Read the full transcript from Head Coach Mike McDaniel's press conference on October 4, 2023.
(So you have CB Nik Needham, OL Rob Jones and RB Jeff Wilson eligible to practice this week. The question is, will they practice this week?) – "Well, there's two of those players that their 21-day window will begin today. Nik Needham and Rob Jones will start their 21-day window and their process to get back. Excited for both of them. They've worked hard to get back to this spot. And that window is key that we will utilize to make sure that within that, they're ready to go and we don't get ahead of ourselves so that they can put tape that they feel good about on the field. So, there's a start. We're just working our way with Jeff. We feel good about that. We're starting to get a little healthy, so that's good news."
(So both of those guys will practice today? Is that the belief with the window being open?) – "Yeah, I meant to be clear. They are both practicing today to start the window. There are going through the window and going outside to practicing. They're not staring out of it. My apologies. Yeah, they'll be practicing today, which will be their first."
(Another IR question. A couple days ago you said T Terron Armstead is going to be out a couple weeks. Have you decided whether he will be placed on IR and miss at least four games?) – "Yeah, I think it's a little early. I just wanted to be clear, when I can't have a little bit of concrete information, that the weeks haven't changed. He's feeling pretty solid relative to where he was worried he would feel. What does that mean? I mean, sometimes you can feel bad. So we're just making sure that we have our minds firmly wrapped around it so we can make the best decision for the Dolphins. But we're not ready to do that yet."
(S DeShon Elliott, how is he doing right now physically?) – "I'm proud of him. I had a talk with him just before I came up here, just again, reinforcing, 'Hey, the team needs you to not rush the process out of competitiveness.' And he understood that and he feels solid. So we'll see how it progresses through the week. But you have to be very, very mindful of what doing right by the players, which is doing right by the team, and making sure that guys – I'm never in the habit of urging and pushing people. Generally, that's a bad idea. So we have a lot of good situations where guys, we kind of have to protect people from themselves. That means you have the right type of players. And I feel good about him being able to participate today. And I feel good that he will do his best not to press the envelope, so to speak, on today, which is Wednesday in preparation for the Giants, which is the only day that I know."
(In regards to defensive personnel decisions, maybe this guy should start, maybe this guy should play more, as well as game plan strategy heading into the game, I'm curious how much input have you had, do you want to have and how do you approach all that?) – "Well, I kind of approach it like how much of the final score am I accountable for? Okay, well, then you hire the right people, you work with the right people, and then you very much value every piece of information that they take on. If you have the right people, you will have great conversations with the whole defensive staff and (Defensive Coordinator) Vic (Fangio), and I will hear them out. And then if my opinion differs, I make sure to explain why and we move forward as a concerted unit. So ultimately, every decision we end up agreeing upon. It doesn't mean we started that way and sometimes it's not about who's trying to – no one knows the right answer. When you have available players that are competitive and all have their own skill sets, you kind of have to balance a lot of things. I'm happy with where we're at as a coaching staff. Our communication has been great, specifically as we got into the regular season to kind of get a feel for these types of things. But everything that happens on the football field is the result of a lot of people's work and all the successes are a bunch of people contributing to each other. But I think it's important for myself to (know that) everything that happens on the football field, I'm 100 percent accountable for. Can I change everything myself? Absolutely not. I barely do anything as it is. But I can have the right person that can get that done. So that's been a cool process. We've had to go through that exercise several times because we have good players aplenty. And there's a lot of places where there's high competition and there's different reasons to go one direction or the other each and every week. So I think that's important in the coaching staff as the season progresses, for sure."
(What's your feel at this point on LB Jaelan Phillips and if he'll be able to gear towards going Sunday?) – "I actually have to resist against myself because I get pretty hopeful and optimistic because I just really enjoy watching him play. And I know his teammates really love playing with him because they're guys with relentless motors that are infectious. I know he has put just as much if not more into the offseason as anybody in that locker room. (He) has high expectations for himself and is learning an invaluable lesson on how in the National Football League, the game has to come to you to some degree. Sometimes when you're ready to do something, your body doesn't agree. And I felt good with how he's handled a frustrating time for him because he's been at his game's highest. He's a passionate football player and he's in a great spot. So I'm hopeful, but we'll do the right thing. I know he's progressing. The last thing we want is for one of the guys that we count on to produce to be having that lingering issue all season. So it's a fine balance. Fortunately, we have the guys to step up when called upon. I think there's games that we've exemplified that. Like, the Patriots (game). Yeah, but we'll see. I know he's trending in the right direction. I just don't know exactly when that's going to be."
(OL Connor Williams, is he on track to practice today? To follow up if I may, OL Liam Eichenberg, is he still your backup center?) – "Some day, you guys are going to have a little faith in anything that I ever say up here. (laughter) Liam (Eichenberg), like I said, there were some really good things that happened in the game. There are some things that Liam would like to have back. I have a visceral memory of Connor Williams on Monday. You want to talk about a guy that is crawling out of his skin to play (and) is about the right stuff. Things that he can't control, that injury, he takes the mindset he needs to get back as fast as possible to help his teammates. I feel pumped for Liam's game as his first game as a center. If I thought that was the ceiling that he could perform at, my feelings may be different. I'm not sure if you guys have ever done something for the first time ever, but it's definitely not your finished Picasso piece. I'm happy with where he's orchestrating the offense through the center position, making the calls, and he'll be there if needed. I'm sure we're going to get a cool practice week from him, because he enjoys the opportunity and the challenge. Pulling it back to the only thing that I do know, he's got a great one because there's a really big former Clemson Tiger (Dexter Lawrence) that we'll be going against here with the New York Giants and their defensive line, which is the biggest that I've ever seen in my NFL career. So we've got cool challenges, a lot of cool stuff to work on this Wednesday for practice, which I know you guys are geeked up for. So am I."
(I wanted to ask you, the Giants gave up 11 sacks on Monday night, a number you rarely see in the NFL. When you look at that on film, what do you see? I'm not asking for your gameplan, but what can you say about opportunity? Or if you were a coach whose team gave up 11 sacks, they'd probably be circling the wagons, I'd imagine?) – "What's interesting is that game, when you watch it, from my perspective, I see an offense that's close, because I think – I don't know the stats, hopefully the fingers will be triggering right now. But 11 sacks with the completion percentage that he had, it felt like to me when I was watching, that it was either completion or sack. Which means the way I see it and probably the way – I have all the respect in the world for Coach Daboll – the difference between sack and completion is that finite. If you take the sacks out, he'd probably have a pretty high quarterback rating because the completion percentage was high. So then you're competitively assessing how can we have those be completions or incompletions, are we getting greedy, those types of things that are nuances that myself nor you guys would not have any idea about. I think 11 sacks, I've been a part of an offense that's done that before, and I know we didn't have a completion percentage like that. Football is a long process. They diligently work at it. They've had plenty of success in this league. I think it's shortsighted to just say, 'Ok, 11 sacks,' and then off the rip, you're like, 'Ok, well block.' There's a lot of things that go into that. A lot of credit should be given to the Seattle Seahawks who are playing very, very hard. I think they would feel the same way too. But I'm more focused showing the team how they're functioning outside of those sacks, because what happens if you have that and you eliminate some of the sacks? You'd probably have a pretty good offensive day. So that's what I saw from it. I think anybody that would be taking that for the absolute or the rule would be setting themselves up to get set up."
(What are your thoughts on the idea of a get right game in the NFL? Is there such a thing?) – "There is no such thing as scheduling out wins or checking off boxes, and anybody that has done that exercise needs to do an after-action report, because everything you think you know, you don't. This is a team game where effort, intent, focus, camaraderie, momentum, motions, so much goes into it. It's a bunch of independent opportunities to do something we've all been working for our entire lives. A get right game doesn't make any sense to me, and I don't think anybody in our locker room is looking at it like that. It is hard enough to get your game to its best. When you've left some stuff to be desired, as I know our locker room feels, the thing you want to do is be focused on yourself and how it applies to the opponent every single week. Even if you approach something as a get right game, you set yourself up to lose, for one. But let's say you're fortunate enough to win, you've now lost your competitive momentum in your process of progressing throughout the season that even though you may have squeaked out a win, the residuals you will pay for as the season progresses. So to me, I don't know. It will forever be that way. There is nothing guaranteed in this league, and it takes so many people for things to look a certain way. If a couple people can do X, Y, or Z better, all of a sudden, our product looks totally different. I do not care about any other team in the league. I do not want us to progressively get worse. You will get learned a lesson, and it happens every year. You can't do it if you're trying to be your best version of yourself, because there's too many good players, too many good coaches. This game will be one less game that I'll have in my career moving forward, and that's just science, so I'm not looking past that."
(Any neck injury is worrisome. Have you gotten any more clarity on WR Erik Ezukanma as to whether it's a season-ending injury? Hopefully not.) – "Exploring the issue that he had in college, I'm very hesitant to have a timeline. I don't think it'll be a season. But first and foremost, we want to make sure that he is healthy and ready to go and able to play his best self. That's something that we are steadily getting to the bottom of. Like I said, I don't foresee it being that, but I really don't know the timeline on that one."
(I know the old cliche is, yeah, it's a copycat league. But when a team has success against your offense, defensively, how often do you see some of those same schemes brought to the next week?) – "It's funny. Quite literally, every play that we've ever run has been copied in some way shape or form. I'm not sure what you guys believe, but we did not invent the forward pass or the handoff. That's a joke, but everything's a derivative of other things. (laughter) I think since probably whenever the All-22 was contracted out, and then everything got digital in 2013. I want to say by about 2017 or 2018, how easy it is to look at the explosive plays in the league. Generally, if something works one week, it's showing up somewhere. So copycat, yeah, that's real. I know there's a lot of defensive coaches, ours included, that when you see something that works that's a problem play, you don't know if the other team's running it and you're repping it in practice because it's gotten to that point where you know that if something works, everybody's trying to have their plays work. I think the bigger thing is, is that the players, to execute something that other people think is of quality enough to try to replicate that, I think that's pretty cool. And 100 percent of the time, I've been drawing up plays since 2005, players execute them and then they're cool plays."
(The New York Giants defense isn't known for doing what the Buffalo Bills did, playing a lot of two-high. They're known for blitzing, cover one, cover zero. How surprised would you be to see them kind of completely flip the script and do something completely off their tendencies?) – "The objective on all three phases is that you're good enough at your craft so that the norm is unexpected. I've been fortunate to be in situations where I've been on good offenses. I remember one year playing versus 21 personnel, actually playing Buffalo, they played us 100 percent nickel, and the next week we got all heavy, three defensive backs, from Washington. That is something that if you're challenging enough, it's to be expected. You kind of hope that that's an earned right. People generally don't change their DNA. We'll definitely see some stuff that we haven't seen. But that's something that you hope to experience and get good at because if you're having the appropriate success that you're trying to work for, that is quite literally the norm. Every single game, we've had a little bit of nuance to each defense that we weren't really expecting, or had seen. The hope is to have more of that, but you have to earn that and you have to earn that through real execution of stuff. The same thing goes for the defense and special teams. Our team wants to give reason for opponents to have to adjust. But people generally don't want to and want to play their game and you have to be prepared for both at all times. They could have a one-man rush the whole game and the players are going to expect to execute. The players aren't going to hear, well, I've never seen that. Who cares? The fans will still want the results and same as you guys. You'll show up at press conferences with potpourri, apparently. That's something that will always be the case. If we work the right way over a long period of time, you hope that that's the norm on all three phases because that means you're doing enough to cause concern for your opponents."