Greg McMahon – a NFL coaching veteran with unmatched expertise in special teams play – enters his third season as LSU’s special teams coordinator in 2020. McMahon, who won a Super Bowl with the New Orleans Saints, joined the LSU staff as an analyst in 2017 before taking over as special teams coordinator a year later.
McMahon joins Bill Johnson, James Cregg and Kevin Faulk as coaches on the LSU staff to win both a Super Bowl and a national title at the collegiate level.
The play of LSU’s special teams since McMahon took over that unit has gone a long way in the Tigers posting a 28-3 overall mark and claiming both the SEC and CFP National titles during that two-year span. LSU has led the SEC in points by kicking in back-to-back years.
In 2019, true freshman Cade York led the SEC and ranked No. 2 nationally in points by a kicker with 152, while kickoff specialist Avery Atkins led the nation in touchbacks (110) and finished No. 3 in touchback percentage (83.9). Three-year starting punter Zach Von Rosenberg averaged 42.8 yards on 47 punts with 21 of those being downed inside the 20-yard line.
York, who earned second team All-SEC honors as well as being a Freshman All-SEC selection, became the first player in LSU history with two 50-yard field goals in a game and he’s one of only two kickers in school history to have four 50-yard field goals in a season. He finished his rookie season by connecting on 21-of-27 field goals and going 89-of-93 on extra-point attempts.
LSU also accounted for two special teams touchdowns – one punt return and one return of a blocked punt.
McMahon’s impact on LSU’s special teams was nothing short of remarkable in 2018 as the Tigers rode the leg of record-setting kicker Cole Tracy, along with the punting of Von Rosenberg and kickoff ability of Atkins to a 10-3 record and a Fiesta Bowl victory.
In his first full season in charge of LSU special teams, McMahon’s unit set or tied seven school-records, including field goals in a game (5 vs. Georgia), field goals in a season (29), longest field goal (54 yards by Tracy vs. Miami) and points by kicking in a game (18 by Tracy vs. Georgia).
The Tigers led the SEC in points scored by kicking (129) and field goals made (29), finished second in the league in kickoff returns (24.7) and were third in net punting (41.0).
Individually, graduate transfer Tracy, who kicked a 42-yard walk-off field goal to beat Auburn, 22-21, in September, earned second team All-America honors and was a finalist for the Lou Groza Award in his only season with the Tigers. Tracy capped his collegiate career with more field goals (97) and points kicking (502) than any player in college football history, no matter the division.
Tracy led the SEC and ranked No. 2 in the nation in field goals (29) and field goals per game (2.23). He also paced the league in scoring (129), which ranked No. 7 nationally.
Von Rosenberg earned second team All-SEC honors after finishing No. 2 in the league in punting with a 45.7 average, which ranks as the third-best single-season total in school history.
As LSU’s kickoff specialist, Atkins saw 71 of his 79 kickoffs go for touchbacks and the Tigers held opponents to only 126 yards in kickoff returns all year. Opponents managed only 64 return yards on 13 punts, an average of 4.9 yards a return.
Prior to his arrival as an analyst for the Tigers in the fall of 2017, McMahon spent 11 years with the New Orleans Saints, the first two as assistant special teams coordinator followed by nine seasons as special teams coordinator. During his 11 years with the Saints, special teams play under McMahon was defined by solid performances in the kicking game, coverage units and by the return specialists.
McMahon, a graduate of Eastern Illinois, served on the coaching staff at Illinois for 13 years before transitioning to the NFL. At Illinois, McMahon coached wide receivers for five years and then spent eight years coaching special teams and the tight ends. McMahon was part of the 2001 Illinois staff that won the Big 10 and faced LSU in the Sugar Bowl.
Under McMahon’s watch, the Saints recovered 15 fumbles on special teams, scored 12 touchdowns – including seven on punt returns – and blocked three punts, five field goals and three extra points. With McMahon on staff, the Saints made five playoff appearances, won the NFC South three times and claimed the franchise’s first Super Bowl championship with a 31-17 win over the Colts in Super Bowl XLIV.
As the special teams coordinator for the Saints, McMahon was responsible for some of the best special teams play in franchise history. In the biggest win in Saints history – the Super Bowl victory over the Colts – New Orleans became the first team to successfully execute an onside kick prior to the fourth quarter of a Super Bowl. Called “Ambush”, the Saints shifted the momentum of the game in their favor with the onside kick to open the second half, going from down 10-6 at halftime to taking a 13-10 advantage following the onside kick.
Saints kicker Garrett Hartley also became the first player in Super Bowl history to kick three field goals of 40-yards or more in the same game.
In 2014, New Orleans’ punt coverage units ranked first in the NFL in opponent punt return average (4.1), setting a club record. Punter Thomas Morstead, who evolved into one of the best in the league at his position, ranked No. 2 in the NFL in net punting in 2014 with a 42.9 average.
In 2013, Morstead finished third in the league in net punting (42.3) and the Saints won three games, including one in the postseason, on field goals at the end of regulation. Morstead earned a spot in the Pro Bowl and was named second team All-Pro by the Associated Press in 2012 after he set club records for both gross (50.1) punting average and net (43.2) punting average. His 42.3 ranked second in NFL history at the time.
McMahon had perhaps his best year with the Saints in 2011 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 an NFL-record 68 touchbacks. Kicker 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 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.
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). Reggie Bush scored on two punt returns against Minnesota to tie an NFL record.
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. 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 joined 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, Minnesota and his alma mater Eastern Illinois.
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. McMahon and his wife Linda have three children and two grandchildren.
THE MCMAHON FILE
Year at LSU: Third
Birthdate: January 2, 1960
Hometown: Rantoul, Illinois
Children: Drew, Lisa, Sam
High School: Rantoul Township High School
College: Eastern Illinois (1982)
1978-81 Eastern Illinois (defensive back)
1982 Eastern Illinois
1985-87 North Alabama
1988 Southern Illinois
1989 Valdosta State
1992-04 Illinois (wide receivers, 1992-96; tight ends/special teams, 1997-04)
2005 East Carolina (tight ends/special teams)
2006-16 New Orleans Saints (asst. special teams coordinator, 2006-07; special teams coordinator, 2008-16)
2017-20 LSU (analyst, 2017; special teams coordinator, 2018-)
Season Bowl Team Opponent Results
1992 Holiday Illinois Hawaii L, 27-17
1994 Liberty Illinois East Carolina W, 30-0
1999 MicronPC.com Illinois Virginia W, 63-21
2001 Sugar Illinois LSU L, 47-34
2017 Citrus LSU Notre Dame L, 21-17
2018 Fiesta LSU UCF W, 40-32
2019 Chick-fil-A Peach LSU Oklahoma W, 63-28
2019 CFP National Championship LSU Clemson W, 42-25