Read the full transcript from Head Coach Mike McDaniel's press conference on Sunday, Aug. 14, 2022.
(On CB Trill Williams, we were wondering whether you, Defensive Coordinator Josh Boyer and General Manager Chris Grier have talked about any possibility of moving S Eric Rowe back from safety, where obviously you have good depth, to cornerback?) – "First and foremost, you hate to see an injury like that for a guy that's been working as diligently as Trill has. He was an example of a player early on that I could tell, in a healthy way, that he wasn't totally happy with where he was at in terms of depth. You want to talk about an example of a player handling that the right way and transferring that energy to the point where he's been making plays daily on the ball. You can tell from his teammates how pumped they were for him. It's one of the hard things about the profession that I really struggle with when I see that happen to someone. At the same time, I think he's proven time and time again that things of that nature won't keep him back over the long haul. The challenge is to make that thing happen for a good reason and come back stronger and better. It's something that I think hurt the hearts of the whole team, myself included. With regard to Eric Rowe, he's been getting pretty involved in the defense in a good way. I kind of like where he's at in terms of his play. There's a new side of him that was kind of displayed in the joint practices. I was talking to the team about the salty side of Rowe. He was getting competitive and it was really cool to see. I like where he's at right now at his position. I think he does have versatility that you could go down that road if need be. But right now we're just evaluating a couple of guys and then as Chris and his department always does, for the cornerback position, we'll be in discussion on how to handle some of these injuries and moving forward, what we need to continue to develop and not over-do the other existing corners on the roster."
(I know cutdowns are coming. I think on Tuesday. Where are you guys in the evaluation process?) – "That's something that we talk a lot about people getting opportunities every day and how valuable and how every practice is so valuable, and every opportunity is so valuable. It's a balance where going into a preseason game before you know there's a cut, you're kind of saying the state of the union right then, fully knowing that when there are opportunities in front of people, you don't make your mind up because you learn so much about players each and every time they're out on the field. And specifically when you have to handle the emotions of the game. We had long discussions last week and then some discussions that we started today. But then we're careful that this is their livelihoods and it's also the team and the organization. These are big decisions that when you have a competitive, talented roster like we have and that they've built here and are growing right now, you don't take them lightly at all. You discuss them. We discussed more today but we'll sleep on it. Further discussion comes tomorrow. It's just a constant communication with Chris (Grier) and myself, as well as with the coordinators and position coaches for every real decision that we make. And to the team's credit, it's not easy. And that's a good thing for the Dolphins. There's no no-brainer like this guy is a fish out of water. It's far from that. We'll continue to discuss that before we make those final decisions, which are tough and that's good."
(T Greg Little's absence last night, was that injury related? And can you describe his camp so far?) – "We didn't totally know that he wasn't going to play. He's been day-to-day, so you're trying to position him to be ready to play in the game but then at the last second, when it comes time for the game, you have to decide if this is a fair representation for the player, because you don't want to put them out there and then after the game be like 'Well, he was playing through an injury in the preseason right now.' Because that just confuses you more. He'd been really doing well, flashing some stuff and gaining some confidence that he should have and deserves, and we didn't want to compromise that confidence by putting him out there before he was ready. He's really day-to-day and we'll continue that evaluation so we can get the right Greg Little out there on the field."
(There's been a lot of excitement about OL Rob Hunt and OL Austin Jackson from yourself, General Manager Chris Grier – the guys themselves have been very excited about their work in this system. Now that you have I think 13 snaps of game tape, what's kind of your take on what they put on tape last night?) – "It was really cool because of how they have developed, where it's the first opportunity. We talk about deliberate practice a bunch. I was talking to the team today about it. The idea of deliberate practice is so that in the games, it's just virtually another practice. That you've put yourself in game situations all of the time. So really, out of those 13 snaps, probably for all three of those guys, there would have been like 10 plusses. Then the three minuses were all things that they've executed against our defense in practice, whether it's combinations or pass pro sets, that maybe were a little off. So it was awesome for those young dudes to get that feeling, for us to say 'Hey, why is this different?' Ok, it shouldn't be. You should have all of the confidence. It should feel the same as practice for you and that's the goal, that the spectacle that is a game isn't anything but doing our craft that we do every day. It got us a chance to revisit kind of the primary pillars of philosophy of how we go about our business. I think they felt it but they didn't lose confidence. It was like, 'Oh, yeah.' And we're at a good spot with them because of that."
(You said at halftime yesterday that you weren't nervous because football is what you're good at. Now that you've had a night to process last night's game and your first chance at being a head coach, how are you feeling about your performance and that moment for you in general?) – "I think it was more that I'm not good at anything else (laughter). But it is where I'm comfortable. I think you guys feel that. I'm not going to hide from it at all. There are a lot of things – I'm not going to necessarily have this whole dialogue about how terrible I am but there are a lot of things that I'm like yeah, that's not what I'd hope it to be. Which it was ironic because I knew that going into it. I knew going into it that it's an odd thing to be excited for something, but also know I'm not going to put my best foot forward or my final product forward. So just like the players, there are a lot of things. I think that's important as a coach to identify and be transparent with that with your players. 'Yeah, this wasn't good enough. This short-changed you in one way shape or form.' I'm excited because it's over because I wanted to identify exactly where – I just wanted to get to that point as fast as possible. Ok, now I did this, now I can get better at this and I can manage this better, I can communicate this better, this decision can be better and all of those things. Yeah, it's what I expected, and I expected to get a C on the math test. I got the C and so I'm like, 'Yeah, cool.' Now I can work on getting a B or an A someday, if you guys allow it. (laughter)"
(I know some offensive line coaches talk about playing the five best guys when they have injuries. I'm curious your feeling on that issue with regard to tackle. If Terron Armstead – God forbid he misses any games this year – would you think, and I don't know how much you want to talk about this for competitive reasons but I just want to throw it out there, would you be of the mindset to potentially move OL Austin Jackson or OL Liam Eichenberg, from positions where they've played since May and developed real good consistency, to left tackle if need be? Or do you believe it's best to leave them where they are if they're thriving at those spots and play a natural left tackle if Terron needs to miss time?) – "There is a starting point to that, but I think absolutes are a dangerous place because if you live in that, then what about the exception that flourishes? But from a starting point, it kind of has to do with your combinations of players because the starting point for me is that moving a player that's in a spot where he's being productive, now you just have two spots that are less, as opposed to you just having one thing you can work around. But there are exceptions to that and left tackle is an interesting one because with the edge rushers that are in this league, you can go from sack fumble to completion explosive because there is so much space. I would say from a starting point, I would try not to move a starter out of their position to cover up another position. But I wouldn't say that would be an absolute because you have to think through, know the pros and cons, and kind of address it the best you can. I guarantee there will be a situation where I will go back on that statement at some point in time because I don't believe in just being like, 'Ok, this is my philosophy,' and my brain shuts off."
(I wanted to ask you about QB Teddy Bridgewater. I didn't see him practice on Thursday and then he didn't play in the game. Was any of that injury related or just he's a veteran and you really wanted to see QB Skylar Thompson for two days?) – "He had a little back tightness to a degree on the practice day but it wasn't anything major. We saw it as an opportunity to get Skylar some reps in practice. And then Skylar's ability to handle those reps, those all important reps with the twos, we kind of just got thinking here's an opportunity to do something that you don't generally get, which is – I think I've talked about it before but I had one experience with Sage Rosenfels when I was coaching in Houston. And Sage's point to me that always stuck out to me was like, 'Yeah, I'm so much better coming in as a reliever.' It's so different when you're not preparing as a starter and then in-game, you come in and play. But when you have a night or a week to prepare as the starter, for whatever reason, it's just a different set of circumstances that psychologically, Sage was like, 'I didn't flourish in.' And that always stood out to me because I wouldn't know that, but that's probably real. I think that over time, you can look at backup quarterback success and see that that's more common than not. So I was paying attention to it after he planted that seed. So fast forward to that week and I was like wow, here he is operating at a pretty high level. If he does have to play, should circumstances present themselves, where else would we have that opportunity where he would be a known starter in a three preseason game (schedule). That would typically come up in the fourth preseason game and you can cross that bridge but with three, you can't really. In conjunction with how Tua (Tagovailoa) is performing, where I thought the first-team quarterback was at, and then in that practice, we thought why not do this and see how he reacts, and we learned a lot about the guy. I think his teammates did too. It was more really the opportunity to – Teddy had started plenty of games. And I think you can see by Skylar's play that he was pretty ready, although he'll be hard on himself and say there was plenty of stuff that he missed. That was kind of the objective and I thought he handled it well."
(So you wanted QB Skylar Thompson to have the mindset of 'Ok, I'm going to start?') – "Right. And wear that for preparation, for the night before, for sleep. That was something that, like I said, you just try to observe surroundings. That was something that stood out to me so much because I had never been in that position and I had never thought about it that way. So yeah, that was exactly what we thought. We can get this opportunity out. Why go play Teddy (Bridgewater) for a quarter or two when what if this is the only opportunity we have before live bullets down the road and let's see what this kid is made of."
(For record-keeping purposes, will CB Trill Williams end up on IR?) – "I wouldn't go as far as to say that just because you're careful not to get ahead of yourself with all of the medical opinions that are currently in that process right now. But it does seem severe and I wouldn't be completely surprised if that is the case. But I wouldn't be willing to stamp that. That would be kind of inappropriate and a little jumping the gun."
(On the touchdown pass between CB Noah Igbinoghene and S Brandon Jones in the first quarter, was that a missed assignment or a couple of missed assignments? Missed communication? Physical error?) – "Really, I kind of put it on myself. It's something that the players, we're obviously teaching them but at the same time, there's been a tremendous amount of focus on a lot of different football things and I don't think that they had really gotten enough reps really in that situation. So to be fair to them, it's something that if it happens again, I would be more critical on. I talked to Noah during the game and he can let it loose, play what he sees and don't be as conservative. Those are types of things that I'm more worried about than it happening again in this process than on game day. It was definitely a learning moment."
(I think it was back in OTAs and you talked about kind of calibrating your aggressiveness on offense to reflect the good defense that you have here. I was curious when you have a guy like K Jason Sanders, who made four field goals and two from 50+ down the middle, how does that kind of change the way you see the game or see the field from an offensive aggressiveness standpoint?) – "That's a great question because it's direct. There is that area of the field where it's third down and you're between the 25 and the 30 (yard line) and do you want to be aggressive or not? Do you want to put yourself in a situation where maybe you could get an explosive? You feel a little more willing to do that if the worst-case scenario, which I think happened to us twice, happens and you get sacked. So it expands that – you get into that area where you might take yourself out of points but now you have a little deeper area where you can be a little more aggressive because if you do have the worst-case scenario happen, he can get your back, which is what he did last night, which is why it was a team win and something to build upon."