Read the transcript from Head Coach Mike McDaniel's press conference on Monday, December 12, 2022.
(Any indication on RB Jeff Wilson Jr.'s injury, if he's out this week or if he has a chance?) – "It is day-to-day. It was still accumulating information, but so far it was more positive than the worst-case scenario could have been. It was a concerning situation where he had a lot of force into the ground and got grabbed and you always prepare for the worst, and it looks like we've avoided the worst-case scenarios for sure and we'll be day-to-day. What does that mean for the game? We'll see. There's a lot of time between now and then, but the crisis was averted for sure."
(Do you feel like you – especially with the games coming up – looks like they're must-win games for you guys. Do you feel like you need to enter playoff mode here where the room for mistake is just so slim?) – "I think you try your best to condition your team. That is always the case only because you're not promised anything and you don't know how things are going to play out. I think my approach has been to make sure that each game – especially since the bye – each game was treated with the severity of a playoff game and I think that that's something that with a young team you're worried about. I think our team has looked at things in terms of preparation and intent. We've looked at the past couple games that way and I think part of where we're at, sitting on a two-game losing streak has to do with certain guys possibly pressing and playing outside of the scheme to a degree to try to make plays. And really down the stretch of a season, it will always be this way. Every game will always matter in December and January if you're in contention because you're talking about seeding, home field advantage, all of those things on top of you want to be playing your best ball if you're able to make the playoffs. You don't want to be going in there limping into the tournament. I think it's been a very, very valuable experience going against – specifically the last two weeks – against some playoff-caliber teams and whether or not that benefits us moving forward is for the team to determine. Do you learn from it? That's the hardest part about professional sports, but football specifically, you do so much prep for your 17 (opportunities). You work that whole week and then when the result doesn't end up the way you want it, it's a lot easier to point fingers or give reasons because the bottom line is it's hard to digest that failure. You're talking a lot of waking hours and determination and a lot of people in a concerted effort and you fail at the task at hand. But those can be the best things, and I've certainly been on teams where it's been the whole reason we were able to get into the playoffs and do damage in the playoffs and progress through the playoffs, because they were able to take one or two of those late November, December, January losses and learn from it. So that's the objective of the team right now from my standpoint, is to identify and avoid the natural human reaction which is like, 'Oh, this hurts too much. This is too hard or whatever. I'm not going to invest as much emotionally.' No, this is where you get to find out a lot about coaches, players and really everybody we're working with, so it's a great opportunity that we have right now and moving forward."
(Is that all on the players or is it something you and your staff can do to make sure they don't find that…?) – "Absolutely not. It's not all the players. It's far from it. I think the ideal, what you really want in your football team, is you want the players to think it's all the players, and you want the coaches to think it's all the coaches. And it's somewhere in between. But that's the furthest from that. I try to lead by example and I'm always the first one to be super critical of every single decision, trying to find the whys of why we're not performing. That's my job and the job I don't think is done very well, when you're like, 'Ah, it's somebody else's fault.' That's not how – it's trying to identify and trying to learn from because what I do know is I've never witnessed firsthand any sort of team that hasn't gone through some sort of turmoil adversity or losing games that they feel they're very capable of winning or any of those things. I've never been around a team that's not gone through that and then had success. You got to pay the piper at some point. This is what the National Football League is about. It's about giving your all and when it doesn't work out, getting better from it, not worse. So we have to find a way to do that. I was hoping that that would be the case this past game. It wasn't. I see it as an opportunity, really, because I know the only formula for the ultimate end result that everyone aspires for, the only formula is to go through that and come out the opposite end getting better from it, not worse."
(Do you have updates on WR Tyreek Hill and S Eric Rowe?) – "Tyreek (Hill) did a good job toughing it out and he'll come in for treatment tomorrow, but from all indications, I think it's bumps and bruises that he's going to be able to work through. Eric (Rowe) is trying to get more information on that. That seems more up in the air, day-to-day type stuff that will take a couple more days to figure out."
(And how did T Terron Armstead come out of the game?) – "It was awesome to get him for the entire game and I know he felt good coming out of it. He was a little fatigued, I think, but for the most part, I think we had a successful game experience without a setback."
(And the weather in Buffalo is supposed to be cold. It might be some snow. From your experience, how does that manifest itself in the game? Does it give one team an advantage or a disadvantage? And if so, how?) – "I think it's all in how you use it. I think it's kind of like playing in Miami. All right, it's hot. We're used to it being hot. Does that mean we win every game? I mean, the course of the game can be influenced, but you still have to play in the same temperature and climate are as the opposing team. Just one's more used to it than the other. So I think that's something that you have to be real and upfront that, 'hey, it's going to be cold,' but it's also something that no one cares. The box score doesn't read, 'asterisk, it was cold.' So it is what it is. If we're trying to win a divisional game, we're going to have to deal with elements and that comes with a mindset and just everyone's going to be experiencing the same temperature. So I don't plan on using that as an excuse in the slightest."
(What are CB Byron Jones' prospects of practicing and playing this week? And we've heard about injured players – T Terron Armstead and S Brandon Jones – sitting in meeting rooms with their groups. Has CB Byron Jones been in meeting rooms with the cornerbacks?) – "He has been involved and been in meeting rooms during the course of the year, and there's been portions of the year that it was best served for him to utilize that time, whatever the schedule was, to rehab and do things of that nature. I'm very happy and comfortable with the players that we've been playing with at that position all season. I'm more focused on that and I see Byron as a bonus. I don't rule out anything but my expectations – I'm a lot less, at this stage of the season, that would be an awesome addition. But I'm really not counting on it. I'm more focused on the guys that we do have."
(Now that you've been able to look back today on yesterday, what was the biggest issue – and this is part of it, obviously this time of year, the running game is important because of the weather and especially where you're going. So part two is how do you get the running game more to where you guys want it?) – "Talk about a frustrating film to watch. It was just taking that to the face. Because I think we're capable of executing on a multitude of fronts that we didn't. So then my job is to really assess what are the common denominators. One thing that stood out on both sides of the ball was that in certain situations, guys went from playing within their assignment on both offense and defense to getting into a mode to where 'I'm going to make the play.' That's an understandable emotion from competitors that are highly invested. But you have to learn sometimes the hard way and unfortunately, I feel like that was the case with us yesterday. You don't do that in 11-on-11 football with any sort of consistency or success. So I saw guys kind of on offense maybe adjusting a route or trying to strain another revolution before looking for the ball. Or maybe attacking a read that wasn't necessarily primary in the progression. Or maybe there were a couple of instances of guys really trying to engulf the defender at the expense of our foundational techniques of how to block people and as a result, kind of got out of position. Defensively, I saw guys be very gap sound and rush conscious in terms of getting after the quarterback. But then all of a sudden, in one series, voiding rush lanes or jumping out games. It wasn't one player. It wasn't one position. It wasn't one side of the ball. So to me, that's very telling in terms of there's a lot of guys pressing. The job of the coaching staff and the job of the players, all of us collectively, is to identify why and fix it, because nobody else is going to fix it for us. And if we want different results, we're going to have to kind of address things that are difficult. It's difficult to, like I said before, fully invest into something and then fall short. But to me, that's where people are made or broken in this league. It's how you respond to stuff. It's no coincidence that my first mantra is adversity is an opportunity. You see this coming a mile away and you're not void of this in any sort of successful season. This is the name of the game. But you have to be able to, as a group, have a collection of people that are willing to be accountable while also being able to handle that emotional letdown, because it's a lot of investment and guys were in the tank. They did not expect that result. But it's the National Football League and you have to learn that when certain things don't get done, you shouldn't expect anything less. That was a good football team that had all of their reasons to go ahead and try to win that game. And you know what? They did. You have to live with that. I think you have a chance to be happy with your game, season, year, career, if, in those moments, you say this is hard. That means this is just my style. I'm willing to look myself in the mirror and see how we can adjust. And to me, all of those things will handle themselves if collectively, we're able to do that. It's a tough task but winning is tough. Playing good football is tough."
(Through November, you've been able to win a lot of games without TE Mike Gesicki being nearly as involved in the passing game as he was prior to your arrival. I know it's been no catches and three targets over the last three weeks. Is he a weapon that you feel like over the final month of the season, you can find ways to maximize more? Is that something that's in the forefront of your mind?) – "In each and every game, I try to do as good of a job as possible to put our players in position for success. Mike is no different. There's been circumstances in the last couple of games in particular where you thought that maybe if one or two things, if a different coverage hits or if we have a different opportunity, I think those results are different. But like every other player, we're trying to utilize their skillsets as best they can as it relates to the opponent. Sometimes that opponent lends itself very vulnerable to a certain position and sometimes it doesn't. But the main thing is that when called upon, guys are really ready to take advantage of opportunities."
(In your two-game self-scouting, have you found that you guys need to make major changes or philosophical changes? Or do you just need to do what you do better?) – "I would be very worried if within the framework of the things that we've been working on since August, if there wasn't answers through technique. But I look at every single game as how to apply our techniques, but you don't necessarily give the same presentation. You're always adjusting to defenses. That never stops. I think you take a hard look at why stuff isn't working and I think you'd be a fool to continue to do stuff that doesn't work. You're trying to find the right formula for your matchups and various things while positioning your players to be successful. I don't look at it any different when you guys are high-fiving a productive offensive day. That's in the past to me. That means nothing for the next opponent. You have to find a way for your players to be successful against the next opponent. So that is very much at the forefront of my mind each and every week, and of course it wouldn't be anything less after you have results that aren't really up to your standard."