Special Teams Coordinator Thomas McGaughey
McGaughey: Good afternoon. Before we started, I just want to send a shout out to my pops, Thomas McGaughey, Sr. He turned 70 years old yesterday. I just wanted to say hello, dad.
Q: You look a lot like him. I saw the pictures.
A: It's kind of scary (Laughs).
Q: I thought it was you for a second. You're a younger version of him.
A: The older I get, the more I look like him. Scary.
Q: It's probably safe to say like how much time you spent on that blocked punt and just the preparation to face them again.
A: We work punt at least two, three times a week. So, we're not doing anything different – just being more detailed in what we're doing as far as alignments and all of that stuff. So, it's preparation as normal. We're going through our normal process of being physical and making sure we're doing the little things the right way all the time. So, that's been the process the whole year. And we just got to lean on our fundamentals and our techniques and go play.
Q: (Defensive coordinator) Wink (Martindale) just said the idea of when you play a team twice so close together, it has to be about the counterpunch. In that scenario with the block, do you almost have to anticipate now what they may try to do off of that, expecting you to fix what you guys got wrong the last time?
A: It's blood in the water. That's anytime you have a blocked kick in this league. When you put blood in the water, and that's what they do anyway. They've rushed 46 times this year. That's more than anybody else in the league. And obviously, percentage-wise, they block more punts. They do a good job – (Vikings special teams coordinator) Matt Daniels and his group – do a good job. Those guys play extremely hard, and it's going to be a challenge for us. Again, that's playoff football. That's life in the NFL. It's punch, counterpunch.
Q: On that one play, and I guess we're dwelling on that, I do apologize for it, but was that a scheme situation? Or was that just a guy or two not making a play?
A: The play is what it is. It was just a simple alignment thing. Feet got caught up. It wasn't anything special that they did. They've run the same rush probably 15 times the whole year. It was more of what we did than what they did. Again, we cleaned that up. So, we just got to, again, go out and play.
Q: You obviously had a line for their kicker (Greg Joseph), and it's kind of obvious you back that up now. Does he show you something there that changes sort of?
A: That was a career-long for him. And he stepped up to the challenge. He made a big kick. So, he's made some 60-yard kicks before. But that was his longest one.
Q: What's (kicker) Graham's (Gano) line indoors?
A: It just depends on the day, how he's feeling. Graham's not 25 (years old) anymore, so it just depends on how he's feeling. But he's right at that line. In a 'got-to-have-it' situation, (he's) probably right at it.
Q: You had a chance at 60 (yards), I guess, maybe in the first half of that game.
A: Yeah, it's situational. Like what's the flow of the game? What do we need? What don't we need? Are they going to put a returner back there? It's a whole bunch of things that go into that – making that decision. So, I think we made a good decision.
Q: Obviously, it's a dome. But is that considered a good place to kick, distance-wise? What's Graham's approach to being there, obviously, now that you've already been there this year?
A: Obviously, you look at the environment. All domes aren't the same. You don't have to deal with the elements, but all domes aren't the same. It depends on the turf. Like last time we played them, they painted it all white. So, it was hard to stick your foot in the ground in certain parts of it. All that makes a big difference in striking the ball and contacting the ball. If you can't get your foot all the way in the ground and it's kind of just sliding over the top of the grass, it makes it a little bit different.
Q: Do you know if they're going to do that again? Do you know those things?
A: No clue.
Q: Now that you mention it, they're probably going to do it. (Laughs)
A: But that's any stadium. That's any stadium, and it's always some small little nuance that you might have to deal with. So, it is what it is. If we get a chance to go out there and make a kick, we'll make a kick. Graham's done it a lot this year.
Q: Any benefit to having that fake field goal on tape – give them something to think about?
A: Maybe. (Laughs)
Q: It was a little weird that you kind of did do those trick plays in that game, which didn't have any playoff implications. What's your thought process kind of behind that?
A: We're just playing football, trying to win the game. You know how it is. Whenever we line up and we strap it up, we're not going out there just to lay down. We're trying to win. Regardless of who's on the field, we're trying to win the game. And we want to be aggressive.
Q: On special teams, do more starters play special teams now that you're in this time of year?
A: Not necessarily. I think more than anything, and we talked about this early in the year, you want to have continuity. You want to be able to create that continuity so guys learn how to play with each other, having that synergistic effect and being able to gel as a group and as a unit. And you don't want to get to the most important time of the year, and you change up everything that you've done. That's what we're not going to do. We're going to go out there with the guys that we've had that've been playing for us, and they're starting to play better. And they're starting to get better as a unit.
Q: Having heard the noise that might be louder this time around, can that help your unit in particular this time?
A: The noise is the noise. It is what it is. The situation is what it is. Playing in Seattle, playing in some of these other places that we've been where it's been loud, that's playoff football in the National Football League. You go on the road. You play in a hostile environment. And the noise is the noise. So, we just deal with it. And it is what it is. So, our guys are – they're ready for it.
Q: I think you were asked this last week, the idea that for you, seeing this team back in the playoffs, you've been here through the tough times. You've also been here when you guys have been on top of the world. What are your emotions going into this weekend? Is it just another game, or do you kind of take a step back and appreciate what it's like to get back here?
A: You appreciate it, definitely. When you've had such a drought that we've had around here, you definitely appreciate it. But it's just 'win one game.' My primary focus is on Matt Daniels and his group and just winning one game. That's all we're focused on right now. And it's nice to see all the stuff around it, but our primary focus is just trying to go, as a unit, go win one game. Make a positive-impact play in the kicking game that can help us win one game.
Q: What is your feel and appreciation for the players that haven't tasted a playoff game before and are having a chance to do this for the first time?
A: I'm happy for them because not every player in this league gets a chance to experience playoff football. There's a lot of guys that will play 10, 15 years and never go to the playoffs. So, some of these young guys, their first year in the league, they're going into a playoff situation. It's cool for them because they get a chance to experience it. It's, again, setting them up moving forward, giving them something to go after moving forward – a goal to go after just to know what the feeling is to play in a playoff game and play meaningful football in January.
Q: Can you talk about how (wide receiver) Richie's (James) sort of navigated this season? Obviously, he had the Seattle game. You kind of take him off that role (of punt returner), and then he goes back again to it. How does he handle it – like where your trust is with him and how that's kind of played out?
A: Richie's, like we talked about before, he's done a great job as far as bouncing back from a negative play. And that's football. That's this league. If you're going to stick around and you're going to have a career, it isn't about all the great plays. It's about the bad ones and how you react to the bad ones. And if you're able to react in a positive way, and you can take those negative situations in your career and in your football life and turn them into a positive and then be able to respond in a positive way, then you show that mental toughness. And you'll be able to stick around this league for a while because it isn't easy in this league. Everybody's going to go through tough situations that they've got to bounce back from.