Read the full transcript from Head Coach Mike McDaniel's press conference at the NFL Scouting Combine on February 28, 2023.
(In regard to the decision on QB Tua Tagovailoa and the fifth-year option, what role do you think concussions and durability should play in that discussion?) – "I think like any other player, you factor in every variable. I think one thing that when you're talking about those types of decisions, I think it's important to recognize that we have a congruence of interest by the Dolphins and the player – Tua – that both parties really want him to play at a very high level for a long time for the Miami Dolphins. So what's the best way to really engineer that or to help manifest that? Well, those are the things that we're kind of weighing in terms of the various options with the same desired end (result) as Tua would like. So you factor in everything as best you can, but that's part of this game that we're all involved in, is there are some unknowns. So you weigh those and you press forward and make the best decision possible for the organization."
(Are you close to making a decision on the fifth-year option?) – "I mean, what is today's date? It's in February. Our deadline… so we'd probably be best served utilizing the time – that's kind of the way we're approaching it, but that doesn't mean we're spending any long period of time not discussing it. This is something that Chris (Grier) and I have been working through and will continue to work through."
(What do you make of CB Byron Jones' tweet and now that we've been a bit removed from the season, what can you tell us about what went down?) – "I'm not a big tweeter, but I know it's a tough situation from a competitor that loves to play the game of football. I think the one thing I will say is that throughout the process, Byron (Jones) has been able to be the conductor of the train and I think the Dolphins organization, the entire training staff and the medical department have supported him on every turn, and I think we'll continue to do that as he presses forward."
(Did CB Byron Jones at any point during the season express any concerns about the care he was getting?) – "To me specifically? No. I try to keep my ear to the street, so to speak, but I'm not sure how – the bottom line is he feels the way he feels and I think as a leader of professional athletes, I empathize with how everyone truly feels. I think all I can do is support. I know Chris (Grier) feels the same way. We can just support the player and the process and do best with that."
(With nobody in the running backs room under contract for next year it's kind of an opportunity to … What qualities are you looking for as you build this running back room?) – "The best qualities. Good follow-up. (laughter) I think it's one thing I've been fortunate – being in the same system for like, 18 years, or whatever it's been; is you see there's a lot of different ways that you can get to the desired result. So I think first and foremost from the running back position on our team, you need a team player that's willing to do whatever it takes to win. We have good players surrounding the running back position so you've got to be willing to pass block and do things off the ball. I think there are many different types of running backs that can excel in this offense given whatever their skillsets are, so to me, I just want team-oriented guys that enjoy getting the ball, fighting for yardage and trying to win football games as a result. So I'm very open-minded to all the skillsets across the board and just looking for guys that are completely invested in joining our ongoing process to be as good as we can be."
(Backup quarterback, do you think QB Skylar Thompson is ready to take on the role of QB2…?) – "I think really when you assess Skylar's play as a rookie, he did a lot of things to deserve to be in competition and to have an open mind to him being – to winning the backup quarterback role. I don't foresee that being unchallenged by any stretch. I think when you look at the position from its entirety from a year ago; well a year ago, we had a one-man room that there was a lot of questions with regard to where Tua was at in his development of his game and we needed someone to come in that could really help him take a step in the right direction to be a starting quarterback in the National Football League at a high level. I think Teddy (Bridgewater) came in and did that. I think as it stands right now, I was happy with what Skylar was able to do under the pretense that he's going to continue to get better, and I think Tua is in a different spot. I think the team is in a different spot. And I think there's some competitive advantages that we can bring to the room through free agency and that's what we'll look to do, is at least have some – there will be competition regardless in the room, regardless of who we sign – but I think that's something that we're definitely interested in to make the quarterback room better."
(You made some changes on the coaching staff, but it seems like you're retaining Special Teams Coordinator Danny Crossman. Was there consideration to make a move there and if not, what do you like about what he did last year?) – "So for me, it never really crossed my mind, and that just comes as a result of daily evaluations of all coaching involved in the building. I think that the Miami Dolphins fanbase, the players and Danny and myself would all agree that the desired results, we have more to achieve; but if I would have determined that that was solely his – if I thought that we couldn't get to where we need to get to go with Danny Crossman, I would have made a move. I definitely didn't feel that way and that just comes as a result of daily investment into the coaching staff and what he brings to the table."
(What about the same as it applies to your offensive line coach? You did make a change there …) – "So realistically, the way the staff was orchestrated the previous year, I really needed to get more offensive coordinator work out of Frank Smith and he was devoted a little too much to the offensive line. And I needed more, selfishly, to alleviate some stuff off my plate; and so that was the motivating factor to make that move, was to facilitate Frank Smith being able to appropriate his time more as a coordinator and less in the offensive line room."
(What are your thoughts on Bills S Jordan Poyer potentially making his case to come to Miami?) – "Well, I'm not in the business of tampering. (laughter) And I believe – I mean, you guys might be trying to get this second-year hustle on me, but we need every draft pick we can get, so I'm all for Dolphins fandom and the more players that even if they're on our opponents' team; if they're cheering for Dolphins, I think that's good for all of us."
(Ran Carthon told the story about RB Elijah Mitchell and how you put that tape together. What was your experience dealing with Ran and what is it that you think will make him a good GM?) – "Ran Carthon is somebody I've had several years of experience in the National Football League with. I have no doubt in my mind that he's going to do this job as well, if not better, than the last job he had. This is the type of person he is. I think the Tennessee Titans are getting a guy that's motivated for the right reasons to do what he does best, and that's evaluate football players. I think he has a great scope of what it takes for a team to win and all the different variables that are encompassed in that. I think he's a leader of men. I think he'll get the best out of his department and I think especially since he complimented me, I can't say enough nice things about him."
(On DeMeco Ryans becoming head coach of the Houston Texans) – "Oh buddy, these are two of my favorite people. So Ran Carthon transitioning to DeMeco Ryans. I'm just glad that I didn't have to interview against him. This guy is unlike any other coach I've been around where I really haven't been around a guy that is old enough where we drafted and I was there for his Year 1 as a rookie. Oh by the way, he called the defense and was Rookie of the Year and immediately the best player on our defense. Fast forward to his first year in coaching and he excelled at the same rate as a quality control defensive assistant, which had expedited, fast-tracked to position coach and then he had the pressure of following Robert Saleh and that elite defense and you know what? I think at every juncture he's just been first-class, high-level human being. The bottom line is as a head coach, your job is to make everyone around you better and at every walk that I've been able to view him from age 22 on, that's all he's ever done. So it's very rare that you get such a leader of men that is willing and able to be a coach after having as illustrious of a career as he did. So I think the best is yet to come for that franchise and I know he couldn't be happier to be in there."
(Just to round out with all your favorite people, Bobby Slowik is going to be the offensive coordinator in Houston. In having a similar background to you but also his ability to work defensively when he was in Washington, what do you think that gives him an advantage in play calling?) – "I think it's a huge advantage because it's almost like being bilingual. To be able to speak that language and understand the motivating factors from that defensive side of the ball and accruing multiple NFL seasons doing so, I think it's invaluable. I think not all coaches, myself included, are afforded that opportunity and I know from every person that I've been around that's experienced something like that, it pays unbelievable dividends. You have a tireless, hungry worker in Bobby Slowik that has an exuberant young mind, but also is grounded in a lot of football principles both offensively and defensively that every team would be fortunate to have."
(There has been some discussion at the league level about some of the quarterback runs that we've seen. From an offensive philosophy standpoint, what do you think of it, and is it something that could catch on?) – "I think it's cool anytime someone is able to execute something when the opponent knows it's coming. I don't care who you are, that will be attempted by every team if they could guarantee the rate of success that the Philadelphia Eagles were able to do it at. It isn't the coolest highlight reel of football to watch; but nonetheless, I appreciate what it takes to excess at that because I'm pretty sure that every team in professional football has attempted the quarterback sneak. Any time you're entering the grounds of 100 percent attempt, but then you have one team that does it at that level of certainty of outcome at that high of a percentage, there will be attempts to re-create it. However, I wouldn't expect it to have the same residual results. I'll abide by any rule."
(If there is one thing you would tell yourself from before you became a head coach to where you are now, what would it be?) – "Have bigger muscles. (laughter) No, I think I'm grounded enough to understand that I don't think you necessarily want it to be all roses. Part of the beauty of this job is to handle some turmoil. I think I'm pretty comfortable with where I am with that. I think I'd probably tell myself to just get ready (because) you're going to want to win more for the franchise even more than you can conceive, and that's ok. So don't hyperventilate."
(How do you see the defense fundamentally changing under Defensive Coordinator Vic Fangio?) – "I think it's kind of an unfair comparison to a degree. I think in my NFL career, Vic is one of one in my opinion, of creating and innovating and sustaining high-quality defense. I don't know about you but in 1995, I was 12-years-old and cheering for the inaugural Colorado Rockies. He started coordinating defenses at that time. But then has been able to adjust it to the game, and to the things he's having to defend and to the players that he has. I think having the opportunity to add Vic Fangio is as exciting of an opportunity in the offseason that I could have. I think all players on defense will benefit from it. I know myself included, I'll benefit from the process of being able to work with him on a daily basis and tap into his infinite wisdom. I mean shoot, last week, just in one week in the office with him, I had a couple of hours of just very gratifying football conversations that will just help me moving forward form the head-coaching position. On top of that, he was giving me stories on Pat Swilling and Kevin Greene – just stuff that from a football historical perspective, I very much appreciate. Just last week, I got to find out about his simulated pressures that he's so famous for – what provoked him, what was the advent of that and when it was. Just that stuff is very interesting but now you take it a step further. When you have a guy that is innovating, over time, I think the residuals for players are really everything they sign up for."
(On LB Channing Tindall's progress) – "I'm expecting a big offseason and a big jump in Year 2. Channing knows that. He has that expectation for himself. He worked very diligently. But I think it's a matter of him really being able to visualize and really carry out all assignments within the defensive structure that I know he's really mandating for himself to take another step. I think he did a great job with the reps that he had, and the scout team, during the year for practice. He did develop. But we're excited about this next year opportunity to really take advantage of some opportunities he will have."
(On if he's looking for wide receivers) – "I think you wouldn't – outside of the known entities, Tyreek (Hill) and Jaylen (Waddle), their roster spots are not up in question. I try to refrain from penciling in any player in any sort of position as best I can only because honestly, the way I approach the whole scenario is that if you want a job, you can win it. It's going to be based on the merit on the field. I think there is opportunity there. I think there are some guys that aren't on the roster that will be on the roster. Who those guys are, that's the million-dollar question. The bottom line is we're going to have an atmosphere that's going to – you're really going to have to thrive in a competitive atmosphere because there are talented players that you're going to have to compete with to win the job of the third-most targeted receiver."
(On game management) – "I wouldn't be honest if I told you that going into the season, I wouldn't expect some natural learning curve. There is a lot of responsibility that I don't pull any punches. It's a difficult job. That being said, I feel like there are clearly some situations I'd like to have back. There were some situations that I was ok with. I think that really, every year for me, I'm going to have a high level of anxiety if I'm not finding stuff that I can't completely get better from. That belief that you're constantly a better version of yourself, that drives me. There are plenty of situations that – we had as many pre-snap penalties, I think we led the league in them offensively. So obviously there is a lot of work to do that we're all excited about rectifying. Clock management is just another layer of things that I've already begun the process of – call the play faster."
(On how watching tape of themselves will benefit the offense) – "It's going to be huge. Little written about scenarios that our offensive players haven't had an offseason where they are watching themselves in half a decade or maybe more. That's incredibly important. I even throw digs in jest; but I had to be reminded by coaches on staff last year that this is like the fourth consecutive season that these guys have watched a different team's cut ups in the offseason and haven't watched themselves. That adds up fast. I'm very, very excited for the players being able to come back and digest the system and not have any variance offensively. We'll just be correcting, building, and improving upon what we did last year."
(Do you have updates on injured guys?) – "(Emmanuel) Ogbah is doing well. I just saw him in the facility and he high-fived me and I had to jump. He looked great to me. He's been recovering soundly. Brandon Jones is continuing to work. Nik Needham is in good spirits and has had no setbacks in his recovery."
(Do you see any scenarios where TE Mike Gesicki returns next year?) – "There is always a spot for good players. I think that Mike has earned the opportunity to test the market and I very much encourage that. That's being in charge of doing our best to take care of their careers as best we can. But for him to have that opportunity to go earn, we very much encourage that. However, we are not in the business of saying no to good players. I wouldn't close that door at all."
(What attracted you and General Manager Chris Grier to S Verone McKinley III that allowed him to start games down the stretch?) – "His football acumen. He came in as an old soul, where if you didn't have the flip card, you'd think he'd been in the league for 10 years with how he went about his business. It was first and foremost a priority for him, which is why he was able to be relied upon down the stretch as though he was a vet. I think those qualities are a common denominator amongst undrafted players that succeed in the National Football League and he exemplifies that, where you have a guy come in with expectations for himself that are far greater than the draft or undrafted free agent money allotment. All the stuff that we perceive, they go above and beyond to set their own course in their career. He very much did that."
(On QB Tua Tagovailoa doing judo this offseason) – "Jiu-jitsu."
(A couple of weeks ago, QB Tua Tagovailoa said that he was working on how to fall. Is that something the team facilitated?) – "It's something that we had various ideas. Some of which I won't repeat because they weren't as good as that one. We were willing to go to any length. However, with him getting invested in it and really talking to him and hearing how the trainer is invested in him and how he was really into it and getting good residuals from it, we feel very comfortable in terms of this being best preparing him for things that he hasn't otherwise been able to prepare for. It's something, like a follow-through throwing motion, it's something that we're trying to train and he's 100 percent all in, attacking it with vigor and exuberance."