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Greg McMahon: Thomas Morstead Deserves to Make the Pro Bowl

New Orleans Saints Special Teams Coordinator Greg McMahon
Media Availability
Thursday, December 20, 2012

With Isa Abdul-Quddus and Rafael Bush now starting on defense, did you see things in them on special teams that made you think that they were ready to be everydown players?

"Yes, certainly when they play well on special teams, it sure helps their chances on defense, there is no doubt about that.  That is just the nature of our league, guys get out there and they play and a lot of those backup defensive backs, receivers, and linebackers cut their teeth playing special teams and then when it is their time to shine they have to go in there on defense.  Both of those guys are undrafted rookies.  Isa came to us two years ago.  Rafael we got right after he was waived by the Denver Broncos.  We like both of those guys and get have other young guys too. But certainly playing on special teams is only going to help them on offense and defense."

Is there something certain you look for on special teams that tells you they are ready to possibly contribute on offense and defense?

"I think they have to make plays.  I think they have to be fundamentally sound.  They have to know what the heck they are doing and at the end of the day they have to make plays.  So all of sudden if you see a guy make big plays on special teams—I remember, of course he was a first round pick, (but) Malcolm Jenkins, his rookie year made some big plays on special teams).  Malcolm goes down against the Philadelphia Eagles and makes a great play as a gunner and you just say, 'wow this guy is a good player and a good safety'.  It all ties in together.  There is no question, if a guy can't go out and play special teams, then he is going to have a hard time playing defense or offense."

Is it a double edge sword, because once they start playing well, you probably lose a lot of players?

"Yeah I'm usually (feeling) like, don't play that well (laughter).  No, look it's the next guy up.  So for example, Isa Abdul-Quddus is (a) starting safety now that Malcolm Jenkins went on Injured Reserve.  Now, it's time for Jerico Nelson.  And that goes to where I think Coach Sean Payton (instilled), really our culture here, is that we are really on these guys on the looks squad (scout teams). For example, Jerico Nelson, he has played on all of our looks squads and we tell those guys every day that you have to play the game every day.  If you don't play the game in meetings and in practice how in the heck are you going to be able to play in the game?  When Jerico came up last week, David Thomas goes, 'Mac, this guy plays the game every day.'  It has to be a mentality.  No doubt."

Fan voting is over for the Pro Bowl and Thomas Morstead leads the NFC, is that something you think he deserves?

"Absolutely.  His numbers speak for themselves.  No one would be more tickled if Thomas made it than myself and really our franchise.  Really, he is what we are all about.  He is playing good enough.  He is a great worker. He is a great teammate.  I know all the fans really appreciate him so heck yeah, we would love to see Thomas Morstead in the Pro Bowl.  His numbers speak for themselves."

If Thomas Morstead does set the record for net yardage, what about his game made him do that?

"He has improved this year from a year ago.  I think his directional punting is improved. I think our gunners have done a good job, Rafael Bush and Courtney Roby certainly.  And I think Thomas would be the first to tell you those guys have played well.  I think he is advanced in his ability to directional punt.  I think his mishits haven't been as bad.  He is much more consistent as you look from year to year.  I think more than anything, his consistency and his ability to directional punt (is improved)."

Do you think he is kind of a new generational punter?

"Seems like it.  They are all big and athletic.  They are strong legged and they are certainly a good group in the NFL.  Again, I wasn't there back in the 60s and 70s but I know the guys that, certainly Thomas and the guys we play against are talented."

It seems like they have a new nuance approach of kicking the ball in terms of the way they drop it off their foot—

"Well, that whole Aussie style, going in punt with a knuckle ball, maybe that is what you are talking about.  It's different.  When some of the Aussies came in and started doing that it certainly—it's a copycat league and those guys have all kind of copied that so every guy in the league does that now.  Thomas' work ethic is phenomenal.  His attention to detail and his routine is a lot like Drew Brees'.  He is really something."

What did you think about the kick coverage the last game against Tampa Bay?

"It was better, certainly it couldn't have been worse, so that's for sure.  It was as bad as it could be against the New York Giants.  It was certainly much better. The guys have pride.  They really took it upon themselves.  We didn't panic. We do what we do, and like we said, we have had great success for twelve weeks.  Then we just looked at the film and tried not to bull crap each other and say look, we got undisciplined, I allowed it because I'm coaching it and you guys did it so we have to get it corrected.  I think the guys did that when you look at the film.  The guys understood we had to have five to the left, five to the right and we had to play with proper leverage.  We were much improved."

What are your thoughts on Garrett Hartley this season?

"Good.  In his defense, he kind of—I don't know how many he has made in a row, but he just kind of put it—he's a streaky guy.  He just kind of put them back to back to back and that's what he is and that's why he has been here for four or five years because he is that kind of kicker.  He is mentally tough. He hasn't changed anything.  You look around the league (and) guys have to fight through things.  When you are around the John Carney's and the John Kasay's, and you see those kinds of veteran players, there are some times where those guys have to overcome.  Guys just don't come in the first day and just stay for fifteen years and not have to go through some adversity.  And the guys that are mentally tough, they figure it out.  I think Garrett has done a good job with that."

Did you take a different approach to practice in kickoff coverage after the New York Giants loss?

"Sure. There was a heighten sense of urgency about that and we really just—I wanted to watch that film again so we watched it a second time to just say, 'hey look, lets really identify where the problems are and lets make sure this is about us and we certainly have to be ready for our opponent, but if we can't play with the proper leverage, it doesn't matter what the schemes are for our opponents.' I think there was a heightened sense of urgency.  That's what I felt.  It was really from them.  I could see it in their eyes on Monday when we got in the meeting. You could tell they were very disappointed in how they played and they knew they had to get it fixed."

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