Read the transcript from Head Coach Mike McDaniel's press conference on Wednesday, Oct. 19, 2022.
(We failed to ask you about WR Jaylen Waddle on Monday. Is he going to practice today. Is he healthy to play Sunday? Do you expect to have him Sunday and do you expect to have him today at practice?) – "He's a tough competitor. A tough, very tough kid. I'm very confident that if he is able to, he will (play). I'm optimistic. I don't expect to see much from him today, but technically, I've already seen him a couple times today. He's going to be working diligently. It's important to him to play with his teammates. He's a hard – as you guys have noticed at the end of training camp, he's a hard guy to really, you really have to be in front of everything with him and be his own voice of reason, because he likes to push stuff. We like guys like that, because our medical staff can do their jobs and keep them out of harm's way."
(You've had several plays lately where you've had good success, downing the ball inside the 20, for example, but you've also had a lot of negative plays on special teams. When you put it all together, how do you assess the special teams of late?) – "I don't look at everything entirely as one thing. I kind of go through the progression of each game because one thing specifically with our crew, meaning our team, we've had a good amount of lineup changes. So you're assessing the way – the way I like to do it is what are we identifying the unit we're playing against as? How are we preparing for them? How are the players executing what we prepared for them? Are we articulating things appropriately? Were things told correctly or not? I think that the results haven't been where we want them – there's no doubt about that. What I do see and what is important to me, I know is the fabric of teams that are able to have success in any phase is you don't see loafing, you don't see lack of strain. These are things that the miscues have to do with things that need to be coached up, and I don't continually see the same exact thing. So my confidence has not been affected. It's more that are we continuing to get better and do those same things that happen last week or the week before happen this week relative to our opponent?"
(Steelers Head Coach Mike Tomlin mentioned yesterday, as you have, that staff familiarity with players, talent and skillset can be overblown, but he did think that Senior Defensive Assistant/Linebackers Coach Brian Flores' presence on the staff would be a useful resource in that area. Specific to QB Tua Tagovailoa and Coach Flores' knowledge of his strengths and weaknesses, how might that affect the way you want him to approach things? How do you think it could affect the game?) – "Yeah, I don't really – from my vantage point, I don't really make a correlation necessarily with that. It is good to have familiarity with players in a sense of you know some of their strengths and weaknesses. But at the same time, I think that's an evolving process for Tua (Tagovailoa). And also, every defense is trying to defend the offense. Defenses have tried various things against our offense with Tua at the helm, and sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn't. I don't see a consistent theme. I think this game is about the players on the field playing against each other more than anything."
(As someone who loves football a lot, what's kind of your perception of Sunday Night Football? Playing on Sunday night, especially against kind of a historic team like Pittsburgh, who's played on Sunday night a lot.) – "I typically don't like abstract questions, except I do. (laughter) Sunday Night Football – Kyle Shanahan said this probably like 10 years ago and I jumped on it because it made a lot of sense to me, and it was that what's really cool about Sunday Night Football is that more than anything, it's not the TV, it's not the viewership, it's that you're the only game on. And so on Sunday night in particular, the entire league is home from their games, and it's an opportunity for players to perform in front of their peers. So that's unique, because there's all the stuff that's going on. I mean, you catch box scores and highlights, but I think that's a that's a very cool thing in that respect. Then, once you get past that reality, I think it's more of a challenge to understand it for what it is – anytime you are thinking about (how) this is a big game or national television, or things like that, that's an opportunity cost from thinking about what you need to do in your given gameplan for your team to accomplish the goal. So it is cool for the players. I do tell them that. I told them in the offseason, I think I said to them after the past game, but beyond that, it's more of a battle of which team can play football and ignore the noise, or the clicking of cameras, or things of that nature."
(The fact that you guys didn't IR QB Skylar Thompson, is that a sign that his tests came back pretty good?) – "That is a sign that his tests did come back. (laughter) Yes, that would be a good sign. It was more positive than negative overall. It was definitely not the worst case. And he's going to be – I think he's probably doing jumping jacks today with (Head Strength and Conditioning Coach) Dave Puloka. It's probably not serious. (laughter) But he'll get back into action sooner than later."
(What do you want to see from QB Tua Tagovailoa over the next few days of practice to show you that he can be the quarterback he was before he went down against the Bengals?) – "It's pretty easy considering there's an extensive amount of time spent on the relationship between the starting quarterback and the head coach and the play-caller. So those are hours and hours of field, meeting room time and you get to know each other pretty well. So what I want to see is the same locked-in guy that I know when he's on it, he's laser focused, he's in his normal mood, but he doesn't lose attention span at the task at hand. That's what I've grown to love about the guy. That's why he's been able to have some success in a completely new language and system. And that will be my expectation for this week because it is not the Tua Dolphins."
(What have you seen from QB Tua Tagovailoa over the past couple of weeks as he's been around the building?) – "Well I've seen his love for the game, honestly. In a simple but not simple form, I've seen how much he loves his teammates and how he loves the game of football. I can see that he understands his responsibility as a leader, which he is fully embraced and resonates with all the guys. So he knows that he has to be in the moment for the players that are playing and contribute the way he can. And so he's been very positive. But I can also tell that he thirsts for the brotherhood, for the camaraderie, for the competition. There's a saying that you never know what you had until (it's gone). And I think it wasn't that he didn't exude that, it was just blatantly obvious to everyone around him that he was missing out on something that he truly loves. It's a cool thing to find out in an adverse situation about a player that you coach."
(If I could follow up on that really quick, you're saying like embracing his role as a leader for the guys who are actually playing? I guess, how did he do that at practice last week when he's returning from concussion protocol, but obviously knows that he's not playing Sunday? How did you see him balance wanting to get back to work versus sitting back and letting QB Skylar Thompson and QB Teddy Bridgewater take over?) – "That's not a lip service thing that you're just like, I'm going to be a leader. And that's what's cool about it. What you saw was every single play of practice, saying the play – like after I say it, like he'd say it in the huddle. Then watching the timing of the concept, watching the footwork of Skylar, getting excited when perfect technique is executed, because he knows exactly what it looks like. And then you go through an entire practice – you're used to being the starting quarterback, which in the NFL season, means you are taking every snap when the offense is up. So you get in a routine, where it kind of goes by fast because you have all this stuff going on. Well, to see that focus last for the entire practice also speaks to the point that it's not just about him, his selflessness, which is why he has he has a unique aura of leadership that people gravitate to because it's genuine, authentic and real."
(So after the game, you mentioned turnover margin is one of the numbers that you look at, that you deem very important. My question is, are you a guy who subscribes to you are what your record says you are? And then the second part, aside from record and turnover margin, what are the other numbers either individual or team wise, that you value?) – "I guess it's not really my personal belief in turnovers. That's just straight up facts. And, as far as you are what your record says you are, I think there's truth in that because to spend time saying, 'well, but, this, that or the other,' is a fool's errand. However, I think teams are whatever they define themselves that day. I think the Miami Dolphins are as good as their Wednesday. It's kind of, I think, the approach that when you watch great competitors across all sports and just people that are doing anything at a high level, there's a common denominator there. And it has nothing to do with forecasting we are this or that or whatever. It is present in the moment and it is completely convicted (and) committed to what you're doing, knowing that that will affect future outcomes. So for me, I've been on a team that was – last year I was on a team that won two games and then lost four in a row, then was in the NFC Championship game. In 2015, we were 5-0 in Atlanta and finished 8-8. I think people clinging to what their record says they are might be not quite focused on the job at hand, which is continuing to get better so you play your best football at the end of the season, which is what teams, good teams, end up doing. I think it's very hard to do that. I think there's a lot of noise about records and trends,. You're 3-0 and you're awesome, you lose three in a row and – that will always be the case. But it's always going to be distraction techniques that if you're truly committed to being your best and having your team be your best, you have to and feel very comfortable ignoring,
(I know you mentioned Sunday Night Football earlier. Another element of that will be the 1972 Dolphins honored. I know that you're a man of history. What stands out to you when you think about that team?) – "There's not a team that can be that iconic that still doesn't quite get the credit deserves. The amount of adversity that was going on with that team, surviving the injuries, some of the close games, some of the little details – as you know, in this offseason, I was fortunate enough to speak with Larry Czonka about. Like the little details that maybe the non-starter third tight end on special teams noticed that ended up winning the game. You're talking about a record that in a team sport, that is the strongest compliment or feat that a team has ever really done, in my opinion, in sports, because football is a funny shaped ball and it bounces weird ways and you have to have you have 11 people on the field representing one team at a time. So many things can happen. And the perseverance – when the streak got longer, the ability to not let the pressure crumble them, then changing quarterbacks in the playoffs. All of these things are, 'Whoa!' I feel very, very fortunate to be a part of an organization that manifests that because we talk about it every year. I know since I was five probably, Chris Berman and the champagne (on ESPN), like every single year. That's wild because a lot of people are trying and unable to match that feat."
(A popular topic, especially with the fan base, is the throwback jerseys. I'm curious if you have a preference on your current jerseys versus the throwback jerseys, if it was your choice.) – "I like winning jerseys. I like everyone to have the same jersey. (laughter) I find value in both. I really do. And that speaks to the history of the '72 Dolphins because there is a feeling that those jerseys and that uniform elicits. And not just '72 but all of the things that have gone on since that are really great things. So it is nice. I like wearing them as a change of pace. I also really do like our uniforms, especially when it's hot out and we're in all white
(With CB Nik Needham going down and CB Byron Jones not being able to return on this week, are you comfortable with the depth at cornerback? Do you anticipate the team might need to make a move to add to that spot?) – "You know, it would be weird if I'm a head coach for the Miami Dolphins and I'm not question about my comfortability with the defensive back group, because this is this is like one of the things that was fortunate in the preseason, when we were finding out a lot about these younger guys. I'm always confident in the group we have, just because they prove it to me every day. It is challenging. People get more reps that have already been seeing reps. But I think it's to the credit of the personnel department, the players themselves and really our coaches, that guys are able to step in and play to the technique and consistency. If we didn't have the competitors and loyal teammates in that room that were NFL talents, it would worry me. But just like it's been going on since August, we've had guys get dinged and guys step up. That's what that room does. That's the only way those guys know how to do it.
(Do you have CB Keion Crossen and CB Kader Kohou updates?) – "They're both – they both really want to play. They both definitely have a chance to only because they are trying to will themselves and it's important to them. That's one of the reasons we have so many good guys on the team that will fight through as much as possible. It makes my Wednesday, Thursday and Friday pretty questionable. But we're all comfortable adjusting. There's a lot of people working on the ship going in one direction."