Read the full transcript from Head Coach Mike McDaniel's press conference on September 13, 2023.
(I was going to ask you if you thought T Terron Armstead or DB Elijah Campbell would practice this week?) – "I think we'll see a little of (Terron) Armstead today and we'll see how that goes. Then the next day, we'll assess that. (We are) starting to get Elijah (Campbell) into individual drills and go through that process as well because, again, the foremost priority is guys come back without having a setback. We're just trying to do our due diligence, so it will be cool to see them."
(With T Terron Armstead, is it more the injury? Or, is it the wind, just being able to play 50-plus snaps?) – *"No, it's more when players always want to play, we obviously want them to play. But there's some, I don't know, gut feeling that he might have to resort to a style of play just to get through. I don't think that's fair to him or his teammates. If there was a scenario that it was the only human being possible, you'd maybe consider that, but probably not. The biggest thing is that you have to have depth on your football team. For him and the Dolphins, you just don't want him to gut through it for a cause and then the tape doesn't go away. It's part of our personal relationship and he respects it in regards to those types of decisions, which I appreciate."
(A couple of personnel questions; LB David Long Jr., why was his snap count so low? Also RB De'Von Achane, why didn't we see him active on Sunday?) – "So the game day actives are real and there's only a finite (number). When you have areas of your team that necessitate certain things, you kind of have to go light on positions. That's why De'Von (Achane) was inactive. Really, it's kind of what I was getting in front of last week about Week 1 and how interesting it is, because it feels like Groundhog week, and I get why. It's because there are all these thoughts and opinions and people care. Then something happens and you have a whole week to sit on it. Well, Week 1, in the first year of a system, I mean, how often does everything never change during the course of the season? I think especially with new players on this team and a new system, that is really the formula for that game. But that's a far stretch to say that it's going to be that way the next game. These are things that there's only 11 on the field. We have some depth and every game presents different challenges and you have different tools in your toolbox. He'll keep working and his teammates love him. I'm not expecting that to be the norm, but the players decide that not me, ironically."
(What are some things you'd like to see cleaned up on defense this week?) – "I think the biggest thing is you want to see a constant mode of progression. So, whatever the outcome is, and literally, you could talk about both phases, are you going to have a game that's not as desirable as you'd like? Does that mean now you should try to improve so then you have a game that you do like and you let your foot off the gas? The idea is that we have to improve on certain things. Specifically, if I could sum it up, I think there are a lot of people with the right motivations that were trying to independently make plays and not thinking about technique and fundamentals. So that's been my message to them, which is my message to all players. Really, it's humanity. If you're able to worry completely about what you can control, and only that, it's amazing what individuals can do. Case in point, if you asked Tua (Tagovailoa) about his game and say, 'hey, what was the reason for that?' Well, I worried about my technique and fundamentals every play. So that's a process that is not easy. It is very hard in this world to not worry about all the stuff that you can't control. But if you're able to do that, you might turn the page and find yourself getting better at what you actually care about."
(I just saw a stat this week that you guys, going back to Week 1 of last year, are the best team in passing against Cover 1. The Patriots, going back to that same time, are the best defending in Cover 1. What is it about their defense that makes them so difficult to attack in that package that's kind of rare these days?) – "It is amazing to me, and I hope one day I can even sniff this, it's amazing that the orchestration of the defense is so consistent, so fundamentally consistent and sound. The strain. Very, very detailed. And the leader of the ship was at the same job when we were all like, 'what's an iPod?' The coolest part about what they do is it's not because they're entitled. It's because they work at stuff. You can really see it. They have very strong and consistent technique and fundamentals that you can tell from the top down, and all the coaches on the defensive side, that it's non-negotiable. Then they work together. I think they are unique in what they do, and that's a testament from an X's and O's standpoint to one of the founding fathers of this generation of football. It's pretty cool to watch. It's a great challenge, and that's what you want. You want to be challenged week in, week out with different things because, again, you're preparing to try to be the best version of yourself against the best teams when it matters most."
(I feel like the characteristics of the Shanahan coaching tree is the scheme gets guys open a lot. I was curious, when you go to coaches like high school coaches, college coaches, for seminars, and you tell them, here's one or two things scheme-wise that can help you get guys open. Obviously, the answer is get really fast players like WR Tyreek Hill and WR Jaylen Waddle. But from a scheme standpoint, what can you do to really enhance that?) – "That's something that there's a little bit of fortune involved. You kind of made the categorical consistency there, where you're able to learn under somebody that does it the right way. And that is constantly challenging what has been done or relentlessly watching tape. That's why I'm so grateful for Mike Shanahan and there's so much that was embedded when that's your standard. I think it's hard to like, X's and O's. What are your players skill sets? What coverages are you seeing? What fronts? Everything's so specific. Like, if you were to ask me, give me your favorite Cover 1-beater, I'd be like, what? Who's the defense? Where are the matchups? What's the structure? How do they treat stacks and bunches? Those types of things. When I talk to coaches, it's not like I know how to coach in high school or college. I've never done that. But I think there's an element of consistency with good and fair scheme that there's a why for everything you're doing. It's abstract, but literally every alignment, every assignment, every motion, literally everything, if you exhaust that process, you end up coming out with a solid opportunity that doesn't even matter unless your players are bought in and they fully immerse themselves and do all the hard work and labor. To me, we're coaches. Professionally, we get paid to and inherent in that is a devotion to players and their success. I think that's the standard that is inherent in being a coach, that you should be attempting to put your players in advantageous situations. You only do that when everyone's invested. But I think the biggest point is that, I'll draw up sweet, sick plays on this board right now. But they mean nothing. I've been drawing plays since I got started in 2005. It's the players that make it come to life and that's the cool thing to watch. Because you watch the whole process and know that the execution is earned not given."
(When you have to make a decision during the game that's not easy, not obvious, for example fourth-and-7, like last game, do you get a sense of adrenaline at that moment? Is that an exciting time for you? What's that moment like?) – *"It's the purest form of living. You're locked in every blink, like time stops really, and I get proud of whatever the decision is. And honestly, regardless of the result, if the decision's made for the right reasons. When I recognize there's a decision that before I send the play in, I know if it doesn't work what comes next. But I think it's very important that you take the job serious enough. For me, I wouldn't be able to sleep if that factored in. And so in the moments, there is a little adrenaline only because what I'm able to execute on something with all of my information, with all the preparation, it's the right decision for certain reasons. And that is far from saying, I know it's going to work. But yeah, it's living."
(You mentioned QB Tua Tagovailoa. He was named the AFC Offensive Player of the Week. With all the work he put in, whether it be jiu-jitsu or whatever else he did during the offseason to be stronger, as you watched this Sunday, was it just something that you felt this was going to happen right out of the gate considering he didn't play since last Christmas against Green Bay?) – "It's funny, I talk about it with the coaching staff, because we're very fortunate to be around some really, really good players that stand the test of time. And so when we're practicing and as we're evolving in our techniques and getting better and better, there's certain things in practice that you're like, 'Wow, I haven't seen that in the game before.' However, it didn't surprise me that guys were able to execute. It made me very proud of all the training that it took because I know how it was for all people involved. You're witnessing their most invested, intentional, deliberate execution of whatever they're doing. But I didn't know it was going to work. Players decided on the field and sometimes players decide to be the best versions of themselves and you don't know what's going to happen on Sunday. But I knew with the way they invested, it was either going to live up to their expectations, or it wasn't. Either one, we have to flourish at. It's literally that's cool, that's well earned, but that means nothing on this Wednesday for the Patriots. Literally, zero. I checked with the league. We can't take the points from last game and put them in the points of this game. (laughter) So it was a really, really cool little thing that you'll look back on. And that night, as a team, it felt nice to see some of those rewards. But the goal this offseason, the goal for these guys lives wasn't like, 'Man, I'm going to have a good game.' So you have to keep that in perspective. But I'm excited to see what they do with that moving forward."
(I don't know if you were watching live on Monday night, but obviously Jets QB Aaron Rodgers injury is a big league story. What's your reaction to him having his season end?) – "I was watching the Patriots, but I heard a couple of people came down and told me and I'm not going to lie, you don't want to ever see that. I think it's important for all teams that they're the best of their ability for the sake of the game and the product that we want to deliver on. But I also think that – I did check, someone also did tell me, that they won the game. And I think there's a lot of players and coaches that I know on that team, that all their hopes and dreams as NFL players in the organization wasn't to hang out with and play with one guy. They still have a lot of players and I promise you that the Miami Dolphins won't be the team that overlooks them because of anybody not being there. Granted he is one of the greatest players to ever do it. And so that is supreme adversity, and if I was a betting man, I think that that team will find a way but we shall see."
(What are some of the qualities that WR River Cracraft possess that make him a guy that you want on your team?) – "I think he's been cut seven times, I think, before making an active roster. Do you realize how – well first of all the professional athlete, the investment it takes, and then the lack of control that you have in situations like that if you're an undrafted player or something of that nature, and then the fortitude to say, 'No, you guys are wrong,' and to keep coming back means he's spending a lot of time not worried about stuff that he can't control. And I've had a lot of people tell me that I couldn't do a lot of things. Generally, whatever I'm doing the first time, people see me and they're like, 'You can't do that.' Whatever it is. So there's a place in my heart for it. But the bottom line is you have to be a special individual when you put that much on the table. And then when the moment comes and you're able to produce, I think that's what all the players see. And he makes his teammates better around him. So that's an important part too."
(How have you seen the Patriots offense change in the limited sample size of Bill O'Brien taking over as the offensive coordinator?) – "You can tell there's some good relationships going on there. Bill O'Brien has always done a really good job and I think they're doing some things that, you can tell when there's connectivity between coach and quarterback, and there's stuff that he's playing very confident in. It's a good litmus test when the quarterback is playing better. Generally everyone is because they go hand in hand. And he can only be successful if his players are in the right spots doing the right thing. So there's definitely some tempo going on. There's some different formations. There's different ways to attack, similar to what he's done in the past to a degree. But then there's new things. The crazy thing about NFL Sundays is then you could just come to work on Sunday and he could have five wide receivers, no running backs or tight ends every play. You just don't know. There is some unknown in that regard for what they're doing. You have one team that is known on how they want to do attack. But outside of that, you have to defend everything. So it'll be a good challenge for us."
(What time are you going to bed if you're waking up and go to work at 2:30 a.m having seen the ESPN piece?) – "I mean it just depends. I think for the most part, you try to compensate. Science keeps telling me that you do need sleep to function. So you do compensate with earlier nights when you can. There's some late ones, but I'm super fortunate because my wife and daughter get my back and as long as I make it to Thursday or Friday, really, they positively reinforce naps. So although the science doesn't support, cram sleeping – yeah, I debunk science with that. With a lot of coaches, there's just a lot of stuff to do. And in the morning, I might be the only person for a little while, but there's always people here when I leave. So I make sure to stop by and say what time did you get in? I was earlier. (laughter)"