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Transcript | Mike McDaniel's Media Availability - January 11

Read the full transcript from Head Coach Mike McDaniel's press conference on January 11, 2024.

(Unlike last year, this year against playoff teams, offensive output generally has been for you guys in the teens, low twenties. But at the same time, in that first Kansas City game there were maybe four plays that were this close to being a touchdown. So I guess my question is this, do you feel like you need to do exactly what you've been doing on offense and just do it better? Or do you feel like because the offensive production against good teams hasn't been great, that you need to try new things Saturday, whether it's stuff you haven't gotten to in the playbook, whether it's more hurry up, whether it's a new wrinkle that you need to do?) – "I think the state of every phase on a football team is an evolving process. You go through highs and lows. The point you make about the last time we played them is exactly right. I think you have to base your decisions on how you schematically attack a defense based upon not theoretical crystal balls, more so your players and what they're executing, what they're doing well, what the matchups are and how to put them in good positions. Every game, I kind of approach the same way where you're trying to get your players in good position to have an effect on the game. You don't necessarily have to change your identity as much as you have to learn lessons on every level. Each player has to look at their failures the same way I look at my failures and I think our team does that, which is why it's the only way that – amongst all your doom and gloom, they've held themselves to a high standard on offense. I think they started the year out first week number one. That carries a lot of weight with it and we've maintained that throughout the season. There were highs and lows like there are always going to be in football. The bottom line is we have a confident group that will be in position to make some plays and I think we have the right people in place to do those, so I feel pretty good about this game."

(What is the status of WR Jaylen Waddle and RB Raheem Mostert?) – "That's a good questionable. (laughter) Short weeks, you really have to take it up to the end-of-the-week clock. Specifically with those two, you want to make sure everything you're doing, that you're pressing them enough. Not too much, but you kind of have to be able to forecast what's going to happen in the game all things equal. That doesn't mean they can't get injured on – I think the last time we played the Chiefs, Jaylen Waddle got rolled up on in the second play of the game. You can't forecast those types of things, but you need to know that the player you're taking into the game has, with your best inclination, a reasonable chance to play the entire game. That's where we're kind of at right now. We haven't had any setbacks with those two and I'm feeling optimistic with both. But the reason why they're in question is because we're pressing them to see if – you only have a certain amount of active players on a gameday roster, every time somebody gets hurt in a game, it puts stress on your entire team. We saw that last week and it trickles down, all the way down to special teams. Even when a player that doesn't get any special teams reps gets hurt, then someone else who plays on special teams has to play. So that trickle-down effect we're protecting against and we'll utilize the time until kickoff to make that decision."

(Do S Jevon Holland and S DeShon Elliott fall in that questionable distinction and how confident are you that they are going to be able to play?) – "They both fall into that questionable kind of situation there. I think specifically, the way DeShon really pressed through that game last week, he's not going to be able to take any reps to get that calf to his best position. He seems to be of the stubborn quality where I'm optimistic about him, but I still won't know. He's going to take all the time. He might as well have a post office box here in the training room and get his mail delivered there because he's been living in it. Then same thing with Jevon. Those two are going to be game day decisions for sure based upon their ambition to play in the game, their work. The training staff does an outstanding job with those guys and short weeks, playoff games, are kind of adding variables."

(Bill Belichick will not be back with the New England Patriots. Certainly he has a long history of playing against this team and you've seen him a few times. Just your thoughts on his legacy.) – "It's really mixed emotions, I would say. I'm more kind of taken aback by that in conjunction with Coach Saban and Pete Carroll. They have as much responsibility to what the game is right now as anybody that's around. I have so much respect and regard for being able to do what they've done for that amount of time. I have a very close first-hand experience on what it means, the sacrifice it takes to do this job. It is a sacrifice – such a blessing, such an opportunity – but you really have to pour yourself into it. And when you do that for a quarter century, I can't say enough positive words about Coach Belichick, and I lump Coach Carroll and Nick Saban in there because it feels the same way. It's a reminder to me that – I'm just going to be candid – that Father Time is a (expletive). Really not a nice guy. But it's real and it reminds you that everything is finite and I think a lot of people have gained a lot of perspective, motivation. The leadership of Coach Belichick has been really, really cool to watch. He's been at the chair for 24 years in one organization and it wasn't because of entertaining press conferences. (laughter) It was because of his due diligence at what his job was, so I have a lot of regard and I'm kind, as you can tell, I'm kind of mourning the loss of those three, for sure."

(When you're trying to beat a Chiefs team that is the defending Super Bowl champs, is there something in knocking off the champ that has that championship DNA and pedigree that makes it even more of a challenge when they're in their house and they're defending the crown, so to speak?) – "I think there's a reason for everything. You can make everything that you experience purposeful if you have the mindset of you're kind of dictating the terms. I do think there was something to get over playing the Chiefs and fortunately we played them this year. I think that, even if you go into a game with as much as confidence as you had all season, there's still an element of, 'okay, this is the team that holds the crown.' And then I think within a game, like every game, it turns into a football game that you're used to that has to do with executing the fundamentals and technique of your job at a high level. And I think I'm more comfortable with the team going into Arrowhead now than I probably was playing them in Germany, even with all the this, that's and the others of why we shouldn't have that confidence. I feel like we have a team that has fought and gotten knocked down and stood up and they're excited for the opportunity to play a team that deserves all of their accolades because they've earned them. They've earned the home playoff game so you have an uphill battle that your job is to make it not that. I think our team understands the whys to the position we're in and are excited for the opportunity to go compete against a team that they know they can compete with, and let the chips fall as they may. But I know we're a closer team that has weathered life's lessons and are still coming to work with a lot of gusto to go do something special, and I'm very, very motivated to go against a championship-caliber team on the road. It will be difficult, but that's why it'll be that much more enjoyable, so it's worth the grind and it'll be fun."

(I wanted to ask you about running game – playoff season or weather-related in terms of why it ratchets up in postseason and this time of year?) – "I think you can control the game in a different degree. I think everybody's emotions are high and the orchestration of pass game execution can be fickle at times and an equalizer is 'hey, we have the ball, you don't.' With the run game, it's really cool because you're building all year to be able to perform and hold the ball for your team, maintain possession and score points doing it. So I think it's the buildup that makes run games in the playoffs so powerful. I think that is – I've been on teams that have run the ball well in the postseason and all of those teams have had a journey that I think we've had this year, where you've pressed along and if you narrow it down to individual blocks or combination blocks, and if you watch a cut up of how we're executing blocks, how we're blocking people now versus the beginning of the season, it's night and day. So that's what you're trying to do, to me, at least that's what we're trying to do every year, is to make it that way. So the results are the results. We score a lot of point sometimes. Sometimes we don't score as much. But what I can say as tangible fact, is that we've progressed in how we've blocked people and that's a big deal in the postseason because just think about it this way. There's a bunch of individual human beings and when you walk into a playoff stadium, the energy is just tangibly different. Why is it different? Well, because every person in the stadium knows that the loser goes home. So that energy is on-tilt. Every play you can hear a bigger gasp when there's something positive or negative. All of that weighs into the human element and the human experience of an elimination game. It's a powerful experience that you can't replicate. It's why you do it. And in those types of moments, you like to control the will of the game and the most control you have is on the ground for sure, so you've got to be able to stop the run and run the ball."

(There's a cat and mouse game between offense and defense obviously. WR Tyreek HIll talked after the Baltimore game I think about always going against two-deeps. Last week, Buffalo changed their safeties at half. Is that where that safety is lined up more pronounced with your offense? It just seems to be a conversation going through this season.) – "Yeah, well it's more of a conversation I think –it's something that the Kansas City Chiefs offense is very well versed at – but there's a certain time where if you're productive enough, if you have gained the attention or garnered the attention and respect of opponents enough, you every week seem to be finding out what they're going to do live. They end up changing who they are. So as a result, your game plan has to adjust. When people are prioritizing surprise and elements of unknown defensively, that conversation comes up because guys are very aware. Listen, we practiced all week against this single-high safety. I think, in particular, one that stands out is we talked a lot about safeties the Giants game. They blitz the most or second-most in the NFL. So we prepared a lot for our game plan to be able to handle that. And they played two safeties pretty much the whole game. So you're players are more in-tune with what are we getting because week after week after week, it's been, okay, do they show up and play a different defense? I think the conversation amongst our players is just because they know the most football they've ever known. They've really progressed that way. And that's what happens when you get people's best shots week in and week out, which is what you want. But I think it's also them just having more knowledge of what their opponent is and then it stands out when they adjust."

(A win Saturday would be the franchise's first in the postseason for 23 years. What would breaking that drought mean to you?) – "Well, I've been saying a quarter century just because it's more impactful. But I've been saying means that I've been saying it a lot, which means it means a lot. It was one of the first things I talked about my first day on the job because you have to understand what the passions that your fan base, the experiences they've had, what they're harboring and then what it will feel like to bring people that joy of rooting for a team for that long and then to not be able to experience at least one postseason win. That's rough. That is rough. Myself and the whole organization want to deliver on ending that and doing right by all those years of passion. I also think it's something really cool to achieve, so I've been leaning on that both seasons I've been here. We talked about it in my first team meeting this week when we're beginning this prep because that is an obstacle, but generally obstacles have – there's a huge pot of gold, so to speak, when there are obstacles. There's a saying that I just came up with right now – adversity is an opportunity. (laughter) But that's why. Because it's like wow, how great would it feel to be able to be the team that ends that drought and for a fanbase that is very steadfast and hungry. We have a lot of love for our fans. So it's a big deal that you don't chase directly. You know it's there. But if you worry about constantly your technique, fundamentals and execution of your job, that's something that is a reward waiting for a job well done."

(I know you're a fan of the game. You look back at all of these Ice Bowl, super cold weather games. They're all iconic for some reason. I know you're laser focused on the task, but is there a part of you that kind of says, as cold as it's going to be, you're balancing that and it will be kind of cool to be a part of something like that?) – "No, absolutely it is. No one likes being cold. That's why we have temperature control. (laughter) However, it does make the moment bigger when you know that it is an absolute fact that it's going to be frigid. Well, what if as a team, you find a way for it to not affect you? To be able to go and do athletic performance in that weather, it takes will. That will comes from a passion that is deep down that has been derived while a lot of these guys started playing the game that you're unlocking. The last time I played in zero-ish degree weather was 2021 at Green Bay in the divisional round. And much like this team, we were up in Santa Clara and had like one coat in our closet. We weren't used to that at all. But it galvanizes people. Kind of like when you talk to our players, the most fun game, outside of the result, that we played in the last two years, was the one at Buffalo on that Saturday night on a short week last year. So it's about the team part of it. It's about doing something that's difficult inherently. That motivates you as a competitor, I think. And we have a lot of competitors on our team. I think the places that teams have to go to execute in those types of situations are hard. I think that's what kind of makes them stand out in history, because you get a lot of cool spirited efforts by people doing things that a lot of people would struggle to do."

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