Read the transcript from Head Coach Mike McDaniel's press conference on Friday, November 11, 2022.
(So I was wondering this year, obviously you've talked about Josh Boyer being the head coach of the defense. I'm just curious the role you've taken defensively. Do you give Josh some thoughts on a sheet of paper? Do you meet with him and give your opinion on things that you should or shouldn't be doing? Or have you just left him to himself basically, as far as game plan strategy and personnel decisions?) – "That's another layer of Chris Grier and Tom Garfinkel's genius, and whoever made this building, is that our offices are 10 yards away. So that's constant communication when we're coming up with game plans. For sure, he resources me just like I resource him with various thoughts. And then we have conversations about different packages, what players are doing, all sorts of things all week, so that the bottom line is that we can all do whatever it takes to put the best foot forward on Sunday. That is the fun part of being a head coach is your involvement, your connections with the defensive players, things that you don't get as much when you're on one side of the ball, and being able to talk to those guys, watch those guys grow, watch the players develop within the scheme. All of that stuff has been very fun and rewarding."
(With the bye week on the other side, do you feel you have to do anything to keep guys from looking ahead to it and looking past the Browns? And excuse me if the question itself combats that.) – "When is the bye week? Our team, the Miami Dolphins, know Sunday is a game versus the Cleveland Browns. But more importantly, they know Friday practice. The best way to avoid people looking ahead is to act like it doesn't exist. I think the best way to go into any week is learning from your mistakes after a win. So that would hold true with the bye week, I think. But we will learn a hard lesson very fast with a team coming off their bye week, going all in for a game to do right by their talent and their hard-working coaches and their organization to try to get a win. And if you think about anything else, you'll learn how to lose fast. So literally how I approach it is the most extreme way possible and that's act like it does not exist."
(I have a question about your relationship with referees. Is that a valuable business relationship and something that you always seek to talk to the refs before the game?) – "I was hoping you didn't put me on the spot, but it's not monogamous, my relationship with them. (laughter) Especially your first go-around as a head coach, you're meeting a lot of guys for the first time. Just philosophically, I kind of approach officials like most people, and I just treat them like human beings that deserve respect. I think you have to recognize that officials are doing everything they can to do their job the best. They are held accountable for things that they get wrong. They are positively reinforced when they get stuff right by way of playoffs and Super Bowl opportunities. And so although I value and prioritize treating officials like human beings, I don't really think it has – either way, if I'm that way or the polar opposite, and don't treat them like human beings, I think they're going to make calls the way that they might calls because they're trying to do their job. And it's a hard job, like a lot of people's on game day in the National Football League."
(I guess then you don't encourage your players either?) – "I do. I do make sure – I make it very clear that from my experiences in the National Football League that it's not their job to critique their calls. Like it's not their job, the officials, to critique their play mid-game. Like, 'Hey, you should have caught that.' That's the equivalent. So if there's things that are happening, that need to be brought to their attention, or anything beyond that, I instruct the players and coaches to go through me and I try to be the lone vessel that speaks with those guys, so they can not have extra crowd noise while they're trying to do their job."
(I'd like to do a two-for-one…) – "Because you're a huge fan of Tuuuuuua. (laughter)"
(With OL Austin Jackson, it would seem like he probably will need at least another week of not playing. I was going to check if that was correct. And then also, I know Offensive Coordinator Frank Smith was asked yesterday about if there was any possibility that he could come back at a different position like left guard. Have you and Frank and Offensive Line Coach Matt Applebaum decided in your mind that barring injuries, you want OL Austin Jackson right tackle the rest of the year? Or could how OL Rob Jones and OL Brandon Shell play over the next two weeks impact that decision?) – "I've seen Austin progress his way back. I see Austin as our starting right tackle. However, just because I'm annoying, we'll play him at whatever position best serves us at the given moment to win the game. And we will not compromise his progress for the long haul to put him out there before we feel as confident as we possibly can that he won't regress. We'll always look to think in terms of what gives us the best chance to win. Certainly, the play of B-Shell (Brandon Shell) lends us the opportunity to utilize him in other positions because his play has been so strong. But I still without a shadow of doubt, haven't strayed away at all from my feelings of Austin being the starting right tackle because of what he showed me coming back, as he progresses, getting back, showing things, showing improvement in detail and execution of certain things from when he was in the group before he got hurt. So nothing's changed with that. He'll be back there when it's ready. And we'll adjust him if it's the best thing for the team, which there's a lot of variables involved with that."
(DE Emmanuel Ogbah obviously has dealt with injuries throughout the season, but just hasn't had the same level of production as he has in the past. Just kind of what have you seen from him? What do you think, good things you could do that could lead to more potential production and stuff like that?) – "I'm not worried at all about the distinction and any sort of production because of what he's shown me in preparation, as he's gotten back from getting healthy. Right when he had progressed this season, I thought he was playing his best ball and the stat sheet was going to start filling up. He had an injury setback that he's worked his way back from. The good news is I'm seeing some of the best stuff that I've seen, including the stuff from last year. I'm seeing it in practice. I'm seeing him get back into full health and full confidence. So it doesn't bother me because I can see that the level of stat sheet production is a matter of time because of how he's going about doing his job on a day-in and day-out basis."
(What are your thoughts on RB Nick Chubb?) – "You'd be hard-pressed not to call him the best back in the league, simply because of what I talked to players all the time about. I see better than I hear, and the tape shows me that he's playing at a level that – you can't stamp that he's the best because you haven't been combing every player at the position throughout the league. That's kind of irresponsible. But I'd be surprised if there's a higher level of play simply because he's hard to tackle, and they hand him the ball and you're trying to stop the ball. That by itself – when you require – I don't know what the analytics would be on it, but I bet it'd be pretty crazy on how often the first tackler brings him down. That's where I see him at a level in his game better than any back that I've seen this season, because of how hard he strains, how fast he is, his balance. He forces defenders to tackle him every play. And if you let up at all, he'll have one of those rugby scrum explosives, where he'll all of a sudden bust out. So we've been very forthright with showing the players his best runs of really his entire professional career and to let the guys know what they're in store for, because what you don't want to do – any team can handle any opposing player, if everyone does their job and is contributing in the right way. But if you're surprised on Sunday by a player like that because you weren't prepared for his type of play, yeah you have no chance and he's going to have one of those days that stick out on the stat sheet for the entire year. So he deserves a lot of respect. They do a lot of great things schematically and you can tell their offense understands how good of a player he is because they block hard for him, knowing that he at any given time can break a big one."
(Your rotation since S Brandon Jones has been out. What do you like about each one of those guys, whether it's S Eric Rowe, S Verone McKinley III, S Clayton Fejedelem or even DB Elijah Campbell?) – "What I like is that they give us versatility for different sorts of packages week-in and week-out, kind of like I look at offensive personnels where you are can utilize specific skillsets for given matchups. I love that – Brandon (Jones) is a great player that you don't replace by one player. I think they've all understood that, and you're seeing different elements of people's game just rise up. One of the guys that I was most proud of in the entire game, on both sides of the ball, was Eric Rowe. He played his butt off, and not only was he making some plays in space on some offensive players, but he was trying to get turnovers as well, aggressively going after the ball. It was an example of what you've seen this season from this locker room, which is guys recognizing opportunities and then trying to take their game to the next level to do right by the locker room, so that our level of play doesn't fall off. The whole room in general, each individual safety has different skills that we can utilize, but they're all understanding that it is their job to make sure that we continue to get better on defense, even though Brandon is not there."
(You have two guys, T Terron Armstead and CB Xavien Howard, who it seems like can take almost anybody in the league one on one. I'm wondering, is it that simple when you draw up a gameplan? Can you just say, "'X' has got him, Terron has got him?" When they do that, is it mostly desire that makes them succeed? Or is it technique? Talent? Why are they successful at winning matchups?) – "Sometimes, there is a time and place for that and it does happen. Really, within every gameplan, you end up saying, 'Alright, well we're going to do this thing for the reason to play to our strength,' one of our strengths being Terron (Armstead) or 'X' (Xavien Howard) on both sides of the ball. It's interesting you said that because you're exactly right. Players that are able to do that, it isn't necessarily their flat-out talent, even though for confidence reasons, they love to think that it's just their talent. But both competitors have this thing called competitive greatness that I see. I think that's a John Wooden (quote), but it's being at your best when your best is required. There are certain people when the adrenaline is high, when the moment is large, there are certain people that get nervous and worry about failure. Then there are certain people that only see the rewards reaped from success. Those types of people, when you're around, you can feel and you rely on those people, and you want as many of those people in the building as possible. I think Terron and 'X' are both prime examples of that."
(We're about 94 days away from the Super Bowl.) – "About? (laughter)"
(But I'm still kind of disappointed that you still didn't get your crystal ball fixed yet.) – "I know, man. It's the worst. It would be so much easier if I could just shine that up and be like, 'Hang on – answer.'"
(As far as complementary football, what the offense and the defense are doing as we look at dominating games, how do you feel you guys are getting close to that point, as far as complete domination from start to finish?) – "Well, complete domination is kind of how you see it. There's no complete domination in the NFL. I think you can have a very good game on all three phases, but like you said, I don't think we – we haven't yet had that game that you're shooting for where you feel like each phase has played to its capability the entire game. Now I believe we're close, and why I believe that has to do with not just the box score and the flat-out numbers, but you talk about football being a game of a collection of human beings that have to handle emotion, that are all trying to get the same thing done. We've had numerous games, this last game in particular, where obviously the offense was having some success and there were times in the game, however, that the defense wasn't living up to what they have for themselves as expectations. And even though our defense was really – gave up two explosive (plays) and then did pretty well, then couldn't get off the field on third down with a scrambling quarterback. All of that being said, in the final 11 minutes of the game, they got two stops and (allowed) no points. The game was 35-32 with 11 (minutes) and change left, and that was the score at the end of the game. So that also, by happenstance, I think offensively, we punted one time. But this is the NFL. It's hard to have success in either phase the entire game – they get paid too. But when the offense didn't get points, the defense didn't allow it. It's happened on multiple occasions. Shoot, the Baltimore comeback everyone talks about. Well, all those points we scored, that was in the face of the fourth quarter where they didn't allow any. Then vice versa – the offense scored seven points, I believe, the first game of the season, and we won 20-7 with a defensive touchdown and two field goals. So we scored one touchdown and the defense took over. The defense hasn't allowed two touchdowns – there were two consecutive second halves that they didn't allow a score. There's complementary football within it. It's just going through the entire game that you feel it that yes, that's what we're striving for, for sure. But along the way, we're learning these great lessons, and that's why I'm getting excited about the team and how we're getting better each week. That's what I hope for this week with the Cleveland Browns. I want to see continued growth in ways that aren't maybe as obvious as just the straight up box score, but we are learning how to step up in big moments. The more you do that, the more you have a chance to have that game where everyone is high-fiving at the end and acknowledging that their best game was played."
(Can you speak to the overall team health? It seems like this is about as healthy as you've been all season.) – "It really is. You have your ebbs and flows of injury situations during the course of the year, but you get to learn a lot about people because it is a different form of adversity. You get to learn a lot about how people step up in place of injuries. You get to learn about players who are injured, how hard they work to get back. All of those things are very valuable, and you can hopefully bear the fruits of that when everyone is starting to get back and get healthy. I think there's a little bit of every season, I forget the exact statistics, but I think the amount of injuries relative to the whole season, that first four games is where players are most vulnerable, because you're getting the callus built. So I think around the league there's a lot of injuries, but you keep pressing forward. As long as people keep taking care of their bodies, which the players are doing, that you can hopefully get health and continue to grow as a team as more and more – now, you just have a team that has a lot of people that have had more opportunities to contribute, and hopefully, your team is better moving forward."