Read the full transcript from Head Coach Mike McDaniel's press conference on Tuesday, June 7, 2022.
(On his favorite sushi) – "Spicy tuna roll… it's really just a medium for wasabi. I don't eat fish, but I eat sushi. Makes no sense. Yep. That's called a child that wasn't forced by his mother to eat food and then in social settings in his early 20s in Houston, it was like, 'Hey, this is kind of a cool scene. Raw sushi? Let's try it out.' That's all it was. And then it was, 'Hey, this is spicy. That's all I eat.' Red gravy is my favorite condiment, which is all hot sauce. (laughter)"
(I'm going to get to condiments talk in a little bit. Now probably 65 percent of coaches would probably not give a specific player answer to this question, but I'm hoping and guessing you might be part of the 35 percent that will to this question and give maybe a specific player. So General Manager Chris Grier has had a lot of success in this organization finding undrafted rookies to contribute. Of the group so far that you have – the Verone McKinleys, the ZaQuandre Whites, Kellen Diesches, etc. – who's flashed to you? Have there been a couple that have impressed you that you're willing to share?) – "What about the 5 percent that – it's so hard. Just really think about it for a second how difficult – I say it to the rookies all the time – the undertaking they have where they're transitioning from a different game and these are grown men that have been earning a paycheck and you're trying to get reps from them and perform at a high level, so certain positions I think are more akin to show fast and furious. Typically running backs, you get a little more opportunity because it's a little more natural to what you've done in the past – hey, don't get tackled – and I've been very impressed with, I call him 'Dr. White' (ZaQuandre White). But there's plenty of guys – I know my NFL experience has afforded me to know this much to not make too early of a judgment. What you're trying to do is really establish 'should these guys, should they have a ticket to the party?' And really our whole undrafted class, there's not anybody that stands out whether that's from an athletic perspective or just what it takes to be a professional football player. That's a credit to Chris (Grier) and his entire staff, where they brought some young men that are hungry and meet the bar from an athletic standpoint so it'll be an exciting late summer, early fall."
(What's the message you want to leave with your players as the offseason program comes to a close and you go a while without having them in the building?) – "This is a cool, cool opportunity that's unchartered thus far, and I talk to these guys a lot and have put a lot of thought into this. We've had an offseason that we've been fully committed. We've learned a lot. We've gotten better. I think that the coaches have done a great job and the players have really attacked this offseason, which I guess I would equate to the first quarter of a game. I'm comfortable to say the way they've worked – I feel like we have a lead in the first quarter. What does that mean? Nothing. How many games are you winning in the first quarter that you lose and vice versa. So we've positioned ourselves to compete at a standard that we've said from the beginning that we want to compete at. The biggest message is the obligation and accountability that they have to have to their teammates while they're gone because the one thing that has stood the test of time is if you don't come back in not shape, but training camp shape, at the beginning of training camp, you make yourself very vulnerable to soft tissue injuries, which puts you two, three weeks behind. And more often than not, when it's all said and done, players never catch up because that's how tight of a race it is. So you're spending time with your family, getting away recharging; but also understanding this moment and what your teammates are counting on you to come back and the Miami Dolphins organization is counting on you to come back in full shape, form and desire so that the cream of our team rises to the top and whoever the best person is at every position, they're giving us the best chance to win."
(QB Tua Tagovailoa said he's never had a coach like you from the positivity standpoint. Can you talk about that a little bit? Was like a pillar for you that you mapped out when you thought about what you wanted to be like as a head coach and also is that a conscious effort you take into your strategy?) – "I'd say I'm just a positive person only because the way I see the world is you're about the things you can affect moving forward and about being present. I wouldn't say that I was really approaching it like, 'hey, I want to be the positive coach' because I don't necessarily think that I am. I know that's how people take it from afar, but really I just want players' sole focus to be getting better at their craft and being the best player they can be. So I feel as though if you're able to be yourself, that's one less thing you're thinking about that's not getting better and perfecting your craft. So that opportunity cost is something that's important to me, so I want players to feel like they can be themselves. I also think that a concerted effort in a group forum – hence team sports, just that collective venture – is fun. The grind is fun, although in the present sometimes it doesn't feel like it is. But more than any of that, I know and I think the players would attest that the most important thing is that they feel like they have an honest coach because I can't help them if I can't give them honest critiques; and don't get it twisted, there are plenty of times in my own way that I'm very, very direct because that's what players are depending on. But it's not really about the positive. It's more about whatever the elixir is to try to maximize a given player's ability to perform which is a coach's job."
(With that being said, where did you adapt your coaching style from? A lot of the guys last week were saying you're a player's coach. Every coach has a style. How would you describe your style overall?) – "My style – I think I've learned a great deal from every situation. I think that's kind of the onus on the learner when you're in a situation. You're not necessarily mimicking your behavior towards a person. You notice what happens when A happens or B happens. For me, I just want there to be no question from any player what my intent, objective and where my motivation is coming from. So you don't really pattern yourself after anyone. You get used to that when you grow up as an only child with a single mom. I didn't really have an example on like, how to be a dude or whatever that is and that's kind of manifested itself in my professional life where you take things from each and every walk of life that you have. I would say that's probably different just because I've never really patterned myself after anybody. I just kind of – I'm honest with very deliberate intent and a genuine purpose to help players get better and I think you create a culture, not because this guy acts a certain way, but because you're really a group of people and the people that you employ and the people that you work with, if allowed, they dictate the terms of what the culture is. And that's what I think you're seeing on a day-in, day-out basis. I'm not like, 'Hey guys, have fun.' It's more like, 'Hey, this is your guys' team. Understand that now, own it and how far do you want to take it?' And the results are a collection of young hungry individuals that it's June, so we haven't played a game. But for where we're at right now and the way they're coming together, I'm very pleased at this part of the process."
(Kind of following up what you said earlier about encouraging guys to be themselves. A lot of times you hear coaches talk about no one's bigger than the team and team, team, team. Like have you viewed the concept of maybe individuality different as you kind of see a new era of players?) – "No, I think individuality is more celebrated as a culture in general, and I think people are more receptive to that. But don't get it twisted. The No. 1 rule that we have on our team is protect the team. There is nothing greater than that, but I think you're a sum of the whole total parts – what you become is an accumulation of the individual pieces. And those pieces, you're just trying to maximize what you can contribute to the team and I feel like there's a certain degree of liberty and investment and for lack of better terms, you're taking that opportunity cost of thinking about how does someone want me to act and applying it to what is my job. And you have to stay within what's in the best interest of the team. But people shouldn't have to – if they have honest intent, if they're accountable and you can count on them and their purpose and drive is correct and of high esteem – then who am I say you should act one way or the other? If I was policed that way, I don't think I'd be hanging out here standing at this podium waiting for questions about condiments to resurface. (laughter)"
(You have a pretty healthy team. You answered a couple of weeks ago about RB Raheem Mostert, hoping he'll be ready for the opener. Does it look good for you for how FB Alec Ingold coming off of the Week 10 ACL injury last year as far as being ready for the opener? Are there any other health issues you need to monitor heading into camp among T Terron Armstrong, etc.?) – "All of the guys – our medical staff does an outstanding job. We've been very – I wouldn't say cautious but we've tried not to push the envelope. We all have scars and quite frankly the guys that have been hurt are accountable pros that want to play worse than we all want them to play. I can promise that's a fact. There is nothing that is concerning us at this time. I feel very fortunate. But that's to the credit of the players because they're working very hard, but they're also working very diligently to protect each other while having fast-paced practices."
(With QB Tua Tagovailoa, I know a lot has been brought up about his arm strength and stuffs, but what are you thoughts on him inside the red zone, inside 30 to 35 yards? What did you think of him watching film before you started working with him and what's it been like now since you've had him?) – "From a football standpoint, we've spent a considerable amount of time emphasizing the first and second down portion of our game for a multitude of reasons, one of them being that there aren't pads on. I don't necessarily see – as far as his game, I think his skillset in tighter areas only enhances his ability. He's an accurate quarterback that really knows how to place the ball where he wants it to be placed. All the red zone is to me is the defense is defending less amount of the field, so they are compressed. And we're still trying to move the ball forward and get into the end zone, so those windows become tighter, the decisions have to be quicker. The work we have done, I've been very pleased with it. I would say the one outlier for red zone quarterback play is one of the extremes in mobility. If you have a super extreme ability to extend the play with your feet, typically those guys are ranked pretty high. Or you have decisive quarterbacks that know where to go with the ball. In both of those situations, you're just taking advantage of space. You can either create it with your quarterback and buy time, or you can create that space with timing and execution of concepts, which is something that Tua has been very good at his whole career."
(At what stage in the install of your offense do you feel like you're at after four weeks? And also, how can you gauge the offense, especially the running game, without pads?) – "This being the sixth different team that I've been in the same offense my whole career and we've just evolved it – this being the sixth different stop, you gain a little wisdom in that. There are compounding variables that you try to weigh. How good is the existing defense? Is everyone starting from the same starting point? Are they taking calculus courses while we're learning algebra? This is an extreme case relative to the other stops in my career because the defense was very, very productive and returning a lot of talented players. We also had an inordinate amount of additions, so it was a bunch of people learning to play together. With all of those circumstances that my career has afforded me, I feel extremely happy and confident where we're at. We have just enough taste of what we're good at and what we need to work on. We have a lot of deliberate pros that when guys are all in it and are thinking about it over the break and spending their summer getting away and recharging, but at the same time, revisiting all of the stuff that they've learned, there is a huge leap in those first couple of days of (training camp). Realistically, if I go play by play, player by player, I'm not looking for touchdowns or how many negative plays. I'm looking at how people are progressing and getting better each day against a defense that's refining their skills. I'm very happy with where we're at right now, which means absolutely nothing. There are a couple of plays I wish we would make here or there, but overall as an offense, I'm very comfortable and confident going into summer with what we've had an opportunity to do and who we're going against. It's a tremendous challenge and on both sides of the ball, I think we've gotten better this offseason because guys come to work and challenge each other, are talented, high expectations, competitive and try to win the day."