Thomas McGaughey in 10th year with Giants despite changes

Thomas McGaughey understands more than most that this is usually true.

“When there is change, there is change,” he said.

Yes indeed. When an NFL head coach is shown the door, a majority of the employees he hires follow behind him. The new head coach walks in and selects the assistants who will work for him until the next layoff cycle kicks in.

So it was for Joe Judge and most of his staff after the 2021 season. So it was for Pat Shurmur and most of his staff after the 2019 season. Lately, the Giants head coach is a transitional position. Sign a five year contract, only last two of those years, rinse and repeat. It’s a terrible way to do business and a big reason the Giants have been so terrible over the past five years.

The changes that ushered in more changes bypassed McGaughey, the popular special teams coordinator. Something about him and the Giants just won’t go away.

Giants Special Teams Coach Thomas McGaughey answers questions from the media Thursday, May 19, 2022 during the OTAs in East Rutherford, NJ
Giants Special Teams Coach Thomas McGaughey answers questions from the media during the OTAs.
Noah K Murray/New York Post

From 2007 to 2010, he was Tom Coughlin’s assistant special teams coordinator with the Giants and won a Super Bowl. He managed special teams at LSU and for the Jets, 49ers and Panthers. He returned to the Giants in 2018 to lead the special teams for Shurmur and did the job despite undergoing surgery and chemotherapy for cancer in his colon and lymph nodes.

Two years later, McGaughey withstood Judge’s unique test – Judge had an extensive special teams background from his years with the Patriots – and was retained. It was significant that Judge agreed to keep McGaughey rather than bring his own man.

When Brian Daboll was hired, he could have found a special teams coordinator from one of his many previous NFL stops, and yet he decided that McGaughey — someone he had never worked with — be trusted with a key role on his first Giants’ staff could.

“I’m happy to be back,” McGaughey said after a recently organized team activity workout. “Obviously it’s my 10th year here, so I’m always happy when I can put on this red, white and blue.”

There must be a secret behind this longevity because despite all the upheaval around him, surviving in a job is difficult.

Giants wide receiver Kadarius Toney (89) runs with special teams coordinator Thomas McGaughey during practice Thursday, October 14, 2021, in East Rutherford, NJ
Giants wide receiver Kadarius Toney (89) walks with special teams coordinator Thomas McGaughey at practice last season.
Corey SIPkin/New York Post

“You know, all I try and do is treat people right and do my job,” McGaughey said. “For me, I think that’s the most important thing. I think you care about the people in the building, you take care of yourself, you try to serve the organization as best as you can and that was just my mentality, I’m just trying to help people and give. What you give grows; what you keep you lose. So I try to give as much as I can to everyone around me.”

Likeable, personable, a direct shooter and perfectly comfortable around the players and the media, McGaughey, 49, is a welcoming presence in the building and dressing room. None of that would matter much unless he’s not proficient at what he’s being paid to do. Embedded in a brutal 4-13 season was solid to excellent production from McGaughey’s units. The Giants were one of only four teams not to give up negative plays (blocked kick, turnover, or touchdown) on special teams. The most comprehensive annual analysis of special teams, compiled by former Dallas sportswriter Rick Gosselin, ranked the Giants 10th in the 2021 NFL special teams rankings.

It wasn’t just the result of kicker Graham Gano’s expertise (he made 29 of his 33 field goal attempts). The Giants led the way in kickoff coverage, allowing for a league-low 17.8 yards per return, thanks not only to Gano’s ball placement but also solid field coverage.

Apparently Daboll saw no reason to fix what wasn’t broken.

Daboll didn’t come in and insist on any possible changes to the Special Teams operation.

“I mean, it’s more or less the same,” McGaughey said.

Gano returns, but the Giants have a new punter after four years, former Browns player Jamie Gillan, a left-footed player known as the Scottish Hammer. As usual, McGaughey has to go through several options before finding suitable kickoff and punt returners.

Kadarius Toney struggled to stay on the field as a rookie, earning just one punt return all season. Could that change?

“Obviously that’s one of the reasons he’s here,” McGaughey said. “KT is a super talented guy. With the ball in hand, he is dynamic. Again it will be fun to see these guys fighting for a spot.”

One newcomer, rookie receiver Wan’Dale Robinson, a second-round pick, should be there.

“Definitely an option,” McGaughey said.

One way or another, McGaughey usually makes it work for whichever head coach he’s on the spot for. Thomas McGaughey in 10th year with Giants despite changes


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