EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. – This is the 19th consecutive year Thomas McGaughey has coached as a special teams coordinator or assistant in the NFL or a major college program.
Prior to this season, he worked under head coaches Dick Vermeil, Mike Shanahan, Tom Coughlin, Rex Ryan, Jim Tomsula, Ron Rivera and Pat Shurmur in the NFL and Art Briles and Les Miles in college.
Head coach No. 10 is different for McGaughey, because Joe Judge has an extensive special teams background. Judge spent the previous 11 years coaching the kicking game, as an assistant at Alabama (2009-11) and in New England (2012-14) and as the Patriots' coordinator (2015-19, doubling as the wide receivers coach last season).
McGaughey is in his third season as the Giants' coordinator, a position he previously held at LSU and with the Jets, San Francisco 49ers and Carolina Panthers. He is thrilled to have one of his own as the team's new coach.
"Joe's been awesome," McGaughey said today on a Zoom call. "I can't even begin to tell you. It's been very enlightening and he has been outstanding. I just look forward to getting the season going, just watching him grow as a new head coach and just see how far he can take us.
"It's one of those things where it's kind of a perfect marriage. Joe has a ton of experience and has had a ton of success in the league. We just sit down and come up with the things that feel like are good for the unit and we implement them. It's an easy conversation, it flows great. We put the stuff together that is going to help the team the best. We put it all out there, guys love it, they eat it up. They just go out there and do it on the field. Practice it, walk through it and those the different things. It's weird, it's a really good situation."
View photos of the 2020 New York Giants coaching staff
McGaughey began his second stint with the Giants in 2018 under Shurmur. Like all assistants on the previous staff, he was uncertain about his future when Judge was hired. When Judge announced the hiring of his three coordinators, including Jason Garrett and Patrick Graham, he said of McGaughey, "I've known T-Mac from going against him as well as being in the business and I have a good relationship with him professionally and personally. I have a lot of respect for him as a coach and I have a tremendous amount of respect for him as a person. He gets the most out of his players."
It certainly speaks to the respect McGaughey has earned that a new head coach with a special team background would choose to retain a coordinator with whom he hadn't previously worked.
"Joe is a football coach," McGaughey said. "He is not just a special teams coach. He is a football coach, he coaches it all. That's the thing I enjoy about watching him work. It's easy for me, I'm a team guy. Whatever is going to be best for the team, we are going to do it, regardless of the situation. It's been really good. Like I said, it's almost like a perfect marriage, there are no issues. It's like how do we want to do it, we want to do it this way, okay boom, we'll do it this way. It's pretty easy. I don't have any issue with it and I'm enjoying it. I'm enjoying the process."
Another first-time coaching experience for McGaughey is much more challenging and it's one he shares with his NFL brethren: he must identify the Giants' best special teams players without having even one preseason game to evaluate them.
"It's tough," he said. "It's hard because these young guys normally get the speed of the game during the preseason game, so they get just a little taste of it. This year, it's going to be hard for them to get that experience because you don't have that game-like intensity. It's just tough. We're just going to have to make do with what we have. We have to do a good job of trying to simulate that in practice so we know exactly what we're doing and evaluating our guys.
"It's a fine line. We have to be able to watch them in the drill work and the stuff we'll do simulated in practice that will simulate games. We just have to put our best foot forward as evaluators. It's hard, I'm not going to sit up here and say it's easy. Again, everybody in the league has to deal with the same situation. We'll simulate as much as we can in practice, the speed of everything, as much as we can in practice. We'll come up with the best 53 at the end of training camp."
The Giants have a new kicker and snapper in Chandler Catanzaro and Casey Kreiter (a 2018 Pro Bowler), respectively. Punter Riley Dixon remains the holder.
Catanzaro didn't play in 2019, but he has kicked 119 regular-season field goals and made 83.8% of his career attempts.
"Chandler is a guy who's a veteran kicker in this league," McGaughey said. "He's performed at a high level before. We're just hoping to get him back to that level. He's a hard worker and very conscientious. His availability was there and we took advantage of bringing him in. Hopefully, we can get him rolling and get him up to par."
Much less defined is who will return kickoffs and punts. Cody Latimer, who led the team with 24 kickoff returns last year, is no longer with the team. Golden Tate had a team-high 10 punt returns, but he is an 11-year veteran whose primary duty is to play wide receiver.
And McGaughey won't have preseason games to sort candidates and with the young players will rely on their college tape.
"You are going to have lean heavily on it but we all know there is a transition between college and the pros," McGaughey said. "It's going to be a difficult situation for all of us as evaluators to be able to make sure we're making the right decisions. That's just the situation we're in and we have to make do with it. Everybody in the league is in the same situation. We're not the only team in the league that has to deal with this process. We will try to find the best way to handle it."