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Greg McMahon

Now entering his eighth season as the Saints special teams coordinator and 10th campaign coaching special teams for the team, Greg McMahon’s tenure with the club has been defined by solid performances by the kicking game, the coverage units and the returners.

Now entering his eighth season as the Saints special teams coordinator and 10th campaign coaching special teams for the team, Greg McMahon’s tenure with the club has been defined by solid performances by the kicking game, the coverage units and the returners.

With McMahon stressing opportunistic play over the last seven seasons, the Saints have recovered 14 fumbles on special teams, scored 10 touchdowns –including six on punt returns – and blocked two punts, four field goals and two extra points. Since 2008, New Orleans has been ranked in the top 10 in kickoff return average three times. 

New Orleans’ punt coverage units ranked first in the NFL in opponent punt return average in 2014 (4.1). In addition to the stalwart on return units in Ramon Humber, who posted 13 stops, McMahon also identified several other productive players for coverage units in Josh Hill who posted a team-best 15 stops and rookies Brian Dixon and Kasim Edebali who each made 12 tackles apiece. Since becoming coordinator in 2008, McMahon’s units have ranked third in the NFL in kickoff return average (24.4) and once again he found a spark in the club’s return game in the final month of the season in rookie Jalen Saunders. Under his tutelage in the final six games, Saunders had an 11.0 punt return average and in the first kickoff return of his career vs. Atlanta, Dec. 21, he brought one back 99 yards. Since the club drafted P Thomas Morstead in 2009, he’s evolved into one of the league’s top punters, with his 47.0 gross punting and 41.0 net punting averages both ranked first in club history over that period. 2014 was no exception, as Morstead finished second in the NFL in net punting average (42.9). K Shayne Graham drilled 19-of-22 field goal attempts. 

In 2013, McMahon directed his coverage units to rank seventh in the NFL in opponent punt return average (7.5). Morstead finished third in the NFL in net punting average (42.3) and tied for fourth in touchbacks on kickoffs. The Saints won two regular season games and one postseason contest on game-winning field goals at the end of regulation. 

In 2012, Morstead was selected to his first Pro Bowl and named a second-team Associated Press All-Pro, as he set club records in both gross (50.1) punting average and net (43.2) punting average. Morstead’s net figure, ranked second in the NFL, is now ranked fourth all-time in NFL history. Rafael Bush led the team with 15 tackles, while also recovering a fumble. 

In 2011, McMahon guided the special teams units to one of their best seasons since taking over as coordinator as the club finished eighth in the Dallas Morning News special teams rankings. Morstead finished second in the NFC and fourth in the NFL with a 48.3 gross punting average and second in the league with a 43.1 net average. Morstead also ranked first in the league with a NFL-record 68 touchbacks. John Kasay ranked second in the NFL in scoring among kickers and set a team record with 147 points. Darren Sproles made an immediate impact on the return units, handling both punt and kickoff return duties as part of a season where he set an NFL record with 2,696 all-purpose yards. He averaged 10.2 yards on punt returns with one touchdown and ranked third in the NFC and sixth in the league on kickoff returns. McMahon’s coverage units ranked fifth in the NFL in opponent punt return average, allowing only 6.2 yards per return.                                                          

McMahon fostered improvement out of both Garrett Hartley and Morstead in 2010. In his first full NFL season, Hartley made his final 10 field goal attempts and 15-of-his-last-16. The punter enjoyed a solid campaign, finishing sixth in the NFL with a 45.9 gross average. The Saints were only one of four NFL teams to not allow a blocked kick or give up a special teams score.

The kicking game played a crucial role in the 2009 championship campaign. The unit finished fourth in the league in kickoff return average (24.4) as Courtney Roby had the first touchdown return by a Saint since 2004. In the postseason, Reggie Bush had an 83-yard punt return for a touchdown to break open the NFC Divisional Playoff vs. Arizona.

While the coverage units recovered three fumbles, the most improved group were the specialists. Hartley, who made the first 16 field goal attempts of his career, setting what was an NFL record for most consecutive makes to start, came through in the clutch twice in the postseason. His 40-yard field goal in overtime of the NFC Championship game sent the Saints to the Super Bowl. Hartley then became the first kicker in Super Bowl history to boot three field goals of 40-or-more yards. Morstead, the club’s fifth round draft choice, was the first Saints punter to capture NFC Special Teams Player of the Week twice in the same season. In Super Bowl XLIV, he successfully executed an onside kick at the start of the second half that brought possession back to New Orleans.

In McMahon’s first season as coordinator in 2008, New Orleans finished as one of only four teams to rank in the top 10 in both punt return average (fourth) and kickoff return average (eighth). Bush scored on two punt returns vs. Minnesota to tie an NFL record. Hartley, an undrafted rookie at the time, started his field goal streak by making all 13 attempts.

McMahon served as assistant special teams coach for his first two years in New Orleans, following a one-year stint as tight ends/special teams coach at East Carolina. In 2005, the Pirates finished in the top 20 in the nation in field goal accuracy and had a pair of solid return men. McMahon also tutored tight ends as part of a staff that directed ECU to the fourth-highest passing total in school history.

He spent 13 years at the University of Illinois (1992-2004), working primarily with the special teams, tight ends and wide receivers. In 1997, McMahon took on the additional responsibility of overseeing the special teams. His efforts were integral in Illinois making four bowl appearances and twice appearing in the final national rankings, and in 2001 the school finished 10-2 and captured the Big Ten title.

Based on the records his units established, the play of the special teams during McMahon’s years at Illinois are unmatched in school history. Illinois blocked 16 kicks from 2001-04 and accounted for nine touchdowns. Players under his direction included the school leaders in career punting average, single-season scoring and all-time punt return yardage.

McMahon came to Illinois in 1992 from Nevada-Las Vegas where he spent two years as special teams coordinator as well as coaching offensive tackles and tight ends. He has also had stints with Valdosta (Ga.) State, Southern Illinois, North Alabama and Minnesota.

As a defensive back at Eastern Illinois, he was a member of two teams that played for the NCAA Division II National Championship. The Panthers won the title in 1978 and again went to the championship game two years later. McMahon earned a degree in psychology from EIU in 1982.

PLAYING CAREER: Eastern Illinois, 1978-81.

COACHING CAREER: Eastern Illinois, 1982; Minnesota, 1983-

84; North Alabama, 1985-87; Southern Illinois, 1988; Valdosta State, 1989;

UNLV, 1990-91; Illinois, 1992-2004; East Carolina, 2005; New Orleans

Saints, 2006-.

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