Read the full transcript from Head Coach Mike McDaniel's press conference on September 18, 2023.
(Is WR Jaylen Waddle is in concussion protocol? And with RB Salvon Ahmed, did he strain his groin? I hope it's not torn. Do you know on his situation as well?) – "I don't have a timetable with 'SA' (Salvon Ahmed). It's not torn. It's not an overly long situation but those are tricky. We'll know more as the week progresses with that. Jaylen is in the protocol. We'll move forward. He already started progressing in that process today."
(How about LB Jaelan Phillips? Is there any update on him?) – "He was pretty frustrated that he wasn't allowed to play. From a medical perspective, we thought it wasn't worth the risk. But in his mind, he was ready to contribute, so he was disappointed but understanding. It was just the long-term vision, we felt like he may be at risk for a bigger issue if he would've played. Sometimes we have to be the adults. He was ready if asked, but we felt it was better for the team to make sure he's fully prepared for the future and not risk that with short-sided-ness."
(Same thing with T Terron Armstead?) – "Yeah, Terron and Jaelan Phillips were very similar in that way, where they both felt they had played games under the circumstances, however we just really want to do everything possible to avoid anything we can as far as setbacks go with those players. They're a big part of our team. So fortunately, like I've been saying, we have depth and people that train in a multitude of ways so that you cannot risk the long vision of the team for a short-sighted decision. So they're both very similar."
(How confident are you that both T Terron Armstead and LB Jaelan Phillips will be available for this week potentially?) – "I don't want to get ahead of myself, but that's trending in the right direction, the fact that they both felt capable. So we'll see how it progresses throughout the week, because we also just don't want to – you're careful not to put in the head of the player that 'Hey, this is when you're going to play.' It's more of let's continue to detail and pay full mind and attention to the injury. Then we'll let the body tell us when we're going to play. So we feel good about where they're at and I'm optimistic but we'll see how the week progresses."
(What's your message to the offense when you review the game tape with them and you have 30 points a game and almost 500 yards a game, but also some low red zone kicking field goals down there, some turnovers and failed exchanges? How do you balance the really good with some of the miscues?) – "Well, I think you have to keep a real perspective on what are we trying to do? Are we just trying to get a win? Or are we trying to build to something special? You either get better or you get worse in this league, and there's plenty of areas where we see as coaches and as players where I think our vision is pretty grounded, where it's looking for where can we get better. There's a bunch of stuff to improve upon because as the season progresses, there's teams that continue to get better. And there's teams that stay the same or get worse. And at the end of the season, you want to be part of the former, not the latter. And just by staying the same or not improving, is a death sentence really over the long haul of the season. So it's good to have some success. However, the offense definitely knows that they needed other phases of the team to come through to make sure the game was won. The first game we scored with some time remaining on the clock, and maybe if you're operating your best self, you score with no time left. This past game, we had an opportunity to make it a two-score game, and didn't get it done. Both games, the defense came through. And you're trying to have each phase not be completely dependent on each other while depending on each other, if that makes sense. Listen, we have some residual scars from last season that you kind of make last season purposeful. It was the first time that a lot of guys had felt some sort of positive hype. Whether it's correlation or causation, the league humbled them, I think, and us. I think that's very still alive and awake in our mind. It's so early in the season. Again, two wins in two games is whatever. Our goals are much, much bigger than that. And that takes continued growth, which will start this week, building on the last."
(We talked last week about the aggression and certain decisions in points of the game. Down the stretch yesterday with the chance to either go for it or kick that field goal late, what went into the thought process there about maybe deciding to try for the points instead of maybe being more aggressive to try to get the first down in that situation?) – "Those were live decisions. To be quite honest, I was planning on going for it on fourth down and then we had a mishandled exchange under center, which lost two yards and that point, I didn't think it was responsible to really go that direction. I was planning on it, but when the utmost elementary fundamentals fall apart – we have a ton of confidence in (Jason Sanders). I mean, shoot, we went to playoffs last year off of a 50-yard field goal from Jason (Sanders). So you're playing percentages at that point and we felt confident in Jason. I think ultimately 10 times out of 10, the offense wants to take the game in control in their own hands and finish without having other units having to come on the field. It wasn't the case yesterday and I think my decision to kick a field goal would have been adjusted had the play before not gone awry."
(Where is your level of concern with the center-quarterback exchange – with the snap, either shotgun or under center and how do you fix that?) – "My level of concern is two-sixtieths of the game. It's an odd thing to be concerned about because it's executed very well on so many occasions. So it's like everything else where you have to try to reverse-engineer. Ok, how can we go this whole game with this happening? What is going on right now, and getting down to the fundamentals and technique, and really the mindset of it. And you're fortunate when that stuff happens to have it happen early in the season, for us to communicate and talk about to get better from, and to have it happen in a win. Those are the best-case scenarios that you're not always as fortunate to have those lessons be given to you in wins. But I think my assumption – that is founded based upon all the people that are in this building, on this team – my assumption is that we're seeking out and finding every piece of our game that we can improve upon and that is the non-negotiable prerequisite. So anything that happens, whether it's a weird distribution, a missed tackle, a blocked kick – all of these things you can either say – I think our mode of our whole team is to find those, look them straight in the eye and correct them because the only way to get better, to continually improve, is if you're identifying and finding those things. That will always be the case if you're trying to do something worthwhile."
(Did you go into the game with a pretty strong conviction that you were going to have a run-pass balance or was that a product of just how the game played out?) – "It's kind of a weird feeling. I've been fortunate enough to be on several offenses that have had some productivity. And in that process, you learn the whole mode of playing an opponent, watching their tape, game planning for what they're doing but also game planning for what could possibly be coming. And in that, by and large, most teams – specifically coached by Coach (Bill) Belichick – if you've put on tape that you can win a certain way, they'll try to force you to win another way. So I don't go into the game assuming. We go into the game kind of prepared if they are overplaying something, we have to have answers. So I knew it would be important, just line of scrimmage play in general because they're so fundamentally sound in that and let's face it, with a lot of guys that are returning from last year, they were top five in sacks and they were high up there in run defense. So you have to be on your p's and q's. You don't know exactly what it is, but you can assume that with all the unbelievable football that he's produced, that Coach Belichick and his staff would come up with something that we hadn't seen and we'd have to be able to adjust. So I knew line of scrimmage play was going to be important, but you have to let the game kind of play out, see what the defense is doing and if they're taking something away, something else is vulnerable. So you just kind of have to have equity in your game plan from that perspective."
(You don't see a lot of 31-year-old running backs do what RB Raheem Mostert did last night. What gave you confidence during the evaluation period this offseason that he still had that in him?) – "I have extensive history with Raheem. From our vantage point, and mine specifically, with opportunities that weren't plentiful in the beginning of his career – he was cut 900 times and in the NFC Championship game in 2019, he didn't even start when he had 220 yards and four touchdowns, and then had to deal with some injuries. But all the while, his game has progressed. He's a unique individual that currently has either the first or second fastest ball-carrier time recorded since 2016 – 23-something (miles per hour), and he was 29 years old. To look at him through the same lens as every other back I think would be a mistake. Just watching the nuances of his game, he's developed confidence, conviction, his vision is better, he's more decisive. As you guys could see last night, and it was very evident at the end of the season last year, he is a hard tackle. Pound for pound he might be one of, if not the strongest person on the team. He's just unique in that way. I try to very much acknowledge when people live outside the curve. I'd rather be the person that was like, 'yeah, see? I knew it.' Because you just watch what he does on daily basis and know how hungry he is and how much he wants to do what he does best, which is run the football."