Special Teams Coordinator Thomas McGaughey
August 8, 2022
Q: What have you learned about (Punter) Jamie (Gillian) as his coach?
A: He’s a hard worker. He’s very coachable and he wants to do well. He’s doing a great job. He’s out working every single day and I look forward to good things from him.
Q: What are some of the similarities from a punt returner and a kick returner? Is there some crossover there or what are you specifically looking for when you try to separate the two?
A: Obviously, the tracking of the ball is a little different. The ball comes off the foot differently. You always want the same characteristics – speed, toughness change of direction and all that stuff. It takes a different body type to do kickoff returns, you want a bigger, sturdier guy back there in a perfect situation. As a punt returner, you’ve got to be fearless, you’ve got to be elusive, and you’ve got to make good decisions. That are the things you look for when it comes to, those qualities, you want in a returner.
Q: A little more on the punter, when you guys brought him in, he has a body of work from Cleveland. Maybe he didn’t do as well in his third year than his first year. How much do you study that, and do you try to reinvent him a little bit because one team left him behind and now you pick him up? You left a guy behind who you had here for a while. Do you rework him a little bit to get him to do what you want?
A: The one thing you’ve got to understand when you’re dealing with young players – there is a process. There is a process involved. You have to be able to have patience and work through the process. He’s here because he has talent. Most young players are here in this league because they have talent. Most young players that come into this league do not tear it up when they first walk in. There is a learning curve, there is a maturation process. Throughout that maturation process, you have to be able to find what he does well, learn how he ticks and then after you figure that thing out as a coach, then you work from there. He’s fixing things. We’ve identified some things that he needs to work on, and he’s worked on them. He’s been doing well.
Q: ‘The Scottish Hammer’ is a great nickname. Is it accurate? Does he need to be less of a hammer at times?
A: He hammers the ball, he does. It kind of fits. His hang-to-distance needed to be improved and that’s something that he’s been working on and he’s improving on. We want to make sure that the hang-to-distance, the hang is relative to the distance, so you don’t outkick the coverage. He’s worked on that a lot, and he’s done a really good job. We’ll figure it out as we go along these first games coming up and go from there.
Q: Are the analytics for that, like 45 and five-second hang time or?
A: Oh, yeah. That’s the – we always want, say for example, if you kick the ball 40 yards you want at least a 4.0 (second) hang time. If you kick it 45 yards, you want a 4.5 hang time. If you kick it 50 yards, you want a 5.0 hang time in a perfect world. That’s something that we’ve used as special teams coaches over the years. Just using that hang-to-distance ratio relative to the punt.
Q: You’ve obviously been here for a number of years, has anything changed now with a new head coach in? Does he just leave it to you more? How have things changed for you?
A: Dabs trusts me. It’s been really good. Kind of going back to how it was before when me and (Assistant Special Teams Coach Anthony Blevins) Blev were here. It’s been really good. It’s been fun because we’ve got a new group of guys, there was a lot of turnover so now we’re trying to start back from square one and get them to understand how important this third phase is and how it effects the game.
Q: Do you have someone in mind that you would you like to see as your primary punt returner? You guys really haven’t settled on a punt returner for, it feels like, several years now.
A: It’s something that I talk about all the time, you coach who you’ve got. You know what I mean? Whoever shows up, whoever’s out there is who we got. There’s a bunch of guys back there working at it. We have a lot of options, and this is the first time in a while that we’ve had as many guys on the roster that can catch punts. They’ve done a really good job of – I will say this; our guys have done a good job of working over the years. The guys that we’ve got in, the (Wide Receiver) C.J. Boards, the (Wide Receiver) Darius Slaytons, (Wide Receiver Kadarius Toney) KT and all of those guys, catching punts. Now we have a bunch of options back there, we’ve got six or seven guys that can catch punts and they do it well.
Q: I know you like working with (Linebacker) Cam Brown, how hard is it in the NFL these days to carve out a career for yourself playing only special teams?
A: Yeah, it’s difficult but it can be done. I don’t think Cam is just a special teams only player. I won’t speak for (Defensive Coordinator Don Martindale) Wink, but I’m sure that there are some things that he does well that they can use defensively. Again, I said this a while back to Cam, I think his celling is so high and he’s so athletic, you can find things for him to do. He’s just a really good football player. He’s a young player. The maturation process of young players coming through this league – you see them grow up on special teams, they take those steps and then all of the sudden in their fourth or fifth year they take off. I’ve seen it happen a lot. He’s on his way and he’s a good special teams player in the process.
Q: You’ve talked about your past, even going back to your days as an assistant. When you have that guy or that high draft pick that’s only a specialist for a year and you know you’re not going to have him, I think of (Outside Linebacker) Jason Pierre-Paul when you used to talk about what he was like. Is there any part of you that allows you to think what would happen if (Outside Linebacker Kayvon) Thibodeaux were in your core team and what he could be?
A: That situation between JPP and KT is different, because if you look at the depth of the defensive line that we had back then, we had (Former Defensive End) Mathias (Kiwanuka), and (Former Defensive End Justin) Tuck, and (Former Defensive End Dave) Tollefson. You had so many guys, there was no reason for us not to use JPP because he needed to get on the field, and he needed to play. This situation is a little different with our pass rush situation. Obviously, you’ve got to be smart in how you handle it, and he is going to have some roles, but we’ll figure it out as we go along.
Q: I know the game this week doesn’t count in the standings, but you are playing a team and coach that is steeped in special teams knowledge. Have you studied (Head Coach Bill) Belichick over the years and seen what is unique to him and what his team does well?
A: You know, I study all the coaches. We literally keep a file on every special teams coordinator around the league. His teams are always disciplined. His teams, they always play fast because of the detail that they prepare with. Going in, you’re going to have to deal with (Wide Receiver Matthew) Slater and all the rest of the guys and those guys have been there for a long time, and they are well coached. (Special Teams Coordinator) Cam (Achord) does a hell of a job over there with those guys. They’ve grew up steeped in special teams, they are always one of the top-10 special teams units in the league and that’s not going to change.