Read the transcript from Head Coach Mike McDaniel's press conference on Wednesday, November 9, 2022.
(I know you said on Monday that there's no change in the status of CB Byron Jones. We're halfway through the season. At what point does it become not really reasonable to expect him to return?) – "I don't know. Probably the point that we stop? There are a lot of variables at work and you just try to give everyone the best opportunity to contribute to the team, like I know he wants to. If you're sick of asking it, what do you think the microphone guy is? (laughter)"
(But is the expectation still that at some point he will be able to return?) – "Yes, that's still open. I don't try to play the – I react, I don't try to dictate the future. My crystal ball is broken."
(How do you determine whether you have quality depth on a team? And has this team reach that standard right now?) – "I think the proof is in the pudding. Quality depth, to me, is when as a team, you're able to function in a certain standard. And when a certain piece is gone, are you still able to function at that standard? There will always be – there's unique things to each and every player. When you earn a starting position, you're not gifted that. But when teams are able to continue to progress and get better when people are out, then then that's a sign of some strong depth on your entire roster. I feel pretty good about our team. We've gone through lineup changes as much as anything I've been around and have – who knows the exact residuals, because you have a group of players, coaches and everyone that really doesn't allow that to be an excuse. So we press forward, and I'm sure in hindsight, I'll be like, 'Whoa, that was a lot,' but right now, it just is what it is."
(What was the first on-field moment here when you thought to yourself, "Wow, WR Tyreek Hill is a different guy?") – "Huh, that's a good one. There was – Ok, I got it. There was a particular route that I think we came up with in 2013. Trivia fact – it was Leonard Hankerson against the Chargers. That's a deeper outbreaking route that not all that many people can run, because the timing of the play and to push it that deep, you don't always have protection for it. So I've been running that – it kind of got steam and ran it the most when we had Julio Jones, who was unbelievable at the route. And then seeing Tyreek (Hill) in, I think it was probably OTA 4, if my training camp install schedule is correct in my brain, when he ran that. I just had a lot of deliberate reps at viewing that (route) ran at an exceptional speed, depth, intent, and it was like, 'Whoa.' I've been fortunate to be around Andre Johnson in his prime, Julio Jones in his prime, Josh Gordon, Pierre Garcon, leading the league in receiving. All these great, great players, and he is different. We knew then in OTAs that yeah, this is a different deal."
(The follow-up is the same question but off the field, since y'all met here in South Florida, what was the first off-field moment where you thought, "Wow, WR Tyreek Hill is a different dude?") – "The first time I took the trust fall and called him out in a team meeting, I think. And it wasn't a call out – I shouldn't really say call out because it's not. It's more (that) in team meetings, I think it's very important to state the facts, and the facts are what's on tape. So anything that's on tape, we should be able to discuss openly. There was something that he didn't do, I can't remember what it was, but I vividly remember his response that day was corrected. So I kind of made note of that. Two days later, at the beginning of team meetings in training camp, we were showing the fastest GPS of the practice the previous day, and he was fifth that day. So I made a big deal about it, I went over the top and said something like, 'Dude, congratulations, you've been working hard. This is a great achievement.' I think Keion Crossen was the fastest that day, so I was just like – no, actually it was Braylon Sanders at the time. Whoever it was, I was like, 'Man, you're the fastest guy on the Dolphins. This is awesome.' This is in front of the whole team, and then that practice, he ran the fastest ever recorded in practice here or that I've seen. It was something absurd like 23.48 (miles per hour) or something like that. So I was like, 'Ok, yeah, you're different.' On the field, off the field, it's not happenstance that he's able to have success."
(You've had a lot of, obviously, mix and match on the offensive line because of injuries, but you've started to find some continuity now. What would you attribute the success that you guys had with running the ball and protection that have been an improvement over last year?) – "It's the least appealing, most real answer that exists, and it's like the down to the bones, deliberate work, and intent on defensive specific techniques and how we execute our fundamentals and details. It's one of my favorite parts of the whole coaching staff is that my offensive coordinator, Frank Smith, has deep O-line coaching roots and was a center himself. I think he spearheaded that charge and really led in a moment that, there was a young group that was a little uncertain of themselves. That along with (Offensive Line Coach) Matt Applebaum and (Assistant Offensive Line Coach) Lemuel (Jeanpierre) and (Offensive Assistant) Mike Person, there's no quick and easy way to have success in the National Football League. That's why I like the game so much, is because when you see success or improvement, I should say more than anything, people are too talented and people work too hard. There's no shortcut around it. They're sweating after practice. Practice ends and I try to give players a nice schedule that they can get out of the building. But the linemen aren't afforded that because they are out there working after practice, and it's to all their credit, collectively. And then everybody else getting used to it, you're starting to see the skill position players be a little more productive in their areas. The running backs running in space better. It's a trickle-down effect that they can really dictate."
(On the challenge the offensive line has against the Browns with their edge players.) – "The theme of the NFL is this, it is a challenge. There's so many things at stake every week, so every week is a challenge. This one in particular is a lot greater than people realize. This Cleveland Browns team is no joke. They are a good football team. One of the only – I mean, their record is their record. Whatever this means is that I think they can beat any football team in the National Football League on any week, and you can't say that about every team. So they are (a challenge), and it starts with their edges. I know (Defensive Coordinator) Joe Woods and (Defensive Line Coach) Chris Kiffin from San Francisco, and I can see their elements of coaching on tape. They strain, they go after it. I can promise you this; we comb, tape week-in, week-out, and we are definitely not sleeping on this team. This is a good football team that if you aren't detailed and technically sound, they will expose you in a harmful way."
(The broadcast on Sunday mentioned how much pride you took in San Francisco in finding undrafted players. I guess first of all, I was wondering if you could speak to the pride that you personally take in finding those kind of diamonds in the rough, the undrafted guys.) – "That's a cool process. When I was afforded the opportunity, people had faith in me. Kyle Shanahan really put a lot of faith in me along my career. That, along with Dan Quinn, and then John Lynch and Adam Peters and all those guys, they gave me the opportunity to say 'Hey, if you find a guy, we'll listen.' And to me, how cool is that? It was more – I thoroughly enjoyed the process, but I also just enjoy contributing to the team. When that's the role, it is really cool because it's a challenging process. There are a lot of guys to choose from, so you're trying to find some skillsets; and then you're also trying to balance it out with your impression of the person as you reach out to people that know them or talk to sources or get to talk to them themselves. And it's not like a cookie cutter formula, which is why I enjoy it. It was for a portion of my career, it was the best way that I could contribute to the team. So I have always taken those things extremely serious and enjoy those."
(To follow up, I don't know how much that process changes for you since becoming a head coach, but how involved were you in finding CB Kader Kohou and scouting him?) – "Being a part of the process in so many different scopes in my career – but being in the process for a long time, you get to see how it's no person with the sauce. So early when I got here, that's why I prioritized hiring coaches, and then you prioritize having a very strong, well-groomed, well-working scouting department. And all of those things working together. With Kader (Kohou), I can take 0.00 percent responsibility for that one. That's Chris Greer, Josh Boyer and all the goons involved. But I trust them and the reason why I trust them is because I understand that my job is not to micromanage or to do everything. My job is to make people better at what they do and rely on people. That's kind of what I do."
(We've heard how QB Tua Tagovailoa is motivated by his doubters. How do you see him now approaching dealing with success and the praise he's received after these last few games?) – "Do you doubt that he's handling it well? Let's motivate that guy. (laughter) You just have a feeling about people. When you're forecasting uncharted territory, you don't totally know but you feel like you know. Anything that's happening with him isn't a surprise to me. It would have been a surprise if it hadn't, just because the day-in day-out work that I'm witnessing and the work that his teammates do and how his rapport is with them and all of that. But it doesn't surprise me how he's handled having some success because literally it has no distinction from when we first started working before game one in training camp and OTAs. And that's awesome. That's what I would have guessed, but it's been really cool to see. But it's case in point, he knows exactly who he is, he knows exactly what he needs to do to do his portion of his job well, and he's not deviating from that at all. (It is) very, very cool and good to see but not surprising in the least."
(Going back to the Browns, they've been in a lot of close games. Obviously you guys have won plenty of close games. I'm wondering what are some small details that make the difference and winning and losing close games?) – "More points. (laughter) That's the part of football that you don't necessarily – you're hitting on the part that isn't necessarily on the stat sheet, which is the cool part. You find that teams kind of – it kind of snowballs for teams where you can be in tight games consecutively and you can find yourself with the same result until you get yourself out of it either way. I think being involved in those games gives you a competitive advantage moving forward, when you're able to learn from them. So teams that are learning from them, whether it's high, low, whatever; at the end of the season, they end up winning more than they lose of those, in my opinion. It's hard. Just think about it. Coaches start on Monday, players come in on Wednesday, we are grinding on this one objective all week, that has all sorts of variables, a countless number of variables, that you're learning, that you're trying to master. Then you go to this huge buildup of this competitive game that everyone is watching and being able to critique. And then just finality, one final result. When teams aren't of the right mindset, they want to point fingers. Or you learn how to not point fingers. That's something that I've been on teams that it happens a ton. Just by the tape – I wouldn't dare to speak on the Cleveland Browns but it doesn't look like they're doing that at all. So it looks like they're in the process of the same process a lot of teams are, that we are, where, 'Ok, it's a close game. It's okay.' The finality of that whole work week, you don't need to think about that. Just worry about your individual job and collectively, the more people that do that, end up finding a way, because the biggest mistake is when people get in tight situations, tight games, and they start thinking that they need to do it themselves. And that's something that you have to learn through trial and error. And something hopefully we have learned from in our close games. But that doesn't guarantee anything. We could very well buck the trend this week. Hopefully you didn't jinx us. (laughter)"
(It feels like each week, we can make this comparison about how you're coaching against the coach that you previously worked with. With Joe Woods in San Francisco, I'm curious if you might have a story about your guys' year together in San Francisco.) – "It was a cool part of the process because it was kind of a minor football evolution at the time. The Seattle Seahawks – Pete (Carroll), Gus Bradley and all those guys came up with the Seattle 3-deep, and just literally did that and nothing else and crushed people for a decade. And then we had faced – in our history, we'd done the wide nine, four-man front, penetrating defense. Tennessee was kicking our butts in Houston back in the late 2000s. And then they went to Detroit and all that. But under Kyle Shanahan, Kyle kind of wanted to meld those two. So Joe was a part of that. And it was a such a cool process because you have to problem solve. It may not seem like a big deal, but in terms of gap integrity and how you rule out your defense, it was a big deal. And being there with him and seeing how he was such a problem solver in that process, while also having a disposition and energy that players gravitated to – I had heard about him since probably 2013, because Raheem Morris would always do an impression of him. (laughter) So I like knew of him for like seven years before I met him. But he lived up to the impersonation and the buildup."