Read the transcript from Head Coach Mike McDaniel's press conference on Thursday, December 15, 2022.
(The likelihood we see OL Liam Eichenberg in uniform on Saturday would be what?) – "I don't know – 50/50?"
(I know we'll get the injury report later and there are some things you probably don't want to disclose for a few hours understandably. Is there anything you want to share in regards to T Terron Armstead or RB Jeff Wilson Jr.? And if the answer is no, we certainly understand.) – "No. I think I saw an energetic and exuberant Terron Armstead in meetings. So that's good."
(Your "I wish it were colder" t-shirt. Where did that come from and what message were you trying to send?) – "That was not intended to be anything but something that is just kind of a mentality for the team. I honestly forgot I had it on when I was out there with your guys' cameras. I think an experience, whether it was fate or whatever, I've only spent one year on a cold-weather team in terms of coaching for one, which was Cleveland. Every other team, I've kind of been a warm-weather coach. In all of those circumstances, you inevitably have to play cold games. Philosophically, I think it's important to acknowledge before the day of the game what it is. But at the same time, it's a football game where the elements are the same for both people. I think that's a way of emphasizing something but not obsessing about something, was my objective. You guys have seen the shirts that I had for (the heat). The point being is we have a football game to play. I think it is the job of every player involved to get their mind right to have their best performance. The bottom line is I don't see weather as something that you can lean on for x, y or z when you're competing at a game that you guys do professionally. I think if a team allows it to be a thing, then it's a thing. That's our attempt to acknowledge the obvious and move on as fast as possible."
(The team you coached with last year pulled off a big playoff upset in a frigid environment. What were some characteristics of that team that made it successful in the playoffs?) – "Early in the week, that team decided that it wasn't going to be an issue. And I think that's something that I've learned in the course of my career, that if you decide something is going to be something, the power of the mind is stronger than people realize. It's something that can be embraced when you kind of realize that everybody is going through it as well. All of your teammates are. I think that strong-minded will is a characteristic that I've seen in this team. It's gone through some stuff already as a young team. It went through stuff early in the season and we're going through some stuff now. I think that can be healthy if you have the will and the spirit. I see a lot of guys that are capable of that and that's my hope moving forward on Saturday."
(You guys played Buffalo a long time ago, many games ago. What's different about your team since then? Do you have more confidence? Have you answered questions that you had?) – "Your team is a steadily evolving organism, so to speak. That was Game 3 of the season and I think a lot of people were, in that moment, trying to prove that we were worthy of some of the better teams in the league to compete against. I think we find ourselves in a situation – any time you lose games in a row in an NFL regular season, there's something that you feel like you have to go out and prove, just in general. But there are some different players on the field. The bottom line is none of it matters because it's about preparing each day for one game that all of the games before and all of the games after are pretty much irrelevant. So on that day, who wants to strain the most, who wants to compete the most and then who does their job and relies on their teammates. That generally is the team that wins. So whether we won or lost that game, it wouldn't really factor into this upcoming one, I don't think."
(Can you shed some light on where S Eric Rowe and DB Elijah Campbell stand right now? Those are two safeties that could be out on Saturday, right?) – "That's right. So Elijah is currently in the concussion protocol. So you can ask the doctor about that one. And then as far as Rowe, I don't think we will be seeing him on Saturday night."
(You're an introspective guy. That's pretty clear. I wondered how much in recent weeks have you spent time thinking after games, the last couple of weeks, about how much of a running team you want to be? Obviously, you've passed the ball very well most of the season. It's been a pass heavy team. Running the ball more, is that something you've given thought to after last couple of games?) – "I think one potential mistake that can come across a decision-maker's board is at any time not critically assessing what and why of everything. That is no different than when we were on a winning streak for me. I've always valued the run game. I think you guys have followed my career enough to know that I've been involved in it and have always really seen the line of scrimmage as the place where games are won and lost. Whether you're running or passing the ball, you are distributing it from the quarterback to another human being. So what is that? How does that affect the line of scrimmage? Because that's the ultimate starting point for moving the ball, getting into scoring position and scoring points. I think that each game presents different obstacles and scenarios. So you look at everything and say, 'Where's our matchups? How can we do things well? And what gives us the best chance to win?' I don't think I've, really, this season felt like, me personally, that I've done the job I totally want to in that area. So it's always a focus, but I don't prioritize anything over what's the best thing for the team for that game, regardless of how I wish or don't wish to play football games. I think there's an integrity part that you have to do what the best is for the team, and every time we lose, it's very logical. I mean, you could make an argument that part of the reason we lost is because of that – because of decisions not to run it or whatever. That's the case of the National Football League and the position that I'm in. I do prioritize it. I look at each and every week where we're at and assess have we gotten better from the last? I know it was a light practice, but I feel like we have improved over the course of the season and specifically learned some very, very valuable lessons in this past game, where we can kind of control the line of scrimmage and possibly run the ball better. I think that when you're able to control the clock and have the ball, that's always an advantage so that won't change. Hopefully, we'll be happier with our output this coming week in the great weather."
(How much progress has T Eric Fisher made with another week with the organization, albeit a short week?) – "Yeah, it's a lot of progress, considering he went zero-to-60 really quick. He's doing a good job, and you can tell he's already assimilating into the locker room. When you're a successful player for a long time like he has been, it's a pretty steady process and then becomes very quick when you can take all the football you know, translate it into the language and then (understand) what is being emphasized. That's generally what the process for offensive lineman, and he's proven to be a very dedicated, quick thinker. I think he's getting prepared and assimilating into the system and the team as fast as one could hope, really."
(I'm doing something on advice and good advice people have received through their careers. Is there anything, off the top of your head, that someone has said to you that resonated and helped you or made you think differently?) – "Don't lose. (laughter) No, it was – the first thought, I'm not sure relative on the scale how big this is, but the first thing that came to mind was a story that Coach Dan Quinn told me about never keeping any sort of piece of information about if something bothers you about a player or if you think they can improve, you have to let them know for their own sake so they can have the opportunity to fix it. There are sometimes that things can bother you about how somebody is going about something and the harm that it can do if you just assume that's who that person is. If it bothers you enough, or just in general, you have to give them the opportunity to correct it before you judge really anything. He used a couple examples. The one that sticks out in my head was there was a guy on a team that he was on one time that had no idea that he was annoying a coach by the way he was dressing and would have corrected it if it was brought to his attention. I think that's something that always stood out that you have to give people opportunities and it's not fair to them, it's actually quite the opposite, if you're really judging anybody and how they behave without communicating with them and giving them an opportunity to fix anything."
(A non-game related question. I'm working on a Christmas Day special. I spoke to some of your players yesterday, and I asked them if you could get a gift again that you received as a kid, what would you want? And the answers ranged from golf clubs, hockey stick and a Super Bowl win. So if I told you today, I'm going to interview Santa and talk to him. What would Mike McDaniel like, as a gift, and maybe something he received as a child he could get again?) – "I just went four different directions at the same time. So a gift that I received, that I would receive again? Or anything? If I could ever receive a gift again, one of the most magical Christmas gifts that I've ever had was in 2020, which my wife's birthday is the day after Christmas, and so I'm always stressed out because it's during the season, and I can never do it justice usually. Well, this Christmas, we were kicked out of California because of COVID, so we were in Glendale. And it was a rough time. It was a year after – we had a lot of expectations and it wasn't going right. But that was the year, the first Christmas, that I had a daughter. That gift of family for me was very special, being an only child with a single mom. If I could ever experience something like that, talk to my wife and convince her that we should have a second kid, that would probably be the best gift I could get. (laughter)"
(I'm curious about the different way you relate to your players and your positivity. I'm just curious, there are coaches that read management books. Where do you get this from? Are you like a student of these management techniques? Are there coaches you emulate? Is this just kind of who you are based on your experience going back and dating back to your playing days in college?) – "There are certain things that I think I've been fortunate to be influenced by a lot of people. I also have a strong desire to do this job the right way, which I think is for the right reasons, which is to coach. So most of the stuff philosophically that I kind of do is reverse engineered. So what's the desired outcome? Well, what am I really doing? And fixating on that probably in a super extreme way leads you to kind of think about things without looking at it like, 'alright, well I'm mimicking something.' I also grew up invested in football. But I didn't really have a male role model. So I was kind of piecing together things as you go. A lot of failures. I think that combination of reverse engineering and then kind of approaching things without any sort of guide, you combine that with ambition and you just come up with your own formula that sticks to and never wavers from 'am I making people better or worse.' So that's something that is exhausting in general, just because when you're not following a roadmap, it lends to a lot of double-checking and second-guessing within yourself to make sure. But I think over time, you kind of realize it's a lot simpler than people make it. Players, coaches, they want you to care. And if they see that you can help them achieve their dreams, they will listen to anyone that looks like anything and sounds or behaves whatever. The primary importance is are you adding value to those you work with? And as a head coach, that means everybody. So that's where it starts and ends for me – problem solving in that direction. And then like I said, I was fortunate to see a lot of different coaches do a lot of different things, but never have I ever mimicked someone not out of intent, just because of learned behavior. I just try to do things for the right reasons. Sometimes that works out. Sometimes it doesn't. But I think going at it at an exhaustive pace over time, you'll end with the best results because again, people are counting on you to try to make them better. So that's all I really worry about."