Panthers assistant coach Thomas McGaughey was promoted to special teams coordinator Sunday after Bruce DeHaven accepted an advisory role and left the team to resume cancer treatments in Buffalo.
McGaughey has held the positon before — at Louisiana State (2011-13), with the New York Jets (2014) and last season in San Francisco, where the 49ers ranked eighth in the NFL in punt coverage and second with four blocked field goals.
McGaughey met with the media Monday and shared his thoughts on a variety of topics, including his respect for DeHaven, the Panthers’ punting competition and the rule change involving touchbacks, which will now come out to the 25-yard line instead of the 20.
Q. How would you describe your philosophy in a nutshell?
A. Very similar to Bruce. We’re really big into fundamentals and techniques. We’re going to try empower the player, give him information he can use on a daily basis.
Q. When did you realize Bruce might be leaving?
A. I was informed hours before everybody else was. It’s extremely unfortunate that he has to deal with the situation. Bruce is a tough man. He never complained about anything. You never saw him without a smile on his face and being Bruce, signing and just enjoying life. He never complained about it. So it was kind of a shock. But we knew what we were up against with the whole situation being what it was.
Q. What was his message to you before he left?
A. He’ll be back. Bruce is a fighter. He isn’t giving up nothing. He can’t wait to get back Week 2. He wants to help run the scout team and bring his energy and passion that he has to the game. And we can’t wait to have him back. ... I have no doubts he’ll be back.
Q. What have you learned about special teams assistant Chase Blackburn the past few months?
A. I’ve known Chase a long time. I coached him for four years in New York (as the Giants’ assistant special teams coordinator). So I know the man and I want to help him become the best coach that he can possibly be. Chase was an outstanding student of the game. And I’m not surprised at all that he’s going to be a heck of a coach. He’s already started down that path being a really good coach.
Q. The philosophy here has been directional punting. Does that mesh with what you’ve tried to do?
A. Absolutely. I was born in the directional punting system with Frank Gansz Jr. (as a player at the University of Houston) and that’s all I’ve ever known. His dad taught it to him. So to me that’s kind of the only way you can do it.
Q. What are your impressions of Damiere Byrd as a kick returner?
A. Damiere did a great job last week of hitting the hole. I’m excited for him. He’s been working at it. He’s been catching punts all offseason and trying to get his mind and his body prepared for returning kicks in the NFL. I think the upside is tremendous for him. He just needs reps.
Q. You think you might experiement with dropping some kickoffs around the 5 with the new touchback rule?
A. I think it’s a week-to-week deal. Everybody’s going to try different things. It’ll be interesting to see how people react to it. I’ve heard guys trying to hang it up. I’ve heard guys are going to bang it out of the back of the end zone. I’ve heard a bunch of different ways you can try to contest it.
Q. If that’s something you’re going to do, would you wait until the regular season to try?
A. Yeah. Our guy (Graham Gano) is one of the best in the league kicking the ball off. He can put the ball basically wherever he wants to put the ball. We have a few options that way.
Q. Ted Ginn’s not taking many reps in the return game. Is that because you know what he can do?
A. Yeah, Ted is Ted. We know who he is. There’s no sense in putting him in a situation where something might happen. We know who Ted Ginn is — Junior.