Read the full transcript from Head Coach Mike McDaniel's press conference on Thursday, July 28, 2022.
(OL Connor Williams told us in June that he expects to be a center here so I was curious what the thinking was with you and General Manager Chris Grier in terms of if you had the option you could have brought in someone who had played center – veteran free agent center to compete with OL Michael Deiter. Why did you decide to move Connor instead of going that other route? Was it just Connor's skillset you said "this is a guy who can be a good NFL center?") – "We weren't signing him to be necessarily a center. We were signing an offensive lineman. We thought his skillset would best be utilized at the center position. With him only having limited reps at it, we wanted to give him a full opportunity to make what we think what we know. But first and foremost, we weren't going after Connor because it was like, 'hey, this guy is a center.' We think he is a good offensive lineman that can play multiple positions. That's why those types of signings are intriguing because you can try stuff and I know he's going to do everything to be the best that he can be at that position, but if the team is better off with him at another position, that's the great thing about Connor, is that he's learning the offense from the inside-out at the position where you learn everything – the center position."
(Would you say that would preclude you from looking outside if say it's late August, early September? There are obviously veteran centers available.) – "You're just trying to do the best thing that's available to you with your options. You exhaust everything and then you're sitting there saying, 'Okay well, what's better?' (Is it) this scenario where you know injuries, you have Connor at center and you're signing someone else off the street or there's somebody from your practice squad or within; or you don't just black-and-white that to me and I know that's the way Chris (Grier) feels as well having – the biggest thing is that you exhaust all scenarios so that you can attempt to do the best thing for the Miami Dolphins."
(In terms of the position from your scheme, what are you looking for at center in sort of a wide zone scheme?) – "Everybody at every position wants the biggest, fastest, strongest. And so you want someone that can really move. You don't always have to move to be an effective center. There's multiple ways of being a productive player, but in an ideal world, you can do the best job attacking a defense if you have some athleticism at the position and then you have some strength because it's close-quarters contact a lot of times. You have someone breathing on you as close to the ball as any other player on the line of scrimmage. And then you have to learn more about them. You have to learn – they have to make line calls that four other players plus tight ends are depending on, so that we're all on the same page. That orchestration especially in modern-day NFL is tough, so you have to know a component of their mental capability as well, which is why Connor (Williams) was so attractive to us because it's house money – that's an NFL guard or center, in our opinion."
(I wanted to ask you about play calling. Will you be speaking directly to QB Tua Tagovailoa, relaying the plays to him?) – "Mhm."
(And so between now and the first game of the regular season, how do you plan to go about the rehearsal part of that?) – "Well, you'll be happy to know that we work on it every day. That's why you'll see me communicating with the walkie talkie. That's what's simulating that, that we communicate as much as possible in that vein, speaker to ear. They get comfortable hearing the way that sounds, as words can sound alike. Xs sound like Fs. You have to get used to how people talk. You have to get reps and mess it up. Every day, that's why we do it in that fashion, so we're prepared to communicate to each other on game day come Week 1."
(How aggressive do you think your mindset will be? I know it can vary from game to game, but overarchingly, going for it on fourth down, attacking the sticks early in the series, how aggressive do you think you'll be?) – "I think – it's kind of a boring answer, but I'm just very careful to not make an absolute, because I think it's important to kind of evaluate the scenario in all the given circumstances. Case and point, by nature, I'm an aggressive guy when it comes to football and like to utilize and make big plays and utilize speed and all that stuff. But there was a transition, an experience, that really stood out in 2019. It was the first time we had ever coached offense and had a Top 10 defense. When you had that, there were certain games that you realize that being aggressive might be an unnecessary risk; if the defense isn't going to allow a point, why give them an opportunity? So I think it's important to not pigeonhole yourself. I also think that's a competitive advantage for the Miami Dolphins, because if you have just a typecast of how you operate, the other team gets paid, too, and defensive coordinators probably know that pattern. So I think that's the value of approaching each and every situation independently. I know that I'm aggressive, but I have to take into consideration all things. It's not about offensive stats, it's about winning the football game. If winning the football game is 3-0, there's no asterisk on that 'W' (win)."
(With LB Melvin Ingram obviously, you got to see him on the field yesterday. A – how did he look after a layoff? And B – what gives you confidence that his level of production will be higher than it was in the last couple of years?) – "You know, it was really cool to see him yesterday, because his plan was – he was practicing for the first time, but he wasn't scheduled. He wasn't scheduled – we had planned to not have him in team periods, just so we don't rush the process and make sure that we don't put him in harm's way. He was fighting tooth and nail with the defensive coaches in general. And they thought it was better to – they let the guy in for a couple of plays, which I immediately saw and made sure it was on his agenda, which it was, and that's what you want as a leader on the team or a veteran player that's had production. You want to be on the field. You want the younger players to understand it's a privilege to be on the field. With regard to how I feel about him moving forward, to me, I didn't really necessarily – I don't even know how many sacks he totally had, because I don't look at it that way. My job is to study the player, and what I saw was he had a lot of impact. Specifically, he was a better run defender than I remembered him from the beginning of his career – he's really grown in that. As a pass rusher, he had a lot of activity in and around the quarterback that, in our opinion, if there was a little more production on those particular plays where he had some really good pass rush moves, he might have – his sack total might be twice or three times whatever it is. So he was already producing a little more than people realized in terms of quarterback pressures, and in the system around the guys that we're playing with, we're encouraged to add him to the competition because it's a group of people. If you want to be a good defense in the National Football League, you have to have depth, because it can't be conditional that you're able to really give it your all. Defense can get tiring. You need to be able to have multiple pass rushers from every spot and edge setters and stack linebackers and all that because if you only have one guy, the second that he goes down – we can't have one player dictate the outcome of an entire defense. So, I'm pumped about his contribution and where he's at moving forward. I'm excited to see him continue to grow on the defense."
(You mentioned yesterday that QB Tua Tagovailoa can be super hard on himself. I was curious, is that something you've ever personally had to deal with in your career or whatnot with how things work out or whatever? Are there any tips you gave him about how to deal with that?) – "Yes, it's funny you ask that. I actually did give him a tip. There was a part in my career where I was contributing to the offensive gameplan, and my – I was amongst the team. The team was experiencing a lot of success at the time. My particular – there were some good games we had, specifically in my portion of the gameplan. It was a couple weeks – I was younger in my career, and I started feeling pretty good about myself. Then all of a sudden, we had a poor performance, didn't produce and I got in the tank and we still won. I felt like I let the team down. I didn't realize until feeling that how I was totally wrong to begin with, that for me to sit here and think that – for anyone to think that you're the reason you win or lose, you don't get the big picture. So for you to sit there and be hard on yourself, what is that doing for your teammates? Is that making you better? I'm cool if it makes you better, which is why it's cool to be accountable. But you all of a sudden start going off the rails – dude, it doesn't matter if people are depending on you if you make all the plays you want to or not, you still regardless have the perfect game, you might not win, it's not about that. It's about being your best but also relying on your teammates and when you don't do well, or in my case when I come up with a gameplan that is trash, that isn't all on me. Players still have to play. It's nothing individually, it's all collective. That's the biggest lesson I've been able to tell him."
(You spoke about this yesterday – the shorter practices – it's kind of silly to ask you this going into Day 2, but how do you balance that incessant need to get everything done versus the need to keep guys fresh?) – "Very challenging. It ends up – you have to be very forthright with the players so they understand that where you're making concessions in reps, that that has to be made up in a walkthrough format or whatever. But time has proven that if you want to be elite at something you have to deliberately practice it and practicing it at full speed is the only way to truly adjust your full-speed play. So that – understanding the value and the intent that you have to have and the deliberate nature that you have to approach something on each and every rep, the less reps you do, the more critical it becomes. But we believe and have found that if players are treating practice reps closer to game reps, that it is an overall benefit to them as long as they understand that hey, we need to make these reps up somewhere."
(The o-line as a whole – there had to be something you liked from OTAs and minicamp to keep alignment consistent first day of camp. What was it about guys at their positions that left you encouraged?) – "That it was the highs and lows, to be honest, because again, we were going against a scheme that was working on building upon what they'd done last year and what they've been doing for the last couple years. So in that, Day 1 – and without their techniques, they're used to doing it. Reps, right? So in that process, you know that they're at a competitive advantage at the very beginning – the first time you step on the field. And then once that happens for one day, you're like, 'yeah, you have the out.' Then how do you respond, how do you correct stuff? That's the nature of the business we're in and not that anything was perfect, it was that individuals were responding to failures and correcting mistakes which is why you're encouraged moving forward. And each and every player has that opportunity every snap so that's why even it's also the biggest deal in the world and unheard of to have guys on the second and third team move up at any position as well. So you're just trying to keep competition high, get the best out of people and make sure that guys are giving their best effort and getting better each and every day."
(What were your thoughts on Day 1 and what's your message heading into Day 2 and where would you evaluate them on the juice level?) – "I had several thoughts. I was very happy with Day 1 because it was a purposeful practice. To me, you can't – a good practice to me is that the practice was worth something moving forward meaning that both sides of the ball had their best intent so you got an actual physiological rep in the process. And if you weren't successful, then you can actually – you won't have to learn that lesson in a game when you're running full speed. So as long as that's happening, if we want – all of our guys want to be a very good team. Very good teams are by nature going to have inter-practice adversity because both sides of the ball should be good. They get paid, too, basically. So I was happy from that standpoint and I feel like it put us in a position to get better today, and so then today I'll be able to validate that hey, yesterday was a real good practice from that standpoint. And the way that I hope the Miami Dolphins practice moving forward is that both sides of the ball – just like any game with two really good teams – both sides of the ball make their plays but also handle adversity and go through it, which is what we're getting reps in the hot sweat outside every day."