Thanks to one guy, Vance Joseph is certain to become a much better head coach for the Denver Broncos next year.
That one guy is not Kirk Cousins or Baker Mayfield.
His name is Tom McMahon.
McMahon is the Broncos’ new special teams coordinator.
“The biggest philosophy I have is half-court offense and full-court defense,’’ McMahon following a Senior Bowl practice this week. “Offensively, from a return standpoint, we want to give our offense a half court to work with. We want to give our defense a full court.’’
How about that, Denver-area football and basketball fans? Give the offense roughly 50 yards to score. Make the opponent go 90 yards against the defense.
McMahon is an experienced special teams coordinator with an impressive run of success.
Too often in 2017, the Broncos appeared poorly coached. Nothing makes a coach look bad like poorly executed special teams. A delay of game penalty on a kickoff? The unholy trinity of blunders – a muffed punt, a blocked punt and allowing a kickoff return for a touchdown – in a single-game loss to New England?
And it seemed like once or twice a game a Broncos special teams player was scrambling on or off the field to play with the necessary 11 guys.
The problem wasn’t so much Brock Olivo, as he was a first-time special teams coordinator on a team with a first-year head coach. A combination that didn’t work.
McMahon is going on his 10th season as an NFL special teams coordinator.
“That’s a huge job,’’ Joseph said this week in a sit-down interview with 9News in Mobile, Alabama. “Outside of my job, the one guy who touches the entire roster is that guy. So, to have a guy with experience, to have a guy with gameday experience is obviously huge for us. Because those plays are unnoticed if they’re positive. If they’re negative they kill you on game day. I’m happy to have Tom.’’
The Broncos’ struggles in kickoff and punt coverage surfaced during the preseason. Placekicker Brandon McManus was bewilderingly inconsistent. Riley Dixon’s punter stats dropped. Isaiah McKenzie dropped one punt after another.
The special teams slump is about to snap. McMahon worked with the St. Louis Rams’ special teams trio of Danny Amendola, Donnie Jones and Josh Brown for three seasons.
He worked with Dustin Colquitt and Ryan Succop in Kansas City for one season. And McMahon worked with the great Adam Vinatieri the previous five seasons in Indianapolis. Colts’ punter Pat McAfee, a two-time Pro Bowler, had an 18-yard run in 2015 and a 35-yard pass completion in 2016.
McMahon knows what good special teams look like. And he knows, even if he won’t say so, Broncos’ special teams didn’t have that look in 2017.
“I don’t get into the past,’’ McMahon said. “I’m a big fix guy. I’m not going to be a fault guy. Anything that happens, which you’ll find out with me in the media, anything that goes down there that goes bad on special teams, it’s on me.
“I’m going to fix it though, I guarantee that. I’m a fix guy. I’m going to go to the fix part of it and never ever be a fault guy. I’ve got a job to do. I’m going to get those guys (right). If there is 12 on the field, that’s on me. We’re going to fix that and it’s going to be right going forward.”