Read the full transcript from Head Coach Mike McDaniel's press conference at the Annual League Meeting on March 27, 2023.
(On if he knew who Brock Purdy was at the time) – "Yeah, that was a guy that was firmly on our radar in the draft. We ended up personally and as an organization, we took Skylar Thompson, but he was very much in the conversation, so I was very aware of what type of player he was and then really, that he had a good strong camp, I think that he made an impression on the coaches enough for it to get back to me. So it wasn't a moment where there is – immediately I am a human being so when Jimmy went down, there's a moment where I'm not happy about that at all. the human connection. But there was no like, 'all right, well, now we have a backup.' It was like, 'all right, we have another quarterback that presents different problems.'"
(How did you change your defense for him?) – "You can't really within the plan. You just adjust your calls a little bit. You try to take advantage of the known obvious. That guy hasn't got that many reps during the week, so you just try to – whenever you have a quarterback change in game, it's very common. I think that game, it was common for us to try to blitz a little bit more to see if he's on his reads and his timing was right and try to make some plays on defense. So we adjust that way consistently a lot of times depending on the quarterback if you think that they may not have gotten that many reps or he's a rookie and he's in his first regular season play. That's very normal, so it wasn't an indictment on him."
(So a lot has happened since last time we spoke. CB Jalen Ramsey – how'd you find out that was possible and that you could pull it off and that Miami was where he wanted to go?) – "It was a very similar situation to that of the year before with Tyreek and in terms of, it kind of hits me out of nowhere and Chris Grier will come in my office in classic Chris Grier form and he has this look, that of like, 'Hey, you're going to like the news that I have.' And so he says, 'Yeah, I think we have an opportunity. They've reached out.' And my immediate reaction was pretty candid and simple. It's like, 'All right, not talking terms, not talking what it's going to cost. That would be a cool opportunity that would be hard to replicate.' So that's the litmus test. We very much value all – we are willing to trade draft, but we very much value them. But when we recognized an opportunity, we jumped on it. And I think to Chris Grier's credit and Brandon Shore's credit, they were able to get a fair deal and we're elated to add a player whose competitiveness – my big thing is you add players that can make the rest of your team better. When players can make other people better, you're onto something. Very excited for him and his ability to do that, the competitiveness that he'll bring to the secondary and really overall excited about the person and the player and the element that he provides for our defense."
(Obviously CB Jalen Ramsey, sort of like WR Tyreek Hill, has a star persona. Fits into Miami. Big personality, brought a BRINKS truck to practice…) – "Didn't know that."
(What is your plan to sort of manage this collection of star players with personalities?) – "My plan is I obviously have to be a bigger star than them. (laughter) No, to me, I don't see that. I see all players as people that you, as a coach need to invest in. Guys that have a star ability that have been All Pros, they have big personalities; you can shy away from it which I think a lot of people run into problems, or you can really lean into it. I think it's something that can make your team better. Anybody that has a star persona also carries a tremendous burden of expectations of performance. Those players generally – the ones that have been around – know that they have to pay the piper on Sundays, so they put in and go to work in the offseason and during the week in practice. That residual effect is instrumental to the performance of the whole team, so if you have a big personality with that, as long as you're a good teammate – which all testaments, we did a deep dive on that – if you're a good teammate that can only benefit. He's got a magnetic personality and that's really cool, and I like where we're at with the various complements of personality on defense so that fires me up as well."
(Obviously everybody's looking for quarterbacks however they can find them, but getting a guy on a rookie deal like the way you guys are doing, is that just sort of the kind of ultimate goal, but like you said, a great benefit for teams?) – "Yeah, I think currently, it's obviously a slight advantage from a salary cap perspective because of the most obvious thing in the world that veteran quarterbacks that play very well can approach 40 percent of your salary cap. So it's just something that is currently the state that if you can, if you're able to have a good team and be productive, yeah, you're able to spend extra resources other places. Is that the model that – I think you can be opportunistic, yes, but the bottom line is you want the best players specifically at the quarterback position and when you have a known entity, you'll pay what you have to pay and there's a lot of teams that are having a lot of success with quarterbacks that are on rookie contracts, too."
(Why QB Mike White and is he coming to be your backup or is there sort of a competition with QB Skylar Thompson?) – "I'm really pumped about Mike White. There's a lot of things in his game that kind of reminded me of a player that I'd worked with in the past that when I left Houston, he was playing at a super high level – Matt Schaub. It's a situation that will be a competition, and I really believe in both players and I think that benefits the team. I think that benefits the players in general. If you're going into something with the idea to compete, I think ultimately between the two of those guys, the goal is to have competition, produce for the Miami Dolphins, No. 2 quarterback that can win games as the No. 1. Since the test of time competition has only helped competitors and players in terms of development, so really pumped about that opportunity to have him and really like the room, as we have as it stands right now."
(You said at the Combine the organization will take its time with the QB Tua Tagovailoa fifth-year option and then decided to move fairly quickly after, so why then so quickly?) – "That's something that like everything else that we do, we're assessing all the pros and cons for really the organization and once we determined really the bottom line. The bottom line procedure was like, 'Alright, well, the scenario of picking up the fifth-year option gives Tua the best chance to be his best and is the best thing for the organization.' That's what we're really chasing. We're chasing that – where both parties maximized an opportunity. So once we knew that – I hadn't really paid attention to the fifth-year option timeline. It was more like, 'All right, well, you know what, especially the media members that are in South Florida, they need to know this. We need to tell them this fifth your option is…' I mean, once we knew we knew, so that way I didn't have to play unnecessary poker face for no reason. We knew once we did our due diligence in our process, it made a ton of sense to us, so we wanted to communicate and get that done and move forward with our lives."
(What have you been told about QB Tua Tagovailoa's health and how he's doing in his training?) – "All the best things that you could possibly hear just because this is not something that for a lot of people it happened and then you're like, all of a sudden maybe thinking about it as the OTAs start again. This is something that our training staff and Tua have been attacking every day. He's in a great spot. I'm really encouraged about the work that he's doing for preventative injuries with his core and his neck training. His Jiu Jitsu stuff has been outstanding, so doing all the things that we can control to best position us and he's in a great place because of that. He's excited."
(Have you watched QB Tua Tagovailoa do Jiu Jitsu?) – "I have experts that communicate with me, and those experts got word – I didn't want to get in conflict with… That's kind of gray. Am I coaching if I'm watching jiu jitsu? That's kind of a violation, right? I can talk to Tua, but I can't talk about football. So I've had the people that I trust get it back to me, so I didn't violate any procedural issues. That's not Mike McDaniel's way."
(You've been around Defensive Coordinator Vic Fangio for a few months. What do you like about how he's installing, his coaches, that defense and talking to you about what he wants to do?) – "Working with Vic since he's been here has definitely validated everything that I thought when I made the decision to really target him as the defensive coordinator. I spent, I think it's probably 20, about 20 hours a week for last several weeks meeting with the defense. And what's very interesting in its own way, he looks at things a lot like I do on the defensive side of the ball. His devotion to tape, his devotion to coaching not in absolutes, but through relationships and really trying to get the best out of players in every way, shape, or form, allowing them to be themselves, not putting them in a box, not confining them. All these things are very similar to the way that I've always looked at football on the offensive side of the ball. So it's been very encouraging and I don't know, by all testaments, there's been some reputation as Vic has gone through his career that he might be grumpy or something I don't know. (laughter) All I know is in our office he's the most cheerful happy-go-lucky guy there. So it's been a great offseason experience and I'm excited to build upon."
(You've played three close games against the Bills last year. Do you make moves during the offseason with them in mind?) – "You always have your division in the back of your mind. I think it's important to create a team that's its very best against all opponents because they are two very important games – division games, whichever team it is, but two games doesn't get you to the playoffs. Two games doesn't win your division, so you keep it in mind, but you don't directly – I put it this way. If you have a good quarterback in your division… we have Josh Allen. We have multiple good quarterbacks, but just your example, the Bills, you better have good corners. So you think that way, but it's not like you know their excessive strength and you have to be ready and prepared to deal with those, but you're also motivated by just creating your best team against all opponents, all structures of offense and defense to be your best version of yourself."
(With that though, it seems like the division has gotten a lot better and potentially it could add QB Aaron Rodgers in that same division. Just talk about the state of the AFC East and just how competitive it has gotten.) – "So it's two prong. Yeah, it does make it more difficult the better your division is and I think our division is one of the… it appears to be building towards potentially being one of the better divisions in football. I'm careful in the spring to go too much over the top on paper, but I know exactly you're saying and I don't disagree. That being said, if your goals in football are not to just get to the playoffs, if your goal isn't to just get to the playoffs; it's not the worst thing in the world to have a very strong division. Granted, it still makes it more difficult to get to the playoffs, but if you are able to within that very good competitive division, you are much more battle-tested for the games that really, really matter. Because no one wants to just – we lived it once and one time was enough. Getting to the playoffs is cool. Over that. You want to win. And so playing good teams in the regular season however on the front end might seem, 'oh, that's tough.' What else would you want if you're really trying to actually win playoff games? If you're trying to actually get to the AFC Championship, if you're trying to win the AFC championship, if trying to win the Super Bowl? All those things, you better be a very good team and battle tested and our division should help us do that, but it's going to be stressful."
(What are WR Trent Sherfield's strengths?) – "Trent is a wonderful teammate, a football player that is dependable, that is physical, that is fearless, that has a chip on his shoulder. Very good football player that I think he has a tremendous opportunity in that particular receiving corps to kind of grow in terms of how much he's utilized. That's one thing that is kind of tough. With the Dolphins, there's a lot of good players, a lot of people to spread the ball around to. So I think, I'm happy for Trent and I know he's hoping for the opportunity to get to be able to contribute even more than and build upon his career year he had last year."
(What are some things about LB David Long Jr.?) – "The guy is a spark plug. The guy has true instincts at the linebacker position, and he's, you know, one of my favorite things that I told him, right when I met him is like, 'Dude, you are the inspiration for a guy that people have probably told you, you're maybe a little undersized.' And because of that he's found so many different tools in his game to be successful that make him such a cool player how he defeats blocks with his hands and his feet. How he's always finding the ball, how he beats other players on his unit to the ball in pursuit. These are all things that his coverage abilities, his ability to eliminate the space between him and the ball carrier and his ability to really be a quality tackler. Great fit for us and really excited to have him and he was always one of those guys that stood out on Krossover for me. So that was another cool part is I've been watching him for a while so it's exciting for our unit."
(What do you like about WR Braxton Berrios?) – "I like a lot of things about Braxton. I like that he he's a playmaker. I think the more assets that we have in terms of being able to make plays with the ball in their hands. You guys know I feel like we have a elite distributor in Tua (Tagovailoa). So if you have scorers, to use a basketball reference, I see Braxton as a scorer, a guy that can make plays with the ball in his hands. So those elements are extremely exciting, as well as really getting a boost for our special teams to make some plays in the kicking game. I think that's where I'm hoping our both offensive and defensive units are going, special teams will be that much more important because field position will be that much more of an advantage for us. That's the hope, so excited to have him and excited to get to work with him soon."
(Was there any kind of consideration to make a bigger move at running back and what do you like about the continuity of the room?) – "So you take a look at the whole class and ultimately we had the opportunity to bring two of our strongest character contributors and really players we depend on in Raheem (Mostert), and Jeff (Wilson). They're both, I think, above 4.7 yards per carry and when I look at the tape, I think there'd be a little bit of a different feeling if… we didn't run the ball, not because they didn't run the ball well. We didn't run the ball well in games that we were overly injured or some games I just didn't call enough runs. So when you look at it historically if you can get a runner 4.5 plus, they're doing something pretty good. I think we were able to get those two guys together which was very important, and I see them as a big part of our team and just the fabric and who we are as human beings; they really contribute to that locker room. I'm very excited to get those guys and I honestly believe they're playing their best ball their careers."
(On the toughest part of a rookie's transition into the NFL) – "Oh, man, that that is tough. You know, the toughest part – the easiest ones are the guys that are fortunate enough to be in systems that are very similar to pro. Right now the biggest problem is, what no one's talking about really, is there's a lot of teams in college football that this is what players learn. This is their play call. Okay, no, it's a picture from the sidelines. That's not verbal. So then you go the NFL and you're verbally instructed in the huddle what to do and it's not as simple as a picture. It's a bunch of words. That is hard to do, just that. On top of that, you're playing within the NFL timing and the structure, the spaces are tighter. So guys from programs that do utilize huddle calls, that do operate in a huddle, those guys are the easier ones. Then it goes to the individual makeup and generally the guys that are hyper-obsessive have a chance as a rookie. Hyper-obsessive in terms of how to study because it is a huge learning curve, a huge learning curve. Then you just kind of get lucky sometimes because you find the right guy. I had one example; it was 2014 I had Taylor Gabriel as an undrafted rookie out of Abilene Christian and he was like, 5'7". He got football, he got how to study and he had also the right resources within the room in Miles Austin and Andrew Hawkins to get this guy to be a pro. A lot of components. It is a tough situation, but some of the most dynamic players in the game come out year-to-year as rookie receivers. So it really puts a lot on the position coach to create a relationship where they can bridge all the gaps if there are huge gaps from systems and whatnot."
(You spent time in Washington. What is it like now from outside looking in when you see a former owner of the team you used to coach for, Dan Snyder, selling the franchise?) – "I look at it like, 'wow, the organization's worth that much?' And I couldn't get free coffee? (laughter) It's a cool process because to me, I look at it less as you know, business is business; I look at it as the health of our league. It's very encouraging and to me, it's the greatest litmus test that exists, how it seems that every sale of a team is for a larger number that I feel like – I don't know if this is accurate, maybe Google could check – but I feel like Mr. Ross, for the Dolphins, when he bought the team was the first owner to buy a team for a billion dollars. For me, what it means is the state of the National Football League, there's multiple billion dollars being discussed for that. I know the Broncos, it was like four and a half. That means the NFL has made a ton of good decisions and that we're building in the right direction because people don't spend that much money on something, unless it's probably going to continue to grow."
(When you worked for Dan, did you ever think this time will happen where you see him selling the franchise?) – "You know what – I get what you're asking. When I worked there, I felt as though he was a guy that has lived his whole life to be the owner of that particular team. So it is surprising, I guess, from my experience, just because of my three years there. I didn't necessarily see that coming, but in general, people have different reasons to do whatever. I'm not going to pretend to know everything that's going on there. I'm just more looking at the fact that he's able to – that business is good for the NFL pumps me up and I think that's what I take from it."
(Can you talk for a bit on the type of player the Patriots are getting in Mike Gesicki?) – "I'm excited for Mike (Gesicki) and I'm excited that he's getting the opportunity. I think what you're getting is a guy with a chip on his shoulder that is going to really, really go after it and do whatever the coaches ask of him. He's a guy that I think the Miami fan base will miss and excited to see. It's just unfortunate in a weird uniform, right? But that's our business that we thrive in, but ultimately I'm excited about really where our tight end room is going and some of the things we've got going on there. Happy for Mike (Gesicki) that he's getting the opportunity and know he's going to do his very best to make the best of that."
(I want to ask about what Byron Jones Tweeted last month about painkillers. He kind of suggested that people not take them. Has that spurred I guess an internal call to like, are we administering these the right way? What ways can we do it better? Or do you feel like the protocol you guys have followed with Byron and any other player has been right?) – "Now, so there's a fine line. I don't want to – I'm not going to in any way, shape or form dismiss anything that Byron (Jones) says about his experience at all. I respect it. I regard him and I trust him from his experience. However, I do have to acknowledge that one of the things when you're in charge of things, is you have to pay attention to everything and everything that I've – I haven't heard that be any sort of a consistent or a theme from other players. However, it does open your eyes to make sure you listen, but I have been very encouraged. I have the utmost confidence in everything our doctors and training team do and have done in moving forward. But you're always – it just brings your awareness to it but haven't heard anything in the slightest degree close to that with any of our other players. So I'm feeling good about the direction we're going, but feel very sensitive to his experience and don't wish that on anybody."
(On whether there are plans for offensive line transactions) – "Oh, always have plans. There's an opportunity cost for everything. So, I think one of the things in regard to the offensive line is that of course, you're always going to want to upgrade every position. In the particular circumstance with the offensive line, do I think in order to upgrade the position for us with the talent that we have, do you want to spend $12-20 million dollars to do that? Is that the best way to spend your money? In our particular circumstance, you're always trying to figure out what the perfect solution is for your team. In our circumstance, I want to get the guys that we have on the team better. Okay, but I also want to take advantage of, we have some ideas and thoughts of players that are still out there. We're taking our time with the market and seeing how that plays out, and there's some stuff we have in thoughts of the draft. But of course, that will be addressed. Obviously, from last season, depth can and will be tested, but you're trying to do it within the framework of what's the best and all your needs of your team and what you can manage as a coaching staff and what you need to outsource with additions of players that can't be coach-driven."