Read the full transcript from Head Coach Mike McDaniel's press conference on Wednesday, Aug. 17, 2022.
(Did WR Jaylen Waddle miss practice yesterday because of an injury? And is he back today?) – "He just didn't feel like it. (laughter) No, that was fun. It was a cool process with Jaylen. You learn more about your players all of the time. There is something that I really don't need to get into but he could have practiced with. With our elite medical staff, having history with stuff, we were trying to be preventative. He wanted to practice. We disallowed it to try to be in front of something. But I expect him to practice here again in training camp. We'll take it day-by-day. We're just trying to – sometimes you have to protect people from themselves. And that's a great problem to have, especially with an elite talent like that."
(With these fast-twitch guys, the soft-tissue stuff can sometimes linger throughout the season. Is that a new point of emphasis…) – "Definitely. Especially because their head coach was in that same category. He was so fast-twitch and explosive, he can relate. He was pretty good at talking in the third person and preventing fast-twitch soft-tissue injuries. (laughter) No, it's something that you learn over time. I think one of the things that is really cool about the Miami Dolphins and the medical staff and Dave Puloka and the strength staff is they aren't science minors, they're science majors. So we take all of that stuff into consideration and we try to be as accountable as possible in preventing as many soft-tissue (injuries) as you can. You'll never be 100 percent but you try to pay attention to each individual player and tailor things so that they can avoid those things as best as possible."
(Can you assess what you saw from QB Tua Tagovailoa yesterday? It was the most interceptions we've seen him throw in camp… what do you want to see him do today?) – "That's interesting. Yesterday was a classic example of the conflict, at least for me emotionally, as a head coach – and I was very clear with this with the team – I was very pumped with how the offense and in particular Tua, came out in practice. I let it known early and often to the defense that I didn't think they were performing to the standard. I think it was probably the most successful red zone period that we've had, certainly being here, offensively versus the defense. But after bringing that to the defense's attention, we got into some situational periods and man did they answer the bell. And in those periods, we turned the ball over way too much, which was a great learning lesson for Tua. We hadn't been in a couple of those situations yet. So we got to talk about it and learn from it. So overall, I had half the practice that I was pumped at the offense, half of the practice I was pumped at the defense and simultaneously being mad at the other side of the ball. All of which is either a blip on the radar or something that is some of the best stuff that can happen to you. So especially on the practice field, you try to have players put themselves in scenarios as close to a game as a possible, and let it rip and play what they see. Then you re-evaluate it or you coach them up on it. Then the next day, you want to see improvement. And the next time we're in those situations in practice, I want to see improvement. And in games, I'm expecting improvement with the offense. And hopefully the defense is able to reproduce that same production against an opponent. But yeah, it's almost like it makes you, as a head coach, you just feel completely bipolar at times. You're like, 'I'm happy and I'm sad.'"
(How many situations are there where you're simultaneously happy with both sides of the ball?) – "When effort, intent, assignment and technique are good – which does happen – that, generally, somebody wins a down. I really like the periods within the period of back and forth. That's when I am simultaneously happy because you're going – every play doesn't work on both sides of the ball ever. So going through that process of saying, 'Wow, that was a seven-yard run play we just gave up as a defense. It's second-and-3. Ok, now it's a two-yard loss. Now it's third-and-5.' Then you have a perfectly executed defensive structure versus an offensive structure, and then maybe Tua (Tagovailoa) throws a perfect throw and it's a very contested but good completion. Or it's a perfect throw and a DB makes a great play. Those are my favorite periods within the team, because you don't want to see complete domination by either side. It's an interesting – when you practice together for about a month and then you have all of the OTAs and stuff, you're looking for parity because our team needs both sides of the ball to be as good as they can be."
(Where are you in the return game right now with WR Lynn Bowden Jr. having a nice night on Saturday? How is that shaking out, the race for the returner roles?) – "If you're a return enthusiast, this is a cool moment in time for the Miami Dolphins just because there is competition there. We have a lot of dynamic playmakers so we're afforded the option of really being able to mix it up and have people really compete. Right now, after one game, I think nothing is settled. But guys are starting to get more comfortable with the returns and it's like everything else, the competition is really where the cream rises to the top. It's a fun thing to watch. I, by no means, short-change the process ever. Especially with situations where there is high competition like that. We're going to continue to give guys opportunities because again, I'm always looking – and I have to do it with the players all of the time – I'm not bottom-line oriented as a coach because there are too many compounding variables for success or failure. What I'm looking at is, 'Ok, well here is what you did well. Cool. Can we count on that? Here is where you did poorly. Do you improve on that?' Because the name of the game is not being really your best necessarily in September. It's about January. That's what you are building towards and that's the mindset that I'm trying to really infuse in the team."
(Do you need to settle in on one returner? I know you said you're not into absolutes. You could use WR Jaylen Waddle and WR Tyreek Hill but you're not going to use them full-time. Do you need to find one guy that fills that role?) – "I don't think you need to. I think you can – I think that's something that happens a lot if you have a player that has an exclusive skillset that doesn't really fit into offense and defense. Or you only have one guy that you're really confident in. So no, I don't think you have to by any stretch. I think that's a competitive advantage to give different people opportunities because it shows the opposing team – they get a different feel. It also creates a little urgency for each returner because 'I want to get another one.'"
(Since your time taking over as coach until now, how do you like where your team is at this point and what are some things you really like about how the team has grown since you got here?) – "One of my favorite parts is that I'm a pretty positive guy and I like to bring energy, but there have been opportunities that I've had along the way to kind of point out and nip in the bud that that's not good enough. Whatever that is on either side of the ball or on special teams or anywhere that I've really applied that pressure, like 100 percent of the time, people have responded. And I think that is the life you live, that is the life of everyone, that is football. The nuts and bolts of it is really handling all of the noise, being able to accept constructive stuff and then getting better from it. That's my favorite part. I'm pretty happy with where we're at for approaching the second preseason game. I'm pretty happy. Will I be happy during the season? That's contingent upon what happens now. You could have the greatest offseason and beginning of training camp in the history of football and if you shut it down for a couple of weeks, all of that is meaningless. I feel very confident. They're earning my confidence by the way they respond. I'm happy really about where we're at and where we're going, feeling confident that we'll take the right steps to be ready to play New England in Week 1."
(Do you have to – I mean, it's a bad word, but do you have to yell? At times, do you have to get in front of your team and chew them out? Is that something…?) – "I try not to major in it. It's kind of philosophically – I don't enjoy yelling, but you have to do what you have to do to let them know exactly the urgency of the moment. But I've always philosophically thought that if you pick and choose those moments, then that state that you don't really like to be in is purposeful. I just know from my personal experience, at some point in time if you're just yelled at consistently all the time, then the yelling sounds like normal talking, and that's not the idea of it. I think it's important to build relationships and try to develop players as players and people. But they also need to know the urgency, it's my job to let them know the urgency, so if it's – I won't hesitate nor have I hesitated – you can ask some of the players – but I will have a temper from time to time. I think they understand – because I value earning that and earning trust, I don't think that I'm owed or entitled to anything. I think on a daily basis, I have to really earn their investment. I think that they see where that's coming from, not as misguided emotion but more as tangible direct, I don't know if convicted emotion (is the right phrase), that is all geared toward them being their best."
(What are you most looking forward to for Saturday's game? It's your first home game at Hard Rock Stadium. What are you most looking forward to?) – "I don't know, the aqua seats? (laughter) I'm just excited for, really, it's been such a cool process to, as I've explained before, I didn't really know the fanbase. This was one of the two divisions I had never coached in in the league, so everything since I've been here, I've just been like, 'Wow, this Miami Dolphins fan base is phenomenal.' Just hearing the feedback, seeing the fans out at practice, I know there's going to be a lot of energy and people are excited about seeing their players and their team. So I'm kind of – I guess I would say the thing I'm most excited about is that connection between a fanbase that really supports and is invested into the team and a team that really wants to do right by the fanbase. That should be fun, and I look forward to that this weekend and the rest of the season."
(No announcements? No big announcements?)– "Hm, are you setting – should I have an announcement?"
(Well we're not going to see you until Saturday.) – "Oh, I think tomorrow, there's a birthday tomorrow. I just read it. There's a player's birthday. I should announce that. (laughter) I should announce that my wife went to the grocery store, which is exciting because I'm a big snack time guy. (laughter) Outside of that – oh, I would like to announce that I'm very excited for practice, as you guys should be, because it's an opportunity for both sides of the ball to respond to things that they weren't happy with the previous day."
(I think maybe he was referring to like the rotation of players and starters?) – "Oh, you know (moves hand over his head). I'm still working through it. And again, as transparent as possible, I think I really, in an annoying manner, I don't like to shortchange individual practices. I think that deciding everyone's playing time based upon where they're at for this team, for our young team, I think that doesn't do right or justice to the individual practices. So we'll be working through that and it will probably be about the same timeline that I'll know as it was last week, unfortunately."
(For us. I'm just kidding.) – "Hey, I mean for me too. I want to know what I think. (laughter) I really would love to know what I think, but I have to wait for all the information before I can think that I think I know the right answer."