whatever and then Younghoe was maybe 93, 94, whatever it was. The young guy's got it and he did a great job, he did.
Q: So, this year is Graham's turn is what you're saying?
A: Who knows. Well, Graham went like 2018, I think he was in the Pro Bowl or something like that. Whatever it is, whatever year.
Q: I don't think that will make him feel better if he doesn't make it.
A: Yeah (laughs). Yeah, I'm sure.
Q: Are special teams coordinators throughout the league going to pop champagne like the 1972 Dolphins if someone finally runs a punt back for a touchdown?
A: You know what, with the analytics, it's just everybody's going for it on fourth down and you're just not getting the reps at it. You just hope as a punt return team, you get an opportunity to make a play. We had a few last week, so we just have to make a play. It's just league wide, it's a different day.
Q: When you talk about teams going for it on fourth down, the Chargers go for it more than anybody. You have to be really on guard to make sure you're not sending the punt return team out there on fourth down.
A: Analytics. A lot of these teams are going to analytics. It's just they're going for it on fourth and 1.
Q: (Cornerback) Jarren Williams is a player that's sticking there on the kickoff. What progress has he made? Is that a culmination of what he's been developing?
A: He's done a good job, he has. He's done a good job. Jarren, when he came in last year against Arizona at home, he made two tackles. We had a lot of plans, we had some big plans for Jarren and then he got hurt during camp. He's kind of picked up where he left off. We expect a lot of big things out of him moving forward. He's a good, young player. He's smart, he works hard and he's very confident. When we get a chance to just keep coaching him, keep getting him better, keep getting him reps. I was messing with him the other day, he was talking about being sore. He was like, 'I haven't played 40 snaps since Albany.' He was sore, so that's a good thing. We've just got to keep him going.