Read the full postgame transcript from Head Coach Mike McDaniel's press conference on Sunday, Jan. 15, 2023.
(Can you take us through what happened with some of that operation on third down that you guys had in the second half? What was the problem with the plays?) – "There was a couple different scenarios. It's something that obviously will be a point of emphasis in the offseason, but there's compounding variables. There was some crowd noise that had to do with mishearing some digits of the wristband. There was some issues within the huddle of communication and getting to the line of scrimmage and there was the excuse that you don't use that you don't use but is a real compounding variable is there was a multiple amount of different people in the huddle when you're in a nice routine and you have maybe a group of offensive linemen that are being communicated to by the same person; when you have flux like that, it happens. It shouldn't happen as much as it did. And then the last one in particular had to do with whether it was officials or coaching, there was some communication that we'd gotten first down. So then we were deploying a group of players for the first-and-10 call and then it was articulated that no, itw as fourth down. So that miscommunication – that's all the stuff that you do in this business, is you never stop finding the things that you can improve on and it was a piece of the reason why we were unable to come out with a victory, but it definitely wasn't the only reason. There was a lot of people who can find several things that they could do better including myself which we will do pressing forward.
(Were the plays coming from you any later than normal? Or was it basically just…) – "It felt – the timing of it for the most part when there wasn't extenuating circumstances felt normal, but there was certainly some times where things were kind of going in different directions and I'm sure the plays got in a little later than I would prefer at least once or twice, but it's all kind of lumping together right now."
(Where did that inclination that you thought it was a first down – who or where did that come from?) – "It was communicated to me through upstairs from the headset, I think. I was standing by an official. I had just gotten convicted information that it was a first down so I don't really know exactly who it was from. It was probably the first time all year that that had happened so you try to do your best. As it was I thought we had a fourth-and-6 opportunity that we were unable to come up with as well, so fourth-and-1 most of the time is easier than fourth-and-6, but at the same time you just have to adjust to whatever variables are put out there and I think we had a chance at fourth-and-6 as well."
(I know that you guys have a lot of faith in QB Skylar Thompson and you have a lot of trust in him, but in a three-point loss in the playoffs, just knowing that your starting quarterback wasn't there, how much of that is something that you think will be on your mind or you'll just think what could have been if QB Tua Tagovailoa was there?) – "Honestly I don't really think about it like that. Every team that I've ever been on that's successful, one of the mantras and just I think people in general is if you just look at what you could have done better, I think that was the situation at hand. That was the hand that was dealt and that was part of the story that we were willing to completely – we thought that we were good enough to win this game in the hand that was dealt. So that won't weigh on me as much as the things that as I comb the game that will be pretty tough to watch, but you do it nonetheless and I'm sure there are going to be some decisions that I would like to have back. There always are win or loss, really."
(What do you think it was about this team that it could be the way it did when not many people thought that you could in this situation?) – "It was the same story as well season. We lost five in a row, but it wasn't because we weren't competitive. I think there was a couple games this season that late in the third, early in the fourth, the game kind of got out of hand. But from my memory I think it's a group of individuals that take their job, take their teammates, take the opportunity very serious and we expected to be in every game. We were very aware that no one really gave us a shot. That was definitely an extra motivating factor, not that we needed any other motivation. That Dolphins fans and the organization – we were very aware of the drought of winning a playoff game, but that's something that since I got the job that was been a huge motivating factor for me and I really wanted to bring the team, the organization and the fanbase and we fell short. But it wasn't because of lack of effort or lack of determination or lack of intent. It's because we didn't get it done. We're a young team and we had to learn from it and unfortunately we had to learn the hard way."
(Do you get any additional sense of pride, I know you say it's not always about you, but do you get a sense of pride when you see your team battle back like that? It's now the third or fourth time that you've come back from a double digit deficit?) – "Absolutely. Absolutely. That's the realness of coaching a team and the relationship with players, coaches and just knowing what happens to most people when you invest a lot and you don't get the results you necessarily desire. Most people tap; this collection of individuals does not. Very, very proud of that. Heartbroken for the guys because they didn't want their season to end and did everything they could, but it's part of the sometimes hard learning lessons that are appropriate when you have high expectations, high dreams, high goals. This team much like the five-game losing streak, this team utilized it which you have to do. You utilize hard things to make you better and I was very proud of the way they fought. Have always been. That's the standard that they've shown me and it's one of the reasons that I wanted the team to progress so much, because of things like that."
(To follow up, is it validating at all too just knowing that first season, you have a team that will rally behind you and won't quit on you?) – "Yeah, I think as a coach you definitely take it personal when guys, regardless of if it's their intent or not, you find your expectation for your job is to be able to motivate people to put forth their best effort. So if you don't get that, it's kind of a gut check to your whole, 'What am I supposed to be doing out here in the first place? Shouldn't I be able to motivate these players to do what I know can lead to a team victory?' So yeah, I would say that it is validating for myself but I don't really look at anything as just myself. I – immediately , that's an extension of the rest of the coaching staff and let me know that we're going in the right direction, even if we want that direction to be now and even if we – sometimes, it's these types of lessons that have to push you over the top when you have the opportunity to go all the way and you don't shortchange it at all. So that's what we'll try to do in the offseason and get better from it, for sure."
(T Terron Armstead played with four injuries that we know of at least. What does that tell you about what you've brought to this organization with T Terron Armstead?) – "We kind of had some insider trading in terms of (Offensive Coordinator) Frank Smith had been with him in New Orleans, so we knew kind of the guy we were investing in. Those are the type of people that if you're having the expectation to win football games, those are the type of people you have to invest in. And investing in them is, literally, the guys that you go out and pay, they have to have that mindset if you're expecting to try to win a championship as an organization. So I think he's just delivering on what was advertised. One of the reasons we were here, even when he wasn't on the field, is everything we relied on from him as a captain. He really – it was the youngest offensive line room that I've ever been around by far, and he really helped them set the vision. Because there's – when you're trying to do stuff differently, you have to have a different standard with how you do things and there has to be a level of strain that if you're trying to get better or be great that you haven't ever done before. Those type of things – you can a lot of times beat people in the face with all sorts of coach-speak and come up with the best ways to say stuff, but more often than not, you need players to deliver and push that message through to everyone. He was one of those guys that really helped get us to a point where we expect to win and are disappointed when we don't."
(There was a report from ESPN today that QB Tua Tagovailoa does intend to play next year and you intend to have him as your quarterback. Is that report accurate? And if so, can you explain your thinking behind it?) – First and foremost, you guys know with Tua (Tagovailoa), we're worried about it on a day-to-day basis – how's he doing today and just worried about his health. Now, with that being said, yeah, of course. You guys know how I feel about Tua and that hasn't changed at all. I see, I think we all see, him as the leader of this team and when it's appropriate for him to lead the team, I will jump on that opportunity. He's a great player with only improvement in front of him as well. We're talking about a 24-year-old quarterback that I think when I signed up for this job, I spent six months trying to convince people that he was good. So the fact that people are – the fact that Las Vegas saw it as a four-point swing when it was announced that he was – it means that, he's a … Yes, this is a challenging time for him, yes, his health is of primary importance, but I would be a fool to not embrace him when he's healthy and ready to go. We'll all be excited for that."
(You may need some time to reflect on it, but how would you asses how you handled your first head coaching season?) – "I'll definitely need some time to reflect on it, for sure. This was – you talk about working your whole life in one direction for a singular goal, this place feels right. I feel very fortunate. I feel very bound and determined to always improve. I think there's always good and there's always bad. I think the second that you start thinking that you're problem-less or that you've figured it out is when stuff passes by. I know one thing – without question, I know I did the very best that I could for all the people involved, which is extremely important to me. So I am proud of that, and I know there will be plenty of things that I'll get better at which is the way I look at the expectation for myself and my job. That will never change; that will be the same thing every year, but my primary concern is that I do everything possible to try to put people in positions for success, because that's what this role can offer. I think I'm happy with that and not happy with today's result, which I don't think I'll ever be until it's the final game of the season and you're champion."
(Can we just get clarity because it might be a thing – did the refs tell you it was first down? Or did it come from upstairs?) – "I don't think it was – I don't think it was the refs. I think it was from the headset, to be honest. It didn't really matter to me, because I'm not pointing fingers. But I'm pretty sure – I don't think I saw a sign. After the game, there's a lot of stuff going on at all times, so I think I was under the assumption that it was first down because of a coach communication, because I don't remember seeing a sign."