Read the full transcript from Head Coach Mike McDaniel's press conference on October 20, 2023.
(Let's talk not one, not two, but three, three cornerbacks. So CB Xavien Howard, I know he tried to work with the groin yesterday. CB Kader Kohou has had the neck, he's been limited. Those two what's your level of optimism for Sunday? And CB Nik Needham, do we see him this week? Do we see him next week?) – "Zero, I mean, what? (laughter) They're great questions. I enjoy the spirit of them. But I know those football players are going to play football very soon. If it's Sunday, they'll be ready to roll. If it's not, they'll be ready to roll the following week. Again, I apologize, but I mean, c'mon."
(I know it's Friday at noon.) – "But honestly, what I can tell you is there weren't any setbacks from yesterday at all. They're all progressing at various speeds. Needham, it's a roster situation that we kind of have to be calculated with. But there weren't any setbacks, and we'll see how today goes and then how they're feeling. Those three players are very – established players in these scenarios are different than guys maybe that aren't as long in the tooth in play. If you have a lot of experience, you're less apprehensive about the unknowns going into the weekend. So we'll do our very best."
(I wanted to follow up with that. CB Cam Smith, he talked about how he spent a lot of time with the scout team earlier in practice and now is getting some reps with the base defense. How has he looked and what did you learn about him just from these past six weeks?) – "There's been a lot to learn for me, personally, because I know guys with ability, everyone has their expectations. You're drafted in the first day or the second day, your vision is of how you're going to play and you don't really think of the possibility of like hey, what happens if you have to earn your way on the field. So you learn a lot about guys when they're practicing and then they maybe don't get game reps. Well, the most important thing that is absolutely non-negotiable to me is that guys get better. I think that's hugely important. I know that's cliché. And then you want to see, what a great opportunity to see if things aren't falling your exact way maybe that you want, where do you go? Do you point fingers and then get worse at football because, shoot, I'm not going to try because I'm not getting any immediate results. Or do you chop wood at your craft and get better through the process? Well, what I've seen from the last couple of weeks is a progression of Cam getting better. So that's the thing that is the most important thing to me because it's not easy to be an ambitious football player, have competition like we do and not get immediate results. I'm happy with the way he's approached stuff. I've learned a lot about him in terms of the tough-mindedness that you hope that people have. Where again, you're not a finger-pointer, you're okay, I'm going to work harder to get the results that I want. Because of that, he has a chance, as long as he continues to do that, which I have no reason to believe he won't."
(Do you have a greater sense of optimism for OL Connor Williams playing?) – "That's even trickier than the corner situation just because we're dealing with the residuals of hey, we went and played and the injury was burdened through the play. We've been trying to protect Connor from himself and Connor is going to make sure that whatever he does, that it's with the big picture in mind. That doesn't mean anything but okay, well, is it at a spot where I know that it's not going to be worse on Monday than while we're in the middle of the season? He had some good reps when he was working on the bags yesterday, specifically, that I saw some movement that was exciting. But you kind of have to let that one specifically progress because you're really day-to-day. Because it's like, alright, well, let's turn it up a little bit, or let's pull it back a little bit. But he's at a good spot mentally and that's the most important thing to me because it's a big picture, whole season kind of outlook that I want to make sure that we're doing right by him and he's doing right by himself."
(Coach we talked to Offensive Coordinator Frank Smith and Assistant Head Coach/Tight Ends Coach Jon Embree about the fun they're having in the collaborating of putting together the offensive gameplan. I was curious, from your perspective, how you go about fostering, making it fun to come to work and then also the collaboration of putting together the offensive gameplan?) – "I think perspective is a big part of the job that I have. We've all worked – I mean, work is work – but it's one thing to have a glass half-full boss and one thing to have glass-half empty. We've had a lot of reasons to be optimistic. But just in general, I think it's important to recognize and bring to the attention of everybody involved that, hey, this is pretty awesome because we're all moving in the same direction. We're a team that's trying to solve the same problems and when you do that, without trying to assert credit, or you do it from a humble perspective, it's fun to be a part of. Because it's truly – we're in a team game and the way that we operate here is as a team. Regardless of what problems you have with a given week, what obstacles, maybe matchups that are coming up, or maybe guys that you have injured or whatever it is, those are surmountable if you're doing it with teammates. I think that idea is something I believe in, but the biggest part of the whole formula is you have the right people to execute that. I think it's like a lot of things, the result of having a fun place to work has a lot to do with the people that are working there. I can set any tone I want. But the guys have to be ambitious, they have to be the right type of people, hungry to give their players advantages. The end result is coaches and players working together, appropriately I think."
(Speaking of fun, you were recently featured on NFL Films and when you got announced as the head coach people called you a savant. Now it's coming into funny and delightful. Did you ever think that you would have that kind of impact to people that are not even Dolphins fans, kind of tuning in and seeing what you're doing and actually watching the team?) – "I mean, that was a lot right there. I try to stay out of the noise. Generally, when you're getting a lot of positive feedback, there's some humility to follow. So I stay out of that, but you hope you're given the opportunity. I know for me personally, it's been a life's journey to try to hope or to try to be in a position to really positively impact people. It's why I knew that coaching was the profession I wanted to get into was because I was passionate about it. I know if you're passionate about something, that gives you the best chance to be effective at doing it. But yeah, I really don't take anything for granted. That's the fortunate thing of having trials and tribulations in life. That's why it's not necessarily a bad thing to have to go through things because I think that's given me the – I'm very, very fortunate to have the perspective that I have. I don't take the role, the team, and everything that comes with it for granted for one second. The analogy I would use is the irony in life is are you really fortunate if you grow up as a child with money. On the front end, you think that's awesome. But then do you really appreciate it? I didn't grow up with money so being paid as a head coach, I really appreciate. I didn't grow up with a family, so being a part of a team is extremely important and I don't lose that at all. All those things, I'm kind of in the middle of a dream, living it, and have a lot of work to do. So to say that I could have forecasted any of this wouldn't be honest. But I very much appreciate each and every part of it for sure. I'm very, very blessed in that way."
(It's been six weeks and of course, results are there for you guys. What makes you feel comfortable about where this team is going? Maybe things that we don't see on the field, some things that you see off the field?) – "That's a great question. I like that question because there's a very concrete, easy answer to my optimism moving forward. It goes back to my favorite, not my favorite, but it's a top saying of mine. I see better than I hear. And I think what I've seen is specifically in the last three weeks, a continued uptick in the deliberate intention and strain and execution in practice. That's my greatest litmus test, is how are people approaching their jobs during the week, giving you the best chance to perform and execute all of your given tasks on a Sunday. It's pretty cut and dry, black and white. When teams are treating practice like a game, you have a chance against any team. That's what I've seen from our guys. You worry mightily about a young team and having success. So then your eyes are fully open to their behavior and how they're approaching their day-to-day jobs. I'm confident in the team because of what they've shown me, not what they've told me."
(Is LB Andrew Van Ginkel back today?) – "Yes."
(Sometimes you hear the phrase, 'teams learning how to win'. Where do you think this team is? Has it learned how to win? I mean, you've won five games so where are you in that process?) – "Yeah, I think we're learning how to win. Not just because we've won, but because we've had obstacles and won in different fashions. I think a lot of people forget, I don't want the team to forget, but I think our first two victories, the defense won the game. Okay, then our third victory we had a ton of points and turnovers that we turned into. Those are different types of games. This past game, we were down 14-0, and then the offense scored and the defense didn't allow the opponent to score. They didn't have any scoreboard adjustment until the fourth quarter. Those are different types of games. So I think that's part of the learning mechanism. I know there's more to learn for our team, and that's why you have to approach every game with full intent and see what happens and then get better from it. There'll be more lessons to learn, so we're not done learning. But I think as far as where we could conceivably be at, relative to the season, Week 7, I'm happy with what we've learned, and we need to continue to learn so that we can be our best when our best is required."
(How has your defensive front seven done? And is there room to grade on a curve even a little bit, because they're in the first year of a new system?) – "The one thing that I'm fired up about is progressing as a defense from the entirety of it, really. I think, case in point, we've gotten into a rhythm. I think we lead the league in quarterback hits and we're third in sacks, I believe. And what that is, you don't get anywhere top of anything unless there's a growth. I think that journey, you have to be literally relentless if you really want to get the best out of yourselves, out of the unit, and finish the season as far as you can go. You have to continue to progress. So that's why I'm happy. I guess the bottom line is across the board, I'm happy with where we're at. But as far today, this practice, this game, and the following, I'll be happy if we maintain that progression because that's necessary for you to accomplish what you want. And you don't do it any other way besides coming to work. We have a Friday practice, and we need to execute our assignments with high intensity. And then you just stack those over and over and over. As boring as it is, that's the formula. And I don't think it ever changes."
(You've said something probably a month ago that I found very interesting. You said why save plays when you can just make new plays? Now I wanted to know about when you create these new plays, at what point do you implement them? And then have them ready for execution on Sunday? Is it a week? Is it you've been working on this play two weeks ago sharpening it? Or how does that process all work?) – "Well, if we determine a play's worth, we're always tweaking plays for a specific defense. But if there's a new play that as a staff we decide we want to implement, it's an entire football team, that's why it's our offense; it's not mine or this other person. It's ours. Because we'll put the play in and then listen to the feedback that's directly given to us. Not by like, 'hey, I like this or not', but how do the players handle it? Okay, well, if there's a lot of tinkering that needs to be done with it, we try to tinker with it, see how they respond and maybe apply it for the next week. Or maybe you see it through the week. There's a lot of different angles. Generally, if we introduce something new, by the end of the week we either throw it out or run it generally if it's something completely new. That's not always the case. And then there's times where maybe in a game you just don't get it called because the situation doesn't present itself. There's been multiple opportunities this season that we've been able to have a similar scheme, have the play that we didn't have or had up previously. And then I'll run that same play that week because the defense hasn't seen it, and now the offense has more reps at something that's new, so it's always varied. But the bottom line is we'll run plays that our players will execute at a high level. And once they get to that, all right, call it. And until it's not that, we have to do a better job coaching."