We’ve seen special teams make or break games for teams in recent years. A DeSean Jackson punt return touchdown to lift the Eagles over the Giants in 2010 comes to mind right away, even a few seasons later. Then the offseason arrives, and we as fans often overlook the third unit. The first time the New York Jets make a big special teams play next season, we will have special teams coordinator Thomas McGaughey to thank.
McGaughey has coached special teams at Louisiana State University since 2011, where he coached All-Americans punter Brad Wing and cornerback/kick returner Tyrann Mathieu. In his three years at LSU, McGaughey’s teams never allowed more than 3.7 yards per punt return. Prior to LSU, McGaughey has had assistant gigs with the Chiefs, Broncos and Giants – but almost had a position with the Jets, as well.
When Mike Westhoff had to receive leg surgery in 2008 and was unsure if he would be able to return, McGaughey interviewed for the Jets position and met Westhoff. So with that experience, McGaughey was more comfortable interviewing with the Jets the second time around.
“Obviously I did some coaching in the NFL,” McGaughey told newyorkjets.com, “but I felt like I needed to get in front of the room and knock the rust off, have my own room and be able to coach my guys, coach my own ideas. After those seven or eight years in the NFL, I had a strong inkling of what I wanted to do.”
Westhoff was regarded as one of the top special teams coaches in the league when he coached the Jets from 2001-2012. In the lone season since Westhoff’s retirement, Ben Kotwica served as special teams coordinator, but left to take the same position with the Washington Redskins in January.
McGaughey comes into an interesting special teams situation in New York. Kicker Nick Folk had a career year, making 33 of 36 field goals, with a long of 54 yards, but he hits free agency March 11. The Jets aren’t known for paying their kickers, though they could feasibly use the franchise tag on Folk for an expected $3.4 million. The Jets haven’t used their franchise tag since 2011. Ryan Quigley is currently the only punter on the Jets’ roster, after the team also used Robert Malone and TJ Conley in recent years.
If the Jets are looking for a kicker or punter late in the draft, having McGaughey on staff straight from the college ranks will be an advantage. Chris Boswell of Rice and Football Writers Association of America (FWAA) All-American Anthony Fera of Texas are considered the top two kickers in the draft; FWAA and Associated Press All-American Tom Hornsey of Memphis is a punter to remember. McGaughey may also want to see the Jets’ mid-round picks perform on the kickoff and punt teams.
Whatever players he ends up with, McGaughey will coach them up his way.
“We’re going to be fundamentally sound, we’ll play with speed, we’re going to be physical,” he said. “We go into it thinking that way, and that’s how we want it to come out on game day.”