Read the full transcript from Head Coach Mike McDaniel's press conference on Friday, Aug. 5, 2022.
(There are a lot of – obviously with as much talent as you have at tight end, receiver, running back – there are going to be a lot of players who want the ball, touches, playing time this year. When you and General Manager Chris Grier were evaluating which players to re-sign or sign, how much did you talk, if any, about each one? Would this guy make waves if he doesn't get as many snaps as maybe he has in the past or feels like he deserves? Is that ever a consideration when you and Chris evaluate players and specifically with tight end, you have a bunch of players who have had a lot of NFL snaps. Not all of them might get as many as they have in the past. Was that something you thought about with TE Mike Gesicki, TE Durham Smythe, etc. in signing them?) – "You adamantly discuss each and every player that you're re-signing and I think competitors, by nature, compete and they, in general, have a yearn to have the ball. But then I try not to have preconceived notions necessarily about how players are going to respond or whatever. That's what you do as a coach. You show how each and every play affects other plays, how things can snowball, how some days you won't have any (opportunities) with regard to playing the ball down the field and some days you will. So it's really not a matter of trying to avoid that. It's kind of setting the vision of what good football takes, what type of sacrifice it takes and there's never been a team that hurts because of too much competition."
(What's your approach in preseason games? Because I know typically coaches – they kind of level up and then sort of level down maybe a little at the end in terms of using starters. How much work do you want to get the guys during that and at what point will you pull back maybe to avoid injury or that kind of thing?) – "I think it's a tough balance – an inexact science that you try to handle on a case-by-case basis and what the team needs, understanding that every time you're playing football, there's always a risk in that. There's an inherent risk, but there's also – preseason is a valuable time to hone your skills and having 11 people work together for the regular season. So realistically I don't try to shortchange. We have three practices before we head off to Tampa and practice against them, and I try not to get ahead of myself and say, 'Okay, this person first of all is anointed the starter. Second of all, how much are they going to play?' That's something that I think it's important to wait until you get there before you really decide exactly how long each individual player will play because there'll be starters that end up playing in Preseason (Week) 1. There will be starters that won't. I don't think that preseason is very valuable, but you're also trying to figure out who is going to be on your team and we take that very seriously."
(I wanted to ask you about the news that came out recently about Steve Ross and tampering and courtships of a coach and Tom Brady. What do you say to the team? Obviously I don't know how much it impacts people who are actually on the field on a daily basis, but when they see themselves as an organization be discussed in the news and it involves possibly their head coach and it involves their quarterback, what do you say to them as a group?) – "You said a key thing in that statement where you're not sure if it involves the people on the field, so that right there, the most important thing as a head coach is that that's your entire focus. So you can say a lot by saying a lot or not saying anything at all. We have an incredible challenge in front of us as the 2022 Dolphins. I think the players are owed complete and utter focus on that, so I think there's power in not giving legs to something that doesn't really affect those 2022 players that really deserve full and undivided attention. I think that's something that you can – the biggest thing is that players have an objective that day. Players are owed a lot by coaches for what they sacrifice, so I wouldn't do them the disservice by spending any time on things that aren't 100 percent focused on what's important to them and their job at hand, which is making a football team and then being held accountable for their efforts moving forward on game days."
(Is there any concern at this point regarding CB Byron Jones and his status for the start of the regular season?) – "No. The concern is with him continuing to progress. Right now that isn't a concern for us, but it takes a full commitment each and every day for that to hold true, so right now we're confident in how he's rehabbing. If there's a setback, then we'll be concerned, but until then, we feel pretty good about it."
(We had Wide Receivers Coach Wes Welker the other day, who said something interesting about how he thought he sucked his first year as a coach and he's come along since that time. You've talked a lot about developing players and for a coach that's come along this ride with you a little bit with Wes, I was just curious about your process of cultivating coaching development?) – "That's an important, important aspect of the job. I think Wes is really – he channels his inner player on that one and I think he was being a little hard on himself. But I think that speaks to what he's kind of invested in, in the whole process, how far he's come. But that's always ongoing. That's very important for me, as a leader of the football team, is to make sure that the players are getting resourced by people that are getting better at their craft. To always seek new and different ways to communicate with people and handle those relationships in the best way possible. So I think it's just attention. I think it's positive reinforcement on things that are working. I think it's solution-finding and just really investment into the assistant coaches by myself to improve on things that really don't work."
(What was the thinking in just releasing DL Adam Butler with a failed physical as opposed to PUP or keeping him around? Because he was a useful piece last year. And did the fact you have confidence in other defensive tackles on the roster – DT John Jenkins, the young guys, factor into that?) – "Absolutely he was a useful piece. It takes a village in the NFL organization, and I don't fancy myself as a CBA expert. Luckily, I have CBA experts down the ball as a resource, so certain things within the injury really kind of forced the hand in that direction and yes, we are very, very confident in a lot of the young players that we're developing and I'm very confident in that room in general."
(From your former experience, do you have a favorite part and/or a least favorite part of the art of the joint practice and how that works?) – "My favorite part is the competition. You've been going against each other for – I mean, shoot, I think it would be like, 120-some-odd days since we started in OTAs or in the offseason program. So that break-up is much needed. So it's very, very useful in that regard where you get to go against an opponent – somebody else – for the first time and that's super valuable. And you get exposure to different schemes on both sides of the ball, which is very valuable moving forward to the regular season. My least favorite part? I guess it's honestly, I love the opportunity for the players in the preseason game. From a coach's perspective, it's kind of annoying because you've kind of used your bullets in practice so you kind of – it is a little challenge to not adjust from practice, which kind of gets you out of the whole process of what you want to show and what you don't want to show. So that whole gymnastics, the fact that we have to play a game, is a very necessary evil that is important to me for the players' opportunity. But from a working day-to-day deal it's kind of annoying from a coach's perspective."
(The NFL confirmed that this team, at some point, was interested in another quarterback in QB Tom Brady. Do you feel like that motivated QB Tua Tagovailoa at all since he was still on the roster at that point? Is he the kind of quarterback or person at this point that needs reassurance in the team's confidence in him?) – "No. If you're a starting quarterback in the National Football League and you don't think that there's competition always, then that's not the way to look at it. You look at it like you're going to go attack this job and it's your job to show everyone exactly who's the best person for it. Whether or not Tua (Tagovailoa) himself feels X, Y or Z, the only thing I know is what he speaks to me about and that's how confident he is in the way he's playing and his skillset. I know his teammates are very confident in what he's developing, so that's a cool process to be involved in. I haven't seen anything from Tua that would lend me to believe that he's affected in the slightest by all the stuff that goes on that he can't control."
(How smart is S Jevon Holland? For such a young player, I notice you always come around to him and you spend a little bit of time with him, at least.) – "Oh, yes. (laughter) It has been really, really cool watching Tua (Tagovailoa) and him compete. And that's an odd thing to say, like in regards to a safety versus a quarterback, but he plays all over the place, he communicates the defense from the call from the sidelines and he's a student. I think Tua respects that, and they have kind of a nice competitive bond going. It speaks to how football smart he is, how to – the things that he does on the football field are super exciting for the Miami Dolphins moving forward. He is athletic and has a lot of skills, but none of that even matters if he doesn't have a brain for football and a commitment to football like he does."
(Obviously, the game has changed a lot publicly from 20 years ago with players using social media to kind of express their thoughts and that kind of thing. I was just curious, from your perspective, how you sort of believe in players expressing themselves publicly if they're unhappy with something or something along those lines. Is that something that you as a coach want to monitor?) – "No, I think it's a very important thing for players to understand, and that's that it's pretty black and white, your arguments and your feelings, and you express them the best on the football field. One thing that I've talked to the team about is I see better than I hear. So all of those things can be expressed, and it's your job as a coach to kind of show how to handle any sort of adverse emotions and project it into your play, and how you can show your teammates you know exactly what you're doing, show your they can count on you and show your teammates that they're better off with them than against them."
(Are you concerned with the quarterback-center exchange? You've had several high snaps. Are you concerned a little bit with that with OL Connor Williams?) – "I would be concerned if he didn't work at it. That will – even with guys that have been doing that for an extended period of time, shoot, Alex Mack last year, that is something that when you're asking players to do various things post-snap out of the shotgun, you have to kind of learn how to negotiate the accuracy of those. I would be concerned if he wasn't working at it. I am very, very confident in how far he's come. He's earned that because of his ownership of the position that he's trying to go and take, and I think the rest of the team is pretty confident that that's not necessarily an issue. There are a lot of snaps that are on target as well."
(What's your history on that adjustment? Because a lot of times when the guy is going from center to guard, it's not as hard. But when he's going from guard to center to handle the ball, what's been your history when you've made a player make an adjustment?) – "What's cool is we have a plethora of offensive line coaches as you guys know, but I have firsthand experience with (Offensive Assistant) Mike Person as a player doing the same thing. Those are things that definitely come to – aren't lost and that you're thinking about, so it's been cool. A little known fact, (Offensive Coordinator) Frank Smith was a center for Ben Roethlisberger in college. We have a good amount of center experience within our coaching staff and that is something I think players can really lean on and is very helpful, and that's why I haven't really been that concerned about it because I do have history with moving guards to center and understand the little bumps in the road along the process."
(OL Michael Deiter, any sense of timetable?) – "He's feeling better. We're trying to be pragmatic and not be greedy, so expect him sooner than later. It's not sometime this week. We're taking it day-by-day intentionally, but also trying to battle him because he is competitive as all get out. And then the second question?"
(Which I can now cancel, in fact, because with OL Michael Deiter coming back soon, you would seemingly, and you and General Manager Chris Grier would know this far better than us, but with Deiter coming back soon, you would seemingly have enough with OL Connor Williams, Deiter, OL Cole Banwart, OL Adam Pankey. So I'm willing to cancel the second part of what I asked if you have to get to a meeting.) – "Oh, well um, thanks? (laughter) We have bullets everywhere, so we're – adversity is an opportunity. There's been some great snaps for a couple other players because of his injury. I really challenge guys to take advantage of opportunities and utilize those practices to their benefit. There's never too much versatility an interior offensive linemen can have, so that's why we're pretty comfortable being pragmatic."