Read the transcript from Head Coach Mike McDaniel's press conference on Wednesday, December 21, 2022.
(Just how you've used Offensive Coordinator Frank Smith, just to kind of lessen the workload for you. I'm sure it's a lot first-year head coach to be a play caller. Have you had Frank do a portion of the game plan each week? How does that work? Do you have him write down ideas for you? How do you like him to present things for you and what has his role been in game planning?) – "Well, let's be frank. (laughter) He does a great job for us. He's an incredible resource. You are so vulnerable to really everyone in football as a head coach. A lot of people don't really, I guess, think about it that way, but in terms of yeah, everything is very important for me to do a good job. That's really just an extension of everybody I work with doing a great job. So he's absolutely invaluable to me. He's a set of eyes. You can't be in every place at once. You also can't watch everything, so for us to be – even to approach what I feel like should be the standard for a game plan and how to really prepare players and put them in positions to succeed, you have to have your head wrapped a lot of information. And that can be tough from this chair or podium, I guess, especially the more hats that you have to wear. There's nothing more that I value than as a coach preparing players because it is their window, their moment. That's who people pay to watch and that's who makes the plays and they're the people investing and putting their bodies on the line and really spending six days a week of their most – it's not golden years, what years is it? And so to me, it is a really big deal how he sets the table for me, kind of will seed-plant stuff. We have a nice working relationship now where I do my best with abstract common denominators. He kind of understands me in that way so then he'll be able to plant seeds for kind of overarching themes within the game plan. 'Okay, we should be attacking this player, personnel, this area of the defense, this is where they're vulnerable, this is where our matchup is good,' which really gives me all the CliffsNotes to things that I can't button down myself. So great working relationship and he does a great job with all of that and on top of coordinating the offense with what we're practicing, what defenses we're going against, all those things that are a part of the nuances of that job. So I'm very fortunate to have him."
(Quick follow on that. Does Offensive Coordinator Frank Smith ever talk in your headset with play suggestions before plays or do you him not do that basically?) – "He's pretty sensitive to what's going on. You've got a lot of thoughts going on in terms of the situation, what's going on in the game, what our players are doing, who needs to get the ball, all of those things. He's more of a face-to-face guy, so he'll walk up to me on the sidelines. He generally knows where I kind of stand depending on what side of the 50 we're on. I try to get as close to the end zone copy as I can with the o-line roots that I have in my background. And he'll just walk over and he's very tactful in terms of being aware of the different constraints and he knows how important it is for me to get, regardless of what decision is made, to get it to the players as fast as possible because nothing is worse for a quarterback or an offense when you're getting close to the 15-second mark of the play clock and you have to rush a play call in. The play hasn't started and you have a ton of anxiety. He allows me to do that and make sure to not get in the way. He just basically adds a ton of value, which I think is to his credit."
(Some of the team defense rankings jumped out to me as surprising – scoring, third down, red zone and takeaways all between 25th and 29th in the league. Is the defense playing up to its capabilities?) – "I think any person in the locker room, every coach on the coaching staff would say no, just because they really believe in each other. So me personally, I don't hide or really run or get frustrated with that stuff. To me in the game of football, you're held accountable for everything. It's one of the beauties about it. I think a lot of people in the building want to do right by their own talents, by each other's investment, really by the fans and understand that any time that things fall short of what you're capable of, people care and out of that care, you get frustrated. You're a very, very nice great guy, but shoot, we've lost three games in December, you probably haven't been high-fiving me in your own mind. But that doesn't come from a bad place. They understand that. They want to get the best out of each other. No stone is unturned in that process. I really wouldn't rest unless I thought we were going in the right direction. Does that mean direct results? Obviously not. And does that mean that they're going to shy away from that or say 'no, it's okay'? No. It's not okay when you have expectations to win and you lose and then you do it consecutively. They earned the right to play on national television, took it very seriously and got embarrassed in their own minds. Their expectation was to do well and it wasn't. So I think we've really attacked the possible reasons for those things. And my expectation is that they improve drastically in a short amount of time. That is what it is, but I don't think it's anything to run from or whatever. I think you're a fool if you don't realize that's what you signed up for and if you want fans to cheer for you, they're going to care when you're not doing well."
(There's a stat that shows that on third-and-short conversions, three or fewer yards…) – "Last in the league."
(I was curious with third-and-medium, third-and-long, the offense is top half in the league. I was curious what would you attribute to that disparity?) – "So here's the thing. You're trying – 100 percent of the play calls, 100 percent of the game plans; I really, really want them to work so the reason why I know that we're last in short yardage is because I live it. You attribute it to a lot of different things. You're trying to problem solve. That's the way I look at everything, but the bottom line is you have to keep chopping wood to figure it out because that's your job. I think at the end of the day, there's a lot of quick fixes. I'll just say that the one thing – and so I have a ton of regrets about play calls that they didn't work, but really what I hold myself accountable for and I feel 100 percent convicted in is that were those calls made for the right reasons at the time with the information? If you're doing it because you're afraid of the result, if you're doing it because people are annoyed that you're maybe – okay, we've passed the ball a lot on third-and-1 and they haven't worked, so it's probably pretty annoying as a fan. I think it's annoying when we don't get first downs. But at the same time – and I learn from every single one of them – but in the moment I think it's incredibly important as your position as a head coach to have integrity in your decisions. Shame on me if I'm doing something because it's the easy way out, but I fully know every time that we put a play in, I make a play call; I know exactly what it is. Guess what? There's always a risk, but I'm very fortunate to have the opportunity to do it, so I have to do it the right way, which I can honestly say for the whole season, all those failed third-and-1s that I thought I was doing the thing that was best for our team at the time, which means I was wrong a lot. But I know that I did so with all information that I could possibly get, as much preparation. Those are the things I really worry about and then I try to fix the problem. I take that super serious and I'm not going to put it on players and I know that it needs to get better for us to win football games in big-time moments. Does that mean that on the next third-and-1 that it's going to be a run play? If that deep down, I know this to be the best chance for us to get the first down with the decision, and that's the only reason I'll do whatever. I have a hard time putting it on anybody else but really the play calls for that ranking. We have, I think, third-and-7 to third-and-9, we might be first. That makes no sense. So clearly we have people that can make plays and you don't have to worry about whether or not I critically assess each and every play call without a doubt, and I know run or pass, the idea is that the team needs us to stay on the field and so we need to do a better job collectively and it starts with me."
(Pro Bowl announcements come out tonight. Do you want your players paying attention to that and why or why not?) – "I think it's reality so I think you can't ignore it and I think to ask them to not pay attention to it – that's not really my approach. I think it's to understand the state of the union. What is the Pro Bowl? And if where you're at in regard to your play relative to the league is being honored in a way that's appropriate, that's awesome. Man, how cool is that, that you're being recognized by peers and fans that you're the top percent of the top percent. I think it's also just information because there's going to be inevitably people that probably are playing better that don't get necessarily that nod. There always is. And I think there's a simple way to handle that. All right, I'll make sure the vote isn't that close next time. But there's no emotion necessarily attached to like, 'I'm mad anyone.' You should use it to your benefit if it's good and use it to your benefit if it's bad, all the same really. And I think it's a cool process and I know it's very important to players, as it should be, because it's a tough club to crack and so those who get to crack it should feel very honored."
(The topic of TE Mike Gesicki is one that's come up a lot this year. There's one interesting quote from Daniel Jeremiah, before the season. He said, if you run those opposing safeties out there like WR Tyreek Hill is going to be able to and even WR Jaylen Waddle, you're going to have a lot of room for Gesicki, who's one of the more athletic tight ends in the league. When I asked Mike if defensive coverage tilted toward Tyreek and Jaylen has created more space for him, he said it's made no difference this year. Has that surprised you? And even though you've put a very good offensive numbers, is there a part of you that wishes you could have incorporated Mike more? There is still the opportunity to do that) – "I mean, absolutely. I look at my portion of the situation in that yeah, he's a good player and I don't get him involved enough. I don't like that he's having to answer those questions. I don't like that it feels as though it's a failure to some degree, I think, for myself, because if I'm to lead this team, I need to set an example. And the example of accountability can't ever be skirted. And I think, I hope and I believe that Mike looks at it as what could he do to better the situation. I think he's a pro and it's been a rough set of circumstances. There's always more you can do as a coach and he's a good player. So yeah, there's multiple variables to crack as a head coach, play-caller, all that stuff. I really, really want, in the worst way, to do the best job possible and feel very responsible to these players' careers. And it's okay for me to admit when something is staring you in the face and you know that you could do better. I don't like that he has to deal with that and I need to do as good a job as I can, which obviously, I can do a better job of making him have opportunities. And then he needs to take advantage of those opportunities."
(How have your players kind of approached this state of mind that you have where, when something is staring you in the face, you feel like you have to be better. How do you feel like when the players hear what you say about these things, that they take to it and kind of improve on themselves as well?) – "I have a saying that I see better than I hear. And they've shown me that they hear it, and they've shown me that it means something to them. I think they do it in a situation that's much more difficult. I think even people in my generation, which, yes, I am old now, I guess. But I don't think people really put themselves in the position of the modern-day player. I know when I started coaching, so like 15 years ago, you had to be accountable to your locker room, and you probably had one or two beat writers that would assess your play, and hopefully those players had guys like you and people like you, and that you were nice to them. But now in the multi-platform generation, there is so much weight. There's so much judgment. A lot of which, I mean how could it be completely informed. But at the same time, you understand it because the engine that is our jobs is driven by people paying attention and caring. But they have a lot on their plate. So when there's failure, for you not to point fingers at other people and try to do better, I mean, it's a tremendous human accomplishment right now because people don't understand what that's like. You don't understand, especially in an athletic performance that you put everything into, being judged like you're – call a spade a spade and throw judgment out, completely disregarding human emotions. And that's hard. So everything I've seen from this team shows me that they get exactly what we're trying to do here, and they're way more impressive than anything I could do because that is tough. I can at least not be on social media. I haven't been on it in whatever. I know how to live that way. That's pervasive. That is how you operate now. I mean, shoot, you pull out your phone and it's just like, 'Oh hey, you suck.' That is tough. It's so much easier to be like, 'It's not my fault.' But then wow, what an opportunity to be special and extraordinary if you can do that in this era and go after what's hard and go invest in more, even though you've invested and you've failed several times consecutively. I know it to be impactful because I see it every day and I'm inspired by how they're going about it. It's a tough-minded locker room that is really, really cool and I feel very fortunate to coach."