After a year that saw their primary punt returner struggle with ball security and their usually reliable kicker struggle with accuracy, the Denver Broncos are going back to basics with the addition of their new special teams coordinator.
“We’re very excited to add Tom McMahon to our staff,” head coach Vance Joseph said in a press release Wednesday announcing the hire. “He’s an experienced special teams coach with a direct teaching style that emphasizes fundamentals. Tom has a proven track record developing young players on special teams and will bring leadership and energy to this important phase of our team.”
McMahon is a 26-year coaching veteran who has coached special teams at the NFL level for the past 11 seasons. He most recently worked as Indianapolis’ special teams coordinator from 2013-17 after holding the same position with Kansas City (2012) and St. Louis (2009-11).
The Colts featured one of the NFL’s most consistent special teams units during McMahon’s five seasons in Indianapolis, ranking in the league’s Top 5 in field goal percentage (89.6 / 3rd), net punting average (41.3 / 3rd), gross punting average (46.4 / 4th) and kickoff return average (24.5 / 5th) during that span.
Denver ranked 26th (75 percent) in field goal percentage, t26th (40.8 yards) in net punting average, 14th (45.4 yards) in gross punting average and 7th (22.6) in kickoff return average under former special teams coordinator Brock Olivo in 2017.
Denver has not had a special teams player make the Pro Bowl since Matt Prater in 2013.
In 2017, the Colts were one of just four clubs to produce multiple special-teams takeaways without committing a turnover on those units.
Denver, meanwhile, struggled with ball security in the special teams unit — specifically rookie returner Isaiah McKenzie. The former Georgia Bulldog had six muffs/fumbles (two lost) before being being benched midseason.
Indianapolis was also one of just two teams to allow fewer than 100 punt return yards (80) as punter Rigoberto Sanchez ranked fourth in the NFL with his 42.6-yard net punting average that broke the NFL rookie record set by Broncos punter Riley Dixon (41.3) in 2016. That continued a string of success in the punt unit under McMahon’s guidance.
McAfee set a Colts record with a league-leading 49.3-yard gross punting average under McMahon in 2016 to earn his second career Pro Bowl selection.
McMahon will also be asked to help Broncos kicker Brandon McManus return to form after a down season in 2017.
McManus, a career 80.7 percent field goal kicker, was successful on just 75 percent of his kicks in 2017 — his worst average since his rookie season when he was replaced midyear. In 2015 and 2016, McManus averaged 85.7 and 85.3 percent respectively on field goals.
Under McMahon, Vinatieri made his first 19 field goals in 2016 to set an NFL record with 44 consecutive field goals made dating to the previous year. In 2014, McMahon helped Vinatieri (30-of-31 FGs) and McAfee (42.8 net avg., 30 punts inside the 20, 70 kickoff touchbacks) become just the fourth kicker-punter duo to both earn First Team All-Pro recognition from the Associated Press.
With the Chiefs in 2012, McMahon coached punter Dustin Colquitt, who earned his first career Pro Bowl selection after ranking second in the NFL with 45 punts inside the 20.
Coaching special teams for the St. Louis Rams from 2009-11, McMahon worked with returner Danny Amendola, who led the NFL with 3,572 combined return yards (812 PR / 2,760 KR) during his first two NFL seasons (2009-10).
McMahon began his NFL career as an assistant special teams coach for Atlanta from 2007-08. Before joining the NFL, he coached 14 seasons at the high school or collegiate level with 11 of those years (1995-2005) spent at Utah State University in a variety of positions.
The Helena, Mont., native got his start in coaching at his alma mater, Carroll College, in 1992 as the school’s secondary coach. He spent one year as an assistant coach at Bozeman (Mont.) High School in 1993 before returning to Carroll to coach the secondary in 1994.