Read the transcript from Head Coach Mike McDaniel's press conference on Monday, November 21, 2022.
(Wanted to start with just a cornerback update. The weekly "will CB Byron Jones practice" question and how is DB Keion Crossen's shoulder? Will he be able to practice this week?) – "My crystal ball? You shine it and it still doesn't work. (laughter) Nothing's changed with Byron (Jones), but we'll continue to be hopeful and optimistic."
(And then DB Keion Crossen, just covering corners.) – "Yeah, he's a guy that it's the same deal. He had a shoulder that would make most pretty up in the air for a two-week recovery game. I've learned to not count Keion (Crossen) out. He's both a very committed professional and also a freak of a healer, so we shall see. But he's done a lot of work in that in the time that we have been away and will continue to do so to try to make it to Sunday. And if he doesn't, then he'll hopefully be ready to go for the next week."
(Just to clarify on CB Byron Jones. I know you said at the end "hopeful and optimistic" – is that hopeful and optimistic that he will play this this calendar year or this season?) – "Yeah. I'm generally just a hopeful, optimistic person. But yeah, specifically, (I'm) hoping and being optimistic towards his play. And goodwill and his family's health and all those things as well."
(After the last game, Browns DE Myles Garrett was very complimentary of the play calling and scheming that the Browns faced. He talked about how the Browns were out of position and the Browns felt that the Dolphins offense was a step ahead and he made a reference to the concept of scripting. He said, "It wasn't like a first 15. It was like a first 60." And so I don't know that I've ever asked you about the scripting concept. But do you guys go into a game with like, here are 15 plays we'd love to get to early, or is it more than that? Can you fill us in on that?) – "That's a really cool compliment from one of the better players in the National Football League that I think is unfortunately giving myself and the rest of the coaching staff a little too much credit. I think that there's execution of plays that, to me, what I saw was our players adjusting to, really to their adjustments in real time fast and playing 100 percent with conviction. So I think that credit should really be put on the shoulders of the guys out there really owning all the rules and all the responsibilities within their own assignment. As far as scripting opening plays, I've never been one to be light on the amount of plays that you go into a game so that you can adjust to whatever unforeseen thing comes your way. It's something that we got used to doing – I would watch Coach Shanahan do it. When you start to have any sort of success, being able to adapt to unforeseen gameplan stuff, which is kind of old hat and we're kind of used to now. As far as how you script stuff, generally, we go to the game with an opening 24, but that is not including third downs and that isn't 100 percent. Like I don't stick to that. Giving an opening 24 plays to the players, the point of it is so that you can get another orchestrated walkthrough of plays that you know you're going to hit and try to hit early, that sometimes you can abort mission on play six. Sometimes you make it all the way through. Sometimes you skip around. But generally, we'll go into a game with a vision of how we will execute our offense and that's something that you work tirelessly over the week, and you kind of digest what your players are executing well during the week and what you think you're going to get. You try to do your best in crystal balling, but it's something that will – generally it's about 12 runs, 12 passes, intermixed and that's pretty consistent every game."
(Kind of like Madden.) – "I don't know. Again, I was more of a (NCAA) College Football Create-Dynasty guy. Once people started beating me, so I don't – Madden analogies, maybe? I don't really know. (laughter)"
(So you have 10 games of experience where you are the full-time primary play planner and caller from the sideline. Some new stuff you were involved, but now it's like a different role. So in what areas do you feel like a little more comfortable now that 10 games have passed relative to that part of the job?) – "We'll see. Us here with the Miami Dolphins, we're very deliberate in everything we do, so it's technically 13 because the preseason was definitely not just a 'go through the motions' type thing when you have a new offense. So 13 games in, I think there's always stuff that you're working on. For me, I don't think that journey is ever complete necessarily. You're doing two things at once. You are coaching players up on technique and making sure that they develop during the season, but you're also kind of catering your offense to what they're good at, and both of those things kind of work and are intertwined. I think that part I'm always chasing. I don't think I'll ever feel like 'alright, gold star.' I think you can always adjust and think a little outside the box, and kind of tailor your scheme to what your players are really good at. I've always thought an important part of play-calling is minimizing or eliminating emotion out of your decision making, which is very, very tough to do. I've done a better job with that over the course of the season as the season progressed, trying to just do things not based upon anything but the best decision possible and go from there. I think there's a lot – I mean, the list is just long. I'm not very comfortable – I equate feeling a sense of comfortability, in my mind, it kind of makes me feel like I'm not working hard or lazy. So I don't think there's anything that I'm very, very comfortable saying 'alright, I got that.' I think just admitting that you're a fallible human being and trying to do your best is very liberating and also it does get the best out of you because it frees you from feeling like you need to be perfect. So across the board I would hope that grading myself, the best stuff is way in front of me and you guys have seen the worst and haven't hated me for it."
(I was going to ask you about the game plan as well. What is your process? Who did you learn your process from? Who do you rely on most when you're putting it together? Is there certain coaches that have certain responsibilities?) – "It didn't take me long to realize how unique and special some of the guys that I was fortunate enough to work with, how unique and special they were at their craft. So starting with Coach (Mike) Shanahan, then to Gary Kubiak and then to Kyle Shanahan; those three people probably kind of established what I see preparing for an opponent, what that looks like. And within that vision, I'm also very aware and have seen the best outputs are collective, so for me, what that looks like is watching as much tape on the opponent as possible in a day and a half. So half a Monday and then all of Tuesday and in that process, collecting all the information from the staff by way of them coming into my office, giving notes. We kind of have a nice routine, but it's not really a staff meeting-type situation because I feel like you can get more tape watched independently. But then you just take all those collections of thoughts and kind of move forward and tie things together and you just do that within your staff. Each position coach does have an area of expertise, so they can kind of approach it like they're the head coach of that situation, whether that's red zone or third down or short yardage, or four-minute or backed up. All those different situations so that instead of having a bunch of people trying to memorize tendencies and know the opponent inside and out across all phases; make sure that they know they are responsible and held accountable for 'Okay, well, alright, it's short-yardage. I know who to talk to.' And bounce through. That's in-game and really when you're putting together the game plan. So that process is – the cool thing about it is, what I enjoy most about it is, it's a collection of individuals. And there's no shortcut to a game plan that's really up to the standard of your players, in my opinion. You don't just make stuff up. You don't just 'Hey, what if we put this guy here?' These are all – if your game plan is sound and tied together and complete – I tell the staff all the time – there should be a 'why' attached to every single thing that you're doing. That's every alignment, every motion, and that's kind of the way we approach it and the way that the staff has really, really come together and understanding that there is a why, a reason for every little nuance, every variable. And even if the why isn't 100 percent accurate, just having the level of detail and preparation to have a reason behind it gives you a good chance to put players in position to make plays, which is the whole point."
(How much value do you put into being in first place at this time of year?) – "About as much value as – how about a lottery ticket that you don't check the winning numbers? I mean, is it worth something? I don't know. It's very similar to the way that I felt about our offseason program. If you guys recall, I gave the most time off to the players that I've been around, that I've experienced and I know they had experienced. And I gave it to them because I felt they deserved it because they won the first quarter. I thought that they won the first quarter of a game. Being in whatever place at this stage of the season is cool, because each and every win, which puts you in first place, is hard-earned, not given. And so it is like winning another quarter of a game. But does that mean anything? I mean, it all depends on how you handle it. I think there is an element, once you get closer to the end of the season, that you feel pride in controlling your destiny. I think that is a cool deal. But at the same time, is it totally necessary to achieve your goals? It's not. The point is that you continue to progress. I'm super fired up to be where we're at right now, if we continue to progress as a football team. I think the last game you guys saw, you felt a little more complete contribution from the team that we were hitting on, in one way shape, or form, in each phase. That doesn't mean each phase was null of a miscue or whatever, but you felt a team execution win and that's a cool spot – Game 10 – for that to occur. But literally, nobody gives two – about who's the Week 10 champion. So it's an accomplishment that isn't one that we're chasing, nor does it matter except in the moment and how you use it. So I'm happy with where we're at, I've been in first place and won the division after 10 weeks. And I've been in last place after 10 weeks and won the division. So it's neither here nor there. As long as we keep moving in the appropriate trajectory, I'll be good with it."
(Bringing back LB Brennan Scarlett, what can he provide your front seven and what did you see from him both when you had him in the offseason in training camp and then also now working him out before signing him?) – "I'm excited to have him back to add him to the group. I saw a ton of versatility and a level of combative attitude that I think is cool for any football team when you're a defensive player. I think adding him to the already really productive ascending crew of versatile players, I think it helps the team. But more importantly, I think his addition helps the guys that are playing pretty well to have a little insurance. And who knows, maybe we'll get him some live action at some point."
(Can you describe kind of the energy or the mood and the vibe in the building now coming in the home stretch?) – "It's a very cool vibe because you get worried. Call a spade a spade, we're above .500. At this stage of the season, you have a bye week. Do people get comfortable? And the vibe was exactly the opposite, exactly what I'd want to see, which was a group of people that are confident but hungry. And that's what you want to gain from winning football games is confidence, not any complacency. I haven't seen any of that. I see a team that recognizes they have an opportunity in front of them. They also recognize how, like it is every year, parity is crazy in the National Football League. In particular, our division, which first and last place is a huge one game. I think their mind is right. I think they've come in refreshed. I asked them to deliberately rest and I feel like they did. But they are definitely charged and ready to go to play the sport they love and see how far we can take the team."
(Before the bye, I asked LB Bradley Chubb what he hears from an offense when him, LB Melvin Ingram and LB Jaelen Phillips are on the field at the same time. He just said it's a lot of talking and kind of disorientation from the o-line trying to figure out who is where, who to block, what they're going to do. From a coaching perspective, what does it add to your defense and what does it do to an opposing offense, when you can put three pass rushers of their caliber on the field at the same time?) – "I think from a defensive standpoint, if you're creating any hesitation from an offense, especially known passing situations, that's a win for the defense because defenses are typically reactionary. You're waiting to see what alignment, which dictates your assignment. But on pass rush situations, on known passing situations, that is an opportunity for a defense to kind of dictate the terms, and them make somebody else react. So it's huge, as long as guys are able to still do what they do well, which is get the edges of blockers, and get home to the quarterback, while playing good sound, structural defense for rush lanes. When you have a bunch of pass rushers on the field that have had success in the league, there's also humility that has to be in place because you can't just freelance. You have to rush with a group. A lot of times there's inner-working games, that maybe traditionally an edge rusher only reaps the benefits of. He doesn't have to do the dirty work. That's not the case. So you have to have the right types of people. That's why it's hard to do. And then when you have the right types of people, you have to have coaches that really can expand their mind and maybe do stuff that they haven't done before. A lot of people working together for that stuff to be in place. And then you also have to be tied with the rest of the defense to know that, you can take a risk here or there because you know that the quarterback is going to take two hitches, because our coverage is going to be right. All those things are really cool to do. It's hard to pull off. That's why more people don't do it. But we're afforded some talented edge players that have the right types of mindset, that can allow a team to put three of those guys out on the field at one time if the opportunity presents itself."