Read the transcript from Head Coach Mike McDaniel's press conference on Wednesday, Oct. 5, 2022.
(Could you please give us an update on the health of the two starting corners? Is CB Byron Jones ready to begin that 21-day practice window to come off PUP and will CB Xavien Howard try to play through the groin as he has?) – "Yeah, 'X' (Xavien Howard) is going to be day to day. He's going to do everything in his power to play against the Jets on Sunday. And then Byron will not begin the 21-day (window). We're still going to take our time with it. It's not progressing as fast as we obviously had hoped, from the spring into the summer. But there hasn't been a major setback or anything. We mean what we say when we're – I won't put a dude on the field unless he has complete stability. There's too many other risks that can happen around other people, so we'll keep addressing that and that could change, because again it didn't have to do with a major setback, so that could change at any time, day by day, week by week."
(DB Keion Crossen seemed to be getting some trainer attention Monday. Do you have any update on him?) – "There's a little – I mean, that was attentive of you. You're on it. I can't believe you're the only one that noticed. You weren't the only one? (laughter) He's got a little thing he's getting treatment for on his, I believe it's an upper leg, lower glute type area. Nothing that will be severely serious but something that he has to get treatment on, and we'll continue to work with him as the week goes to see if he can be ready for Sunday."
(Over the weekend, I had seen something where Vikings Head Coach Kevin O'Connell, a first-year coach like yourself, said that after his first win, everyone had reached out so rapidly. After his first loss, he got like five text messages. I was just curious, on the days that followed Thursday's loss, were you able to maybe lean on any contemporaries, any mentors, especially given everything that's transpired on the team?) – "Oh, yeah, the cricket world is real. (laughter) I think there's – I did, as the weekend progressed, there were some texts from several peers that mean a lot to me. But I mean, what kind of fool would I be if I would have taken this job and been like, 'A loss? Oh, adversity? I quit.' So me personally, the way I kind of look at the job is that there could be – everybody can be a head coach when everything's going well. When you're winning, if you win a couple in a row, football is fun. It's easy to lead. But what this job is to me is coaching after losses and adversity, in general. So although I'm not excited for the opportunity, I recognize it immediately as an opportunity and didn't take this job or didn't work to be in a position to be prepared to do this job with any delusion that that stuff's not forefront. All the guys that I've learned from in my career – the ones that really stand out – are guys that respond in losing streaks, after a loss, after some adversity. That's the name of the game to me. So I did get some well wishes, but you don't know what it's going to look like. You don't know what it's going to be, but you know it's going to happen. And guess what, it will continue to. So that's part of the job for sure."
(We've seen a lot of backup quarterback play already in the NFL through four weeks. How fortunate do you feel to have QB Teddy Bridgewater because whether it's salary cap reasons or others, a lot of teams aren't able to spend or have a caliber backup like the Dolphins?) – "It's everything. That's why you go out in free agency and spend a good, a nice little chunk of the salary cap on a guy that on paper isn't supposed to play. The amount – the quarterback's job is to make his teammates better. If you operate and they are better because of you, you're doing a good job of playing the position of quarterback because you have the ball in your hands every play and you have to give it to somebody. And you also have to have players play together around you. Teddy's already made all of his teammates better on this Sunday coming in the future, simply by how he's conducted himself, how he's owned the offense and really, there is a relief. You can hear in people's voices when even if they're a great player, when you are the distributor of the football on every play, guys that are in a groove that this will be their fifth game of the season, you hear anxiety in the huddle or you hear a little lack of confidence in their voice and it completely changes how you play. So to have not only his past history help him but everything he's done in the building, it's a huge, humongous deal. So I feel very fortunate to have Teddy because Tua (Tagovailoa) will tell you himself and Skylar (Thompson), the whole room is better at their jobs because of Teddy. And that takes a special person that has started, that is capable of starting in the National Football League, that understands how much value he can have backing someone up and taking them under his wing. It's immense and you can't understate it."
(What kind of approach would you like to see from QB Teddy Bridgewater going into this game considering how special of a moment it could be, him starting for his hometown team for the first time?) – "It's more about the process. It's more – especially at the quarterback position – not letting noise or extraneous thoughts. The dude's playing football. He's done that for a long time. He was wearing two gloves at the quarterback position before that was a thing. It's like every other player. Guys really wanted to win against Cincinnati and we were able to find on the tape moments where guys were trying too hard to individually make plays themselves. But understanding that you want to put forth full effort, but you're going to win a game as a team, so you don't have to do anything spectacular besides do what you have done that's gotten you there. So the biggest thing to him is he owns the playbook. He knows exactly what to do in every situation. He's plenty, plenty, plenty prepared for this. So to enjoy it more than anything. That's the biggest thing, is to enjoy this opportunity that he has to play with his teammates and have fun doing it."
(To follow up on that, you mentioned how he's kind of a total quarterback and a winner. How have you seen him kind of working with QB Skylar Thompson after having to take over that backup role since then?) – "How hasn't he? Skylar (Thompson) is very inquisitive. He's not looking for information handouts, but he will have a question on everything because he wants to do it the right way. So it's a game changer to have a veteran leader in that room that you can comfortably ask questions to because who knows. We get it all the time. A lot of times players will withhold information that they don't know about a play, about their assignments. They're like, 'Man, did I miss it? Or maybe I just shouldn't know that.' And it happens all the time, pretending to be on it when really there's a couple holes in the equation and to have a guy like Teddy that's so approachable and offers everything that he has to offer to these dudes; now, I mean, who knows how many questions Skylar has gotten answered. Maybe that one domino clicked to the next, just because he has that resource of someone that regardless of how much we tell the players, we won't judge them for a question. Invariably, they feel judged. And so you can go to a judgment-free zone."
(Generally speaking, how much of a difference does it make for a quarterback to have the full week to prepare as the starter as opposed to going into the game because of an injury? And how does that manifest itself on game day?) – "Anybody remember Sage Rosenfels? The thing I brought up? Not in general – I think he has a game record or one of the top five game records – I can't remember if it was yardage or whatever. So not in a disparaging way, but Sage Rosenfels taught me – it was my second year in the league, 2007 I think, in Houston – and he opened my eyes to something I had no idea about as a coach or even as a player and the disparity between preparing as the backup as opposed to preparing as the starter, and how he was legendary. He told me himself, and then it was like self-fulfilling prophecy – he continued to do it as his career progressed, but he would go light it up off the bench. But the weight, the production meetings, the interviews, the headlines, the loved ones reaching out, the people trying to get tickets to the game, these things add up, and these are human beings so starting is much, much different than preparing. And I didn't know that off the surface, but once he said it, it made total sense. It was like, 'Wow, this is a big difference when you're preparing to be the starter.' All the more important that Teddy relies on all of his training and where he's at. I feel very good about where he's at and I think that he can minimize that distinction as best you can because it is different, as I learned early and have witnessed since then, my whole career."
(QB Sage Rosenfels also started a couple of times, years before, with the Dolphins.) – "That's what I mean. And then – and it will always be this way so it's not just you guys, I promise you. But fans, media, coaches, everybody in football, your favorite player is the backup quarterback. The grass is greener. So Sage (Rosenfels), he was so cool about it. He was just very honest. When he was in Houston, he was like, 'Yeah, you know, this is a different deal.' He was like, 'That's why I have so much respect for Matt Schaub, because of how he handles himself. Yeah, I'd light it up in practice, but you prepare for a whole week and know all the ins and outs of the gameplan and then all the different defensive things that can occur and it can get overwhelming.' So, I swear he has a – did anyone Google it? He has some sort of benchmark, maybe it was touchdowns thrown in a game. Come on, I thought you guys were quicker. If only you guys had like access to computers. (laughter)"
(With so many people obviously wanting any information you have on QB Tua Tagovailoa, can you give a sense of what he can do this week? Will he be in quarterback meetings? Will he travel to New York?) – "So at this point in time, he's in the protocol, and it's all about the only thing it's about and that's the health of the human being. It's a change in routine for him, and he loves football and loves being around his teammates. So he will – it's another example of us having to have honest and forthright communication with the medical staff. He'll be around as long as it doesn't adversely affect him as best possible. He's a captain of this team and we want him to be present as much as he can, but not at any sort of cost to his process, getting himself healthy, and going through that procedure. So that will be really case by case. And if his – I know if he's able, he'll be around as much as he can, because he's already got FOMO. I can feel it."
(There's been a lot of talk about optics surrounding QB Tua Tagovailoa and his concussion. Did optics factor into at all in ruling him out on Monday, so early in the week? Or was it just clear medically, he would not be ready by Sunday, even back then?) – "Optics are to the team and the players, and the second that I start doing things because I think it's some answer that somebody else wants, that's, to me, that I'm failing at my job. My job should start and end at what's the best thing for the team and everybody involved – the players. It will always be about individual players first, because it's in my title – coach. What does a coach do? You're supposed to coach players. It's the players' opportunity that we have to take best advantage of. So no – that's not really my speed, I would say. I'm not a – I feel like it's very vital that the integrity of my position that I stay true, right, wrong or indifferent to whatever decision, but it's done for the right reasons, and I won't stray from that."
(Obviously, in your line of work, you can't pay credence to every comment, every bit of criticism said about you, but is it any harder to tune things out when people are suggesting something's wrong with your character, that you did something wrong here?) – "That would probably be hard or it would probably crumbling if it was coming from within the team or the people that it is my job to service. I mean, outside of that, it's actually quite the opposite. Again, you have to be delusional to think that you're going to have a pardon – or who knows? Everything's reactionary anyway, so if people want to – if I'm listening to that, or thinking about that. If I'm spending time thinking about that, let's say Monday night for five seconds, that's five seconds that I'm not thinking about all the other things that relate to the team and the upcoming game. So preparing for the Jets – I've been a huge fan of the sport, you guys have heard the story, since I can remember and I fully, fully have way too much respect for the game, for everyone involved, for everyone that's counting on me that I'm actually the 'anti-T.O.' (Terrell Owens) I would say. You know, 'Talk good about me, talk bad about me – just talk about me.' I'd be cool if no one talked about anything. That's how I've been operating my whole career. But (I'm) fully expecting that they're going to have all sorts of opinions because that's the nature of the beast. That's what happens when you watch it and are a fan of it for your entire life. You see it happen over and over. And I mean, nothing, I guess, in that avenue would really surprise me."
(What needs to happen for the running game to get where you want it to be?) – "We need to have, really, a better commitment, starting with me in the plays that are called, and we need to have a better execution by everyone really on the team, including the quarterback, at operating the run plays. These are things that in the course of a season, you could be surprised if you took four-game blocks and broke down people's statistical, wherever they're at, in the league. It's not unfounded to have a four-game block where you're down in a phase and that becomes a strength of yours as the season progresses. As a coaching staff and as a team, that's our plan is for it to progress and become a strength of ours. That's the goal. And so we have a tremendous opportunity to, every week, redefine what we are. That's the cool thing about the National Football League is there's a week in-between games and then you get a reset. So I think that, really, it's a concerted effort by everyone, including the coaches, to prioritize that and to better execute that when the bullets are flying on Sunday."
(What is your relationship with Jets Head Coach Robert Saleh? Different sides of the ball in San Francisco and seemingly different personalities. What's your relationship like?) – "This whole team, the Jets, is probably, outside of the team I just left, has the – I've worked with all these guys for so long. You talk about a guy that – Robert and I were both hanging on as young NFL assistants back in 2006, and then we both ended up being let go in Houston at some point and scratching and clawing to stay in the league. One of the closest coaches, to me, that exists in the league. And then probably the guy that I've worked alongside the most besides Kyle Shanahan is (Offensive Coordinator) Mike LaFleur, who does an unbelievable job over there that credit really hasn't been given to him, but I'm sure that credit will sometime in the future. Maybe near, hopefully not too near like next Sunday. Coach Saleh, very close. Mike LaFleur, very close. Jeff Ulbrich, the defensive coordinator, I'm very tight with. I mean, there's a laundry list of guys. Even Miles Austin, their receivers coach, was the first player that I had ever coached that we got into coaching in San Francisco. So the list, (Offensive Line and Run Game Coordinator) John Benton, (Defensive Line Coach Aaron) Whitecotton, (Linebackers Coach Mike) Rutenberg – I mean, there's a laundry list of guys. Very, very, very good relationship working and personal. So that's why I have a clear-cut vision of what it's going to take for our guys to be happy with their performance on Sunday, because I know how detailed and passionate and how much energy those guys in wherever they're at New York (or) New Jersey those guys are preparing for us today on Wednesday and for the rest of the week."