Read the full transcript from Head Coach Mike McDaniel's press conference on September 29, 2023.
(Can you share anything on the availability of T Terron Armstead and OL Connor Williams on Sunday as best you know?) – "I can tell you that they'll both be practicing today and their future hangs in the balance. (laughter) No, we're just going to assess and do right by both those players. I can tell you just in case – I'm going to beat you to the punch – I can say that Jaelan Phillips will be out. But then we have a group of guys that are ironing things out today, making sure to further test where they're at and so we'll have some decisions to make in the next 48 hours after."
(When you're facing a division opponent and you're going to see them again, do you ever hold anything back or is it all just go to win this game? Because if you're going to see a team another time later in the season, are there things in the regular season that you don't want to put in?) – "I can't speak for anybody else. I know in my career, literally it is so hard to win a game in general, that I've never held anything back. Your expectation, the way I look at it; I look at for instance, the Buffalo Bills are one of the best teams in football. If instead of having an idea that you would put in your back pocket, why don't you just come up with a new idea? I think as far as I've always looked at it, and the way that our coaching staff does, is everything that we can and are able to use, we give it our best shot because we know that if we don't give it our best shot, we will learn the hard way of how difficult the NFL is."
(You talk a lot about deliberate practice and this team mentioned the 24 and 48-hour rule. Can you touch on the 10,000-hour rule?) – "What you're alluding to is directly in congruence with deliberate practice and I think that anything that we've been able to do on the football field this year, any success that we've really had in all three phases, is because of an insane amount of deliberate practice that the only way you can really make plays on a consistent basis in the National Football League is to be going full-tilt with no hesitation. So I look at quite literally any forced fumble we've had. I can go to any inside two-and-a-half second QB pressure, any explosive run, any completion; they're all a functionality of guys that have had a pretty good offseason. I think that's the reason we're 3-0 and have been able to make some plays, is because guys have taken training from all the way back from April 17 to now and have utilized every opportunity that's been in their past so that they've been able to make some plays on Sunday. It's hard to win in the National Football League. It's hard to win in several different fashions so I think when you're able to do that, that's an expression of that deliberate practice that is so near and dear to our hearts."
(Do you have updates on three wide receivers – WR Jaylen Waddle, WR Erik Ezukanma, WR River Cracraft?) – "Jaylen Waddle had a great day at practice. He's obviously cleared the protocol and is good to go. I think both River (Cracraft) and Erik (Ezukanma), they are independent situations that are going to take a little bit of time. They'll both be out for this game and we're independently getting some information on both of those guys and we'll be able to have a better idea of a timeline in the next few days or weeks or whatever. They're on their own journeys and won't be there this game."
(With WR Erik Ezukanma – can we get some clarification? Did he injure himself on Friday's practice, the walkthrough, when did he sustain…?) – "So we're kind of exploring the potential of a re-aggravation of an injury that he's had before he got here. So we're just kind of trying to get information on that. Don't really have the specific instance. It's more of cautiously looking through that lens because it was something with his neck that he's had in college so we're just kind of going through that which is why it's kind of a vague timeline and kind of snuck up on us."
(So much conversation about the offense. Obviously when you score 70 points, that's going to happen. But how would you evaluate where your defense is through three games?) – "First of all, I'd say that 70 points is only possible with our defense. You had three turnovers and you had a stop – a three-and-out after a turnover on downs in our own territory. And with regard to specifically in general, I see a progression each and every week for what they're trying to do and guys finding their way within the system. I think we have a bunch of playmakers that know that they're playmakers and play the game of football to make plays, and I think they're starting to find within the system when it's their play to make. Team defense is about holding responsibility, but then when there's a vulnerability in the offensive schematics, you seek and destroy and it's your play to make. And I think we had too many instances Week 1 where guys were trying to be that player on every play and not a calculated trigger, so to speak, that you've seen the last two weeks progressively get more consistent. On top of that, I think last game was the first game of the season that you couldn't say the defense didn't win the game in terms of at the end being on the field against the Chargers to get that last stop and then against the Patriots as well. I see a team that's getting better collectively and there's no better example by the tape than the defense and how they're continuing to get better."
(I'm doing something on the locker room being a player sanctuary and I want to know, what would be a legitimate reason for you to be in the locker room and how many times have you been in that locker room as the head coach?) – "I try to adhere to my own rule. There's occasionally when work forces me to communicate with a player that I have to go track somebody down and also I get my haircuts in the locker room, which I see you guys when I'm getting the haircut, you guys sneaking out, getting extra interviews outside of our time framework. (laughter) I got eyes everywhere, guys. (laughter) But no, I try to really adhere to that. It's a policy that we send out in a full building-wide email and I address in the team meeting at the very beginning of the offseason to remind people that the locker room is the players' space, that they need a place where they can be at work but not have people outside the locker room looking over their shoulder, meddling with them. So outside of really the players and you guys, no one sees that space. You're in a select few and should be honored."
(You don't like your offensive linemen to wear knee braces. Is that correct? And if so, why?) – "It's not that I dislike that. I don't like over the top mandates, which I think are, there's obviously a time and a place where that that makes sense for us. We target linemen on the offensive and defensive line that are athletic, in general, and we want them to use their athleticism when they play. So we run off the ball. I think if you guys have not had earplugs in at any practice, you've heard (Offensive Line Coach) Butch Barry scream 'run off the ball,' right? So knee braces, I think it's not for people that necessitate them; it was more that some of the old-school policies of mandating that, it doesn't really fit what we're trying to get them to do. It's not that I'm against them. I don't want any knee brace manufacturers coming after me. (laughter) It's more that I want them for purposeful use."
(Miami Heat Head Coach Erik Spoelstra has been a fan of yours pretty much since the beginning. He was out there on Sunday. After the game, I got a chance to talk to him and he said, 'I love watching Mike's offensive plans.' Have you guys talked strategy between the sports at all? I know that's something that he's done. He's talked to football coaches over the years. Have you guys shared anything along those lines or has it just been sort of building a personal friendship?) – "We've talked a little bit about the commonalities with which we share kind of different ways to look at the game. Really the biggest commonality that we've shared is we are in a business where our job is to motivate and curate and get the best out of the players that we have. It's a complicated life of the professional athlete, where you have so many people in your ear, so many people making money off of you. To be able to take these highly successful individuals, and make them a team, I think that there's a shared experience that we've really mostly focused on when we've talked, because it's some of the biggest problem solving that you need to really undertake. I use basketball references all the time. I think watching the Heat play gave me all sorts of motivation in the offseason, just by team over everything. What is the saying? The sum is greater than the parts, or whatever? That's what I see from them, and I think that very much applies to professional football in general, because you always have talented players across the board, but 11 people working together is what generates results. We have a cool relationship. There's not direct X's and O's. I mean, I can't even explain to you. I can't help watching basketball and following the ball. I know that to be wrong from a coach's perspective, because when I watch football, I see all the things moving at once. I'm not just staring at where the ball is going. But I can't do it in basketball, so I would be very little help. It would just be kind of one-sided. Like, 'tell me how you do things again.'. We've got a more equitable friendship, I would say."
(I wanted to ask you about WR Robbie Chosen. Last week he was elevated up from the practice squad and he was kind of the heavy guy in the base package that you guys have. Is that because of his speed or you just saw a matchup that you liked?) – "Last week gave him an unbelievable opportunity. We had specifically Jaylen (Waddle) down, and he had been training within the offense so well. You're right, the speed is something that you have to account for and makes it a little more difficult for defenses to just hone-in on Tyreek (Hill), especially when Jaylen's not out there. Having said that, the reason why he's on the team, and the reason why he was able to make the play – the big play that he made, but then a ton of plays actually in the run game that he made during the week – is because how he's taken all of this football acumen, all of his playmaking ability, and he's really immersed himself within the offense. He is able to execute tasks that seem menial, that are huge, that allows you to be on the field to make plays. I think last week, he had the opportunity. We started rotating him at the beginning of the game and he gave us a reason not to take him out. So then he got a lot of burn. That will always be the case. You're playing well, and you get to stay in there. I would say it's playmaking ability is very intriguing to us and one of the reasons why he's here. But it's his immersion into the offense that allows him to actually do something with it on Sundays."
(As you watch film, are there teams that will both shadow Buffalo WR Stefon Diggs and spy on Buffalo QB Josh Allen?) – "Yeah, I mean, people try everything against really good offenses like that. It's a team defense. Those guys are the focal points of their offense, but it's not the only parts of their offense. It's the teams that whatever your plan is, if you're able to play complementary football, you're able to be sound in coverage but then get pass rush, you're able to get pass rush but not completely void pass-rush lanes. There's no exact formula, no right or wrong way. It's just you have to be a complete way. Because if you jump out of a gap to try to get greedy and get a sack, he'll step up and he'll run off to his right and throw a 75-yard bomb to Diggs down the field. If you catch yourself being lazy on the back end, and you have a sound rush, but then he gets an extra hitch and then Diggs wheels out and you're made pay. I think it's more about having a complete defense and doing what you're good at, but applying it to that specific team, which is what we're trying to do this week."