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Giants’ special teams coach Thomas McGaughey says his opinion of new kickoff rule ‘doesn’t matter’

McGaughey had some interesting (non-)answers in his Thursday presser

NFL: JUL 30 New York Giants Training Camp
Thomas McGaughey
Photo by Rich Graessle/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

If you thought New York Giants special teams coach Thomas McGaughey would be as vocal as his team’s owner in opposition to rule changes, you were wrong.

In his Thursday press conference, McGaughey answered questions about many topics. The bulk of them, though, were devoted to the NFL’s new kickoff rule. The owners voted to allow a fair catch on a kickoff to place the ball at the 25-yard line, something the Giants and seven other teams voted against.

Here are some takeaways from McGaughey’s remarks.

On how the new rule affects him as a coach

Unlike John Mara regarding Thursday night schedule flexing, McGaughey would not give his own opinion about the new kickoff rules.

When asked if he thinks the new rule will increase safety, McGaughey punted. “What I think doesn’t matter. It is what it is. If they think it’s to increase safety, then that’s what it is.” While not exactly a ringing endorsement, it’s more resigned than personalities from Andy Reid to Patriots special teams ace Matthew Slater have been.

McGaughey clarified that his coaching process will be the same.

“The rule itself is just something we’ll just have to get used to. It’s like any other rule change. You just make the adjustments and just keep moving forward,” he stated. “I’m going to keep coaching the guys the same way. It’s not going to change. We’re going to coach up the fundamentals and the techniques, the schematics will be the same, and we’ll just go from there.”

McGaughey explained that special teams coaches are generally concerned because it’s hard to shift gears from what they’ve always taught their players and the role they are accustomed to. Still, he reiterated that they must collectively make adjustments.

Still, when prompted about whether special teams coaches feel like an endangered species, McGaughey nearly sighed.

“That’s a really good question. That’s a really good question.”

How the new rule changes team strategy

McGaughey confirmed that this does remove the advantage the team had from Graham Gano’s short kickoffs that often pinned returners inside the 25. However, the Giants will seek competitive advantages within the new rule. He anticipates many more squib kicks from other teams, which he pointed to as the biggest adjustment.

As far as roster construction, though, McGaughey said he has nothing to do with that. He simply moves forward with the cards he’s been dealt. The coach did express understanding of the predicament this places on players like Cam Brown and Carter Coughlin, both career special teamers. He knows that it might have them question their value as their playing time is cut.

There might be a temptation to simply avoid the new rule and kick the ball out of the end zone each time. That varies from organization to organization, McGaughey asserted. How an opponent will choose, though, will be difficult to predict early in the season. “This is uncharted territory ... So, it’s one of those deals where you’ve got to play the games to see what happens.”

On the Coach Accelerator program

McGaughey and running backs coach Jeff Nixon attended the NFL’s Coach Accelerator program, which aims to help minority coaches build their networking and development toward future head coaching jobs. McGaughey had praise for the program, explaining how it helped make connections with owners and coaches in the industry. This helps build familiarity and relationships, which can lead to opportunities down the line.

“I think the program is an excellent program,” McGaughey commented. “I think the exposure to ownership and to be able to develop relationships is paramount to the success of the league, and to making sure that this program is successful.”

Still, he cautioned that it’s not there yet. “So, I think it’s moving in the right direction. Is it where we want to be exactly? No, but it’s moving in that direction.”

On why the team added another long snapper

McGaughey essentially touted long snapper Cam Lyons as a camp body, saying that Lyons will help take some of the load off veteran Casey Kreiter.

On the punt returner competition

The Giants are trying to find their punt returner, McGaughey said. He pointed to the preseason games as very important for the competition: “You’ve got to play the game. It looks cute out here in shorts.”

On the Giants’ gunner changes

The Giants went through many gunners last season due to injuries. McGaughey stated that they want to create more consistency among their players at the specific punt return positions. The team has a number of options, per the coach.

McGaughey stayed away from blaming punter Jamie Gillan for the Giants’ general struggles in punt coverage. He called it a group effort.

“It’s holistic. It’s not just Jamie. When you look at where he was as a punter and then where we were as a gunner group, I think it’s more of a holistic part of being able to work together consistently, and then create that continuity and to be able to feel comfortable with each other... That’s going to help all of us, not just Jamie.”