Tom McMahon’s philosophy on the mission of his special teams unit can be summed up in one word.
Put strain on the opposing offenses by making them start with bad field position when kicking off and punting. Reduce strain on your own team’s offense by getting them field position as advantageous as possible when receiving punts and kickoffs.
Then keep that pressure on by taking advantage of every opportunity in the kicking game to add to the strain on the opponent’s efforts to beat you.
The Raiders’ new special teams coach believes his unit can do that by straining itself on each and every play and he’s not shy about using the word.
“Strain is going to be our top word from the standpoint of, if you’re straining, every single player straining, that takes care of the compete, that takes care of effort,” he said. “What you want is teams around the league to say, ‘Hey, look, that’s a team that’s going to strain.’
“All of those things, tackling, effort, compete, blocking; they come down to one word and that’s strain. And we’re going to out-strain people and (former special teams coach Rich Bisaccia) did a good job of establishing that. We’re not going to lose that. We’re going to out-practice people, but it’s going to come down to the word strain.”
After spending four years in the same role with the Broncos, McMahon, 52, inherits with the Raiders a dedicated and talented core special teams group.
Punter A.J. Cole, kicker Daniel Carlson and long-snapper Trent Sieg are among the best in the league at their positions. All are locked into contracts for at least the next two seasons.
“Oh, that’s nice,” McMahon said of that kind of stability. “The only other time I’ve been able to do that is in Indianapolis with Adam Vinatieri, Pat McAfee and Matt Overton. So, it’s nice to come in with established guys, guys that have done a great job in the league.”
At the Super Bowl, McAfee told the Review-Journal he believed McMahon would be a great addition to Josh McDaniels’ first Raiders staff.
“He’s a guy that just works really hard,” the punter-turned-broadcasting star said. “He has a great connection with the team and has high expectations. He brought an entire new game to me that I will forever be grateful for. Tom McMahon brought out the best in me.”
While McMahon will spend most of his time on the practice field with Cole, Carlson and Sieg, special teams goes far beyond just that trio.
The way rosters are constructed, he believes it’s necessary to use starting players on his coverage and return units to some degree. McMahon said he will work with position coaches on decisions such as not using the nickel corner much on special teams during weeks when the plan is to employ heavy use of nickel personnel on defense.
“So, it comes down each week, game-to-game how much we can use starters,” he said. “But they have to be ready to play. I think that the teams that use their best players — and that would be my philosophy … (get the best results).”
That means putting that strain on the opposition.
A Montana native, McMahon came up as a defensive coach at several collegiate stops, finally settling into special teams roles at Utah State and Louisville before making the jump to the NFL with the Falcons as an assistant in 2007. McMahon got his first special teams coordinator job with the Rams in 2009 and has been in that position with various organizations ever since, including stops with the Chiefs, Colts and Broncos.
An opportunity to come to the Raiders was one he just couldn’t resist.
“The biggest thing is the tradition,” he said. “Just the word Raiders brings to mind physical play, brings to mind guys that are going to out-compete everybody. Guys are going to out-effort people. That’s the first thing that came to mind when I had a chance to come here and interview with Josh and Dave (Ziegler) was, hey look, the tradition behind this organization, there’s a lot of winning. But what it came from is speed, power, outworking people, you know, blue collar workers and winning Super Bowls by that way.”