Read the transcript from Head Coach Mike McDaniel's press conference on Friday, Oct. 14, 2022.
(Is QB Tua Tagovailoa or QB Teddy Bridgewater out of the concussion protocol? Or is either one on the cusp of exiting the concussion protocol?) – "I mean, I just do what I'm told. One thing I know for sure is coaches don't clear (guys) from protocol. Right now, they're still in it, which I believe is normal. They tell me and then I react. So the plan is by tomorrow, if Teddy is not cleared then we'll have to elevate Reid (Sinnett). If Teddy is cleared, he'll be the backup quarterback. That's about all that I have with that."
(How much work did QB Teddy Bridgewater get? I guess it's a 30-minute window he can work?) – "You get a couple of reps. What he did do – so he had a couple of reps. He'll get more today but what he has done is he's become one of the most diligent notetakers on the entire team and he's pretty locked in. We do this fun game during practice where I'll say the formation of the play – and you guys watch the games, we have a lot of formations and we move a lot – and he can guess the play out of the 120 plays that he has at his disposal. That was the issue. He doesn't get that much work with the guys. He gets some in a limited capacity but he's gotten all of the reps he can get mentally and is handling that quite well."
(All things equal assuming the health of all quarterbacks, who do you see as the No. 2 behind QB Tua Tagovailoa? Is it still QB Teddy Bridgewater?) – "Yeah. Teddy has been No. 2 forever. We decided to start Skylar (Thompson) because we knew it was best for the team in terms of having the week to prepare and all of those things. Nothing has changed. The team really believes in all three quarterbacks. That's one thing we've been fortunate that we talked about since preseason is the luxury to have three quarterbacks at your disposal."
(We've seen QB Tua Tagovailoa change up some of his routine this year before games. Can you talk about when he's been out, can you give us any insight on how he's prepared maybe? Even though he knows he's not going to play, has he given you insight into what he's doing for those mental reps?) – "I think when you commit to a process – the biggest thing for him has been being at football practice, being with his teammates and going through the weekly process. To get to where he's gotten to at the beginning of the season, you have to fully commit to that. Once you fully commit to that, it becomes a part of what makes you feel whole during the week. From a preparation standpoint, he's used this week to get reps. He knows that he's not playing in the game but he's getting reps at preparing. He also sees himself as a leader, which the whole team does. And the team needs him this week in terms of his spirit, his encouragement. Skylar (Thompson) needs his help. He's also a captain of this team so he's been very vocal. He was pushing us vocally yesterday at the start of team run. He was pushing the team. He's really assumed – all of the things that aren't football directly, he's assumed the same responsibility, which I commend him and has residual effects because people are invested in Tua and they don't want to let him down either."
(QB Kirk Cousins hasn't been sacked a lot this year. Is it the protection or maybe their weapons kind of dictate how aggressive teams can be when trying to get after him?) – "I think it is a little bit of both. Kevin O'Connell does a great job of – he's a quarterback at heart. So the team that they employ gives the quarterback a lot of early options. I think it's a testament to their timing. The protection is good, don't get me wrong – at all. But a lot of credit goes to Kirk Cousins too, because Kirk Cousins – what happens when you are fully prepared for your offensive gameplan and what opposing defenses can present to you is you can make decisions that are a quarter or a 10th of a second quicker because you've played the game in your mind. Well, in the National Football League if you are passing the ball, that is an eternity. That's the difference in a strip-fumble or an explosive completion. I was in Washington when we drafted Kirk. I know his preparation. He was a quick study and a professional from the get-go. I've watched him persevere with both teams, good seasons from his teams – the majority or all of his seasons have been good. But I've really watched him grow and progress. He's a very good quarterback that thrives when people overlook him. So we are definitely not overlooking him."
(You just mentioned Vikings Head Coach Kevin O'Connell and a stat that probably only matters to me but this is the first battle between two rookie coaches under 40, the running record since the merger in 1970. So my question there is – I know you guys were both coaching in the NFC West. I'm curious what your relationship is with him and what you think about this matchup?) – "Oh, I have tremendous respect. Ironically, I believe at the time he was – I remember evaluating him coming out of college. I was young myself and I think he was like right around my age or something. But he was coming out like when I was working in Houston. So I remember him coming out of San Diego State. Then, in 2014. I was receivers coach in Cleveland and I remember him visiting. He visited Coach (Mike) Pettine and our team. I think at the time he was thinking about getting into coaching. So I remember vividly him coming in and we're kind of just talking football and doing that kind of stuff. Then we both had gone through Washington as well. So there was a lot of overlap. Obviously, I know a lot of the guys at the Rams. So he's somebody I've known for a long time. There's some coaching symposiums that you get anointed by your own team to go and they're like future possible coordinators and head coaches. I had overlap with him there. So an extensive relationship with the guy. I know how detailed he is. I know how players play for him and it doesn't surprise me that he's having success that he's having at all. And he's significantly taller than me. Like a full head. (laughter)"
(Offensive Coordinator Frank Smith was optimistic that OL Austin Jackson would come off IR and be available Sunday. Is he still on pace for that and is he your starting right tackle whenever he does return?) – "See what you guys are learning about Frank Smith is he's overly optimistic to a fault. (laughter) Yeah, I think I think that was a hair aggressive. But one of my favorite people on staff. We're taking it day-by-day with him. Listen Frank, just don't just live in hope, you know? (laughter)"
(What do you expect them to try to do to a rookie quarterback? What have you seen through the years of how defenses do against rookie quarterbacks?) – "It's generally different, case-by-case, with specific defensive coordinators and defenses. And there's certain teams like the Vikings, that you'll know they'll come and approach it by playing their system. Sound systems, like the one Ed (Donatell) runs, with the players that they have, they have all the bullets in the chamber to throw a quarterback off. To me, they're going to play their system, and do what they feel is advantageous on each and every call. But the system in general is built to confuse quarterbacks. They generally start pre-snap, and all their defenses generally start out looking the same. They really immerse themselves into post-snap movement, meaning that if it's two-shell during the cadence, that means nothing. Their whole system in general, to me, the starting point comes from not allowing quarterbacks to know what they're attacking. So I think they'll be very comfortable, confident, and deservedly so to just play their system the way they want to play it. And if they, within that, they pretty much have every answer as far as coverages and fronts to do whatever they want, or to attack the offense where they feel vulnerable. Or if they're having any sort of issues, they have ways to plug those holes up."
(What's the most important thing for QB Skylar Thompson to keep in mind knowing what you just said? Is it pre-snap? Is it once the ball is snapped? What's the most important way to counter?) – "Well, the good news is it's a different presentation. So don't get it – I don't want to mislead, but that's also a philosophy of our defense. When that happens in a meeting with players, we always cough over it. (laughter) But, to answer your question, it's the inverse. A lot of times what you see from our defense is single safety at the snap, but it's the same principality where they're doing multiple things on post-snap movement. It's more so like preparing for all the opponents he's prepared for where you have to get used to the new plays, the new formations and calling all the stuff. But his introduction into the NFL has been through – he's got to go through his progressions and he knows little to nothing before the snap, because in a different presentation but with the same philosophy, our defense gave him great work at that really since he's been here."
(What everyone really wants to know. On Wednesday, you said the ping pong table was out to increase opponent prep. Yesterday, WR Tyreek Hill says it's all about just getting a new decked out ping pong table. My journalistic duty is to come back to you and ask, what is the real story here?) – "Hey, I will always differ – listen, it's the players' locker room. And if they giveth, they can taketh away, and they can re-giveth. (laughter) That is their space. I just want them to be here at work as long as possible. If the story changes 14 times, I could care less because I'm just doing my best to report the news. But the end of the day, it's their space and I'm happy that – if that is the truth, which if it changes, I could care just as much less – if it does change, good for them of upgrading their standards for ping pong play because nobody wants to be average. If you have an average just green table, like, what's that about? (laughter) So I like the fact that they have all that stuff going on. It's hard to keep up and in two days, who knows, maybe for Tyreek (Hill) it was punishment and then he thought that his teammates deserved it, so he gave it back to them. Or this whole time he was just playing a ploy on all of us. (laughter) All of which it's really not that meaningful to me, but I'm glad that they're getting that all worked out down there because it is the captains' locker room, and he's one of the captains, so what he says goes to a degree."
(Speaking of ploys, not saying that WR Tyreek Hill is making any ploys or not, we don't know. But have you got used to Tyreek's ploys, and maybe games that he plays sometimes?) – "Oh, yeah. No, it's tremendous because I appreciate humor. I appreciate people coming to work every day with energy. The bottom line with Tyreek is when he's in here, he's in his parking spot, he comes inside; everybody on the team whether it's a player, coach or football staff member knows that he's going to get himself ready to go perform on the field. That's why he's really held in high regard. Yes, the football play is awesome. But he's a captain and he is a leader because of everything else. And because he himself recognized that there's a responsibility to being who he is. There's a responsibility when you're when you're signed to a big contract. There's a responsibility when you're a good player. And that's the thing that is never wavering regardless of what's going on with ping pong tables or not. I have no idea what he's talking about with the stuff in the locker room, but I know one thing – that he's going to come on the field, and him and all of his teammates and myself included, will know how important all of this is to him. He's one of the first guys to accept the challenge of coming to work and making losses right again."
(On a more serious note, with QB Skylar Thompson, I know it's been a while, but what did you guys see in him when you drafted him? And maybe how has it translated having him six months from maybe what you initially expected?) – "We were really excited to draft him. That was a target of ours that we had on our mind. We didn't have a plethora of draft selections, so it was easy to hone in on people and we were targeting him for a long time. And that being said, he's exceeded expectations. But he also has lived up to expectations from his play. I didn't know how he prepared and I didn't know how the moments aren't too big for him. I didn't know that part. I kind of guessed, but what you saw on tape was a guy that was super tough. A guy that one of the things I look for a ton when you're watching quarterbacks is what is he making decisions on? Is he seeing defenders or is he looking at receivers? There's a big difference because you have guys running routes, and then are you staring at the routes and seeing if they're open or are you looking at defenders? And when you look at defenders, you can anticipate and throw with timing which maximizes yards after catch and explosiveness. So the way he saw the field, what he saw and then his toughness – because you know when you're watching college tape that they're throwing from pockets, that sometimes they're muddy, sometimes are pretty clean. You know what the pockets look like in the National Football League, so they've got to be able to stand in there and to degree be fearless in their own way. And you saw that and you saw how competitive he was. All those things are a pretty sound formula for a guy to be pretty solid in the NFL and he's got an entire football team that's excited to play with him because of the stuff that we found out when he got here, which is that there's nothing more important than his preparation and that when push comes to shove, if the read is telling him to make the hard play in a crucial moment, he'll go after the hard play. He won't take the path of least resistance. So that's one of the reasons you feel so confident with him because of – his teammates believe the same thing we do and we'll go out there on Sunday and approach the team as a team, not a team with a rookie quarterback. Just a team."