Michael Clay

Q. How long were you working on that fake punt, and when did you first realize that P Braden Mann could throw that well? (Jeff McLane)

MICHAEL CLAY: Braden is a true athlete. I always knew he could throw the ball. If you look at his Jets tape, he threw a fake against Cleveland, so it’s not like nobody didn’t know he could throw the ball. It was just something we thought about maybe a few weeks back. Just something to keep in our back pocket in case the situation came to fruition. Kudos to the guys. When something like that is up, it’s all on the guys executing it well and feeling confident in it. They did a really good job over the last however long we have been working on that to get the old okay.

Whenever it came up, just the communication between myself and [Head] Coach [Nick] Sirianni, and just any way we could help this team out. That is what our job is on special teams, to be a spark of energy. You could feel a little bit of that spark of energy when Braden threw that ball to O.Z. [WR Olamide Zaccheaus], and O.Z. did a great job protecting the ball after he did catch it. You got the guys coming out the stack.

So just out of those guys, they did a heck of job executing the game plan and really going through with it.

Q. What went into making that call in that moment? You mentioned the communication between you and Head Coach Nick Sirianni. What has to happen between when the third-down play doesn’t convert and when you make the call and execute the play? (Jimmy Kempski)

MICHAEL CLAY: Yeah, it was just kind of fortunate enough that it was a flip of the quarter, so there was an opportunity maybe to get a little insight with Nick before the offense went out there. We had full confidence the offense was going to get that third-and-two. We just had it in our back pocket that we were able to say, ‘hey, if something bad does happen, we have this if you feel confident with it, we feel good with it.’

And just, again, the communication here has been outstanding between everybody from top down. It was nothing that we were scared of or miscommunicated. Once it was called and we got the green light, the guys executed again. It took all of them.

Q. If you make a call and there is a look you don’t like, can they just get out of that and punt? (Jimmy Kempski)

MICHAEL CLAY: Yeah, we always have something where if something odd happens, something we haven’t seen before, there is something built in where we can get into our regular punt and get going right there.

It was nothing that we felt afraid of in terms of we had an answer to what’s something we didn’t know. It was just one of those things where it happened that it drew up perfectly and they executed it.

Q. Who came up with the play and was there something on tape that they showed you that you thought you could get a good look with it? (Dave Zangaro)

MICHAEL CLAY: [Special Teams Assistant] Tyler Brown and [Assistant Special Teams Coordinator] Joe Pannunzio do an awesome job of getting everybody ready throughout the weeks. It’s just something you come up with, or you see something even from around the league, you see things of what’s going on. On Mondays, I watch every snap of every game around the NFL. I just try to get a pulse of the flavor of the year in terms of the whole NFL.

But it was just something we saw, something we thought, ‘all right, we got a guy that can throw. All these gunners do a great job.’ It starts on Wednesday with Tyler going through his meeting, how detailed his meeting is and just an opportunity to go, ‘hey, if we get this opportunity, let’s not be afraid of it. Let’s detail up. Let’s execute it. Let’s make sure that we’re all on the same page.’

So, it takes a whole group effort. It’s not just one guy like, ‘hey, just throwing it up there.’ It was all of us communicating it out, making sure we felt good about it. Like I said before, those 11 guys are the guys out there on Sundays or Mondays or whenever we’re playing and they got to execute, and they did a heck of a job executing it. The detail was perfect. Braden laid it out there. O.Z. made a heck of a catch, secured the ball, and flip of the field.

Q. Along those lines, does WR Olamide Zaccheaus have to do anything in particular to hide the fact that he’s out there as a gunner and not as a normal personnel? (EJ Smith)

MICHAEL CLAY: Not really. If you really look at our punt coverage, he’s been out there in that LA Rams game. It’s not like it’s the first time ever doing it. It’s not something like we feel like, ‘oh, we got to hide him,’ or it’s got to be something of deceit. It’s just one of those things where we felt comfortable, if we did have to get out of the check and he has to go cover, he’s done it before. It’s nothing we felt scared of.

Again, those guys out there, being full for it, being confident in it. A lot of times you get those big moments that get called and you get a little sweaty on the palms, but Braden did a heck of a job; OZ did a heck of a job. Nothing that we felt like was deceitful or anything. It was one of those things we felt like we could get an extra possession for our offense.

Q. Is it something you put on tape on purpose earlier, so it doesn’t look like deceit when you want to run the fake? (John McMullen)

MICHAEL CLAY: With O.Z. [WR Olamide Zaccheaus]? No, not really. It was just one of those things where we felt him being a wide receiver is an opportunity, maybe he could down the ball in the plus 50 area. He has really good ball skills. It’s nothing that we thought, ‘oh, we could get this later down the road.’ It’s an added help, yes, but it’s nothing where we thought, ‘oh, we ran it week — O.Z. was out there week five; let’s wait until week 13 to run him again.’ It just happened to fall that way. Just very fortunate that all the execution was perfect and getting that extra possession.

Q. You mentioned having a punter who can throw it in P Braden Mann and he did it twice with the Jets. Have you been around punters who you’re not confident throwing the ball and you can’t have those fakes in? (Zach Berman)

MICHAEL CLAY: Yeah, there are some guys that can’t throw a football. It’s just one of those things. There are tons of people that can’t throw a football but are really good at the other things they do. It’s just one of those things where Braden is an all-around athlete. Shoot the ball, golf, throw the ball, punt, kick, he does it all.

It’s one of those things where, if you do have somebody you feel comfortable with that can throw it, — I mean, Bonesy [Dallas Special Teams Coordinator John Fassel] had [current Carolina P] Johnny Hekker and he was a high school quarterback, so if you have that opportunity, it does give you an added confidence. Going out there and presenting that play and executing it just felt good to help out the team any way we can.

Q. Former Eagles LB Christian Elliss was leading the team in special teams snaps, and he got waived last week. What is your role in terms of when they waive a player that has that big of a role on special teams? Do they come to you and get a feel for if, say a player is ready to step into the roles he has? Are you part of that process in terms of the decision to waive a player like that? (Jimmy Kempski)

MICHAEL CLAY: I think [Executive Vice President/General Manager] Howie [Roseman] and Nick do an awesome job handling the whole roster. It’s my job as a special teams coordinator, regardless of who has the most snaps — injuries happen and takes away the guy that has the most snaps, so it’s my job, starting in OTAs to the draft, to get all these guys up to speed.

The practice squad players do an unbelievable job of, one, helping the active roster get ready for the games, and it’s not like I don’t take notice of that in terms of what they’re doing. If they’re giving us fits, they’re going to do a good job against the rest of the league. So being able to have a practice squad able — you have seen — there has been a handful of guys on our practice squad that have played on special teams for us this year. So, it’s nothing we didn’t worry about.

Obviously when a guy such as Christian Elliss, not just how good of a player he is, but how great of a person he is, it’s always tough. But that’s the nature of the beast, that’s the nature of the NFL.

But, again, Howie and Nick do a great job managing the roster, and we’re always going to try to get the best out of these guys to help the team out.

Q. Who stepped up for you to cover those snaps that former Eagles LB Christian Elliss was playing? (Ed Kracz)

MICHAEL CLAY: Yeah, it’s a full-on effort. You find guys that can do different things and different traits, a little niche. [LB] Ben VanSumeren has done a great job since being called up. [LB] Nolan [Smith], those guys – [TE] Jack [Stoll] and [TE] Grant [Calcaterra] and the tight end room, they don’t blink regardless of the situation.

So as long as these guys in here, starting tomorrow, understand what their role is and what can possibly happen, we feel confident going in with that game plan starting against Seattle, who’s also a very, very, very good special teams unit. Always have been with [Seattle Special Teams Coordinator Larry] Izzo leading them.

We have our work cut out this week going to the Pacific Northwest, long trip. Again, as long as these guys understand what their role is and can do it 100%, we feel confident going into that game.

Q. I’m sure you saw the 49ers punter call his own number. Does your punter have type of leeway? (Jeff McLane)

MICHAEL CLAY: I mean, I don’t think [49ers P] Mitch [Wishnowsky] has that leeway in San Francisco. He just took it.

Q. 49ers Head Coach Kyle Shanahan didn’t really answer, I’m sure he doesn’t, but… (Jeff McLane)

MICHAEL CLAY: Yeah, I mean, players make plays, I guess. Heck of a job out of Mitch. Mitch is a true athlete as well. Rugby player, played professionally. He saw something and took off with it. Unfortunately, they had the offsetting penalties. I’m sure the whole media is going the other way if he gets tackled before the first down.

Heck of a play out of Mitch, I’ll give it to him. Mitch is one of those guys, and even Mitch was like, ‘I just saw it and gone.’ We always have our parameters of what we want to do and what’s going to happen in the game.

Q. If I could follow up on this question, TE Jack Stoll saw an uptick in snaps this game. Was that a function of the changes in personnel or TE Dallas Goedert being back and TE Jack Stoll having less of a role on offense? (Zach Berman)

MICHAEL CLAY: Yeah, special teams is always fluid. Even when Dallas was up and playing, Jack kind of had to take a couple because of who we had out there as personnel. It was just another opportunity for Jack to go out there.

It’s not like Jack has never played in those positions. You have these conversations with them on Wednesday and Thursday, like, ‘hey, you’re going to be up on this.’ He’s ready to go. He is trying to help this team as much as possible.

He took an extra uptick on a punt return. Obviously, we only had one, but getting those guys back and allowing [WR Britain] Covey to get an 18-yard return kind of flipped the field a little from backed up. I thought it was a really good job out of everyone on that punt return team.

Q. In terms of LB Ben VanSumeren, what have you seen stand out about him, especially when it comes to his kick coverage ability? (Chris Franklin)

MICHAEL CLAY: Yeah, it’s hard to find guys that are 6′, 240, 6’1″ 240 that can run at that speed and still have that feel as a linebacker. It helps to have tip of the spear guys in terms of [CB] Josh Jobe and [S] Sydney Brown to help him paint the picture where I have to go and everything of that nature.

But Ben has done an unbelievable job. He doesn’t blink. He is ready to go whenever his number has been called and when it is called. More kudos to him, being ready for his opportunity and taking advantage of it.

Q. What’s it like being on the other side of — you know Dallas K Brandon Aubrey is having the season he’s having, 30 in a row, kicking 59 and 60. You’ve had a great kicker. Is it kind of helpless watching somebody that hot? (John McMullen)

MICHAEL CLAY: I wouldn’t say it’s helpless. It’s more you respect everyone in this league. They’re not in this league because it’s an easy way to get into this league. He is in that opportunity, he’s in that moment because he is good. Aubrey has done an unbelievable job. Bonesy has done an unbelievable job with him. 30 for 30 is nothing to bat at. It’s a heck of a job, and kudos to him understanding his training and staying within himself. A lot of guys may try to get outside of their own mechanics and that’s how you get some misses.

You don’t feel helpless, you tip your cap and respect the guy for going out there and converting a 59- and a 60-yarder. I’m sure they do the same when Jake goes out there in the Buffalo game and he hit the 59-yarder. They just tip their cap and go onto the next play because you never know the next opportunity you’re going to have.