Jamie Gillan has at times tantalized the New York Giants with punts of other-worldly height and distance since becoming the team’s punter at the beginning of the 2022 season. At other times, he has frustrated with mis-hit or misplaced boots.
Through all of that, the Giants have supported Gillan. In two offseasons, no other punter has challenged him for his job. After an up-and-down 2022 season, the Giants gave Gillan a two-year, $4 million contract with $1 million guaranteed.
The inconsistency showed up again in the preseason when Gillan hit a 67-yard punt that was so far beyond his punt coverage team that it was returned for a 95-yard touchdown.
Since the regular season began, though, ‘The Scottish Hammer’ has been outstanding.
“I think everybody’s goal is, especially as a specialist, to be the most consistent as possible,” Gillan told Big Blue View this week. “That’s why you’ve got Graham [Gano] here 15 years in the league. Because he’s an extremely consistent kicker and a beast. So that’s always what I’m striving to do.”
Through five games, Gillan is averaging 48.4 yards per punt. That is nearly two yards above his 2022 average and three yards above his career average. Other numbers, though, have been more impressive.
Gillan has averaged 44.2 net yards per punt. That is nearly five full yards better than a season ago, and exactly four yards better than his career average. After having nine of 74 punts (12.2%) go for touchbacks in 2022, he has had only one of nine (4.8%) go for a touchback this season.
Gillan is 26, in his fifth season, and has kicked in 66 regular-season games. Special teams coordinator Thomas McGaughey, though, still refers to Gillan as a “young punter.”
“He’s been around for a little bit but he’s still young and he’s learning, and he’s growing,” McGaughey said this season. “The guys that stick around and play for a long time, they’ll all tell you, the guys that played double-digit years, 15, 12,13, whatever the number is in the double-digits, they always talk about finding their process and I think Jamie is – some guys like (former Giants punter) Jeff Feagles when he was here before, he played 20-something years, he said he didn’t really find his routine until year 10, and that’s the thing that carried him for the next 10.
“Guys like Jamie are trying to find their process and find the routine that works for them and he’s moving in that direction and he’s doing a good job. The guy works his tail off so you can’t complain about him.”
Gillan agreed that it takes time to both find that process and learn the vagaries of the MetLife Stadium kicking conditions.
“Our job, what I can compare it to is like a golf swing,” Gillan said. “It’s just constant repetitions of trying to hit the same swing.”
Feagles punted in the NFL for 22 seasons, the last seven of which were with the Giants. He is considered one of the best directional punters of all time.
“I’ve watched all of Jeff’s tape and he was phenomenal when he was here and just painted the sideline. And that is, that is the goal is to do that,” Gillan said. “But I’m also a big ball hitter as well. So we always strive for, there’s three things, distance, hang time and location, and my goal is to hit at least two out of the three every time I go out there. And my goal is to hit three out of three. So even though maybe I didn’t hit the sideline, but if I get it five seconds in the air and we get a fair catch, it’s a win.
“But I do believe it does take time to figure it out because now I’m in year five and you’re playing all these different games and getting used to the stadium and hopefully as the time goes on, you keep remembering the type of wind that comes through there and you just keep getting better.”
MetLife Stadium is notorious for its swirling winds. Somehow, it always seems to be windier at MetLife than anywhere in the surrounding East Rutherford, N.J. area.
“Especially with the gusts. We always check the wind the night before and I’ve got notes, we’ve got notes of what like a northwest wind would do or a southwest wind and you go in there with a plan, but then plans change when we go through pre-game and maybe something that I thought was gonna work didn’t, and then you just adjust and roll with it,” Gillan said. “Sometimes you go into the game and it’s changed again on us. And that’s just, that’s the battle that we have as specialists at MetLife, but I wouldn’t have it any other way.”
Against the San Francisco 49ers, Gillan hit a 60-yard punt right up against the sideline that had to be fair caught by 49ers return man Ray-Ray McCloud.
“It’s a good one. You can’t be not happy with that,” Gillan said. “I mean, that’s three out of the three right there.”
His favorite punt of all time, though, might be the 59-yarder he hit from the Giants’ end zone vs. the Chicago Bears in 2022. The punt resulted in a fumble the Giants recovered at the Bears’ 37-yard line.
Still, he knows the punt against the 49ers is what he is aiming for.
“That punt is what we strive for, that exact one,” Gillan said.