Read the transcript from Head Coach Mike McDaniel's press conference on Monday, September 5, 2022.
(So you obviously have Pro Bowl CB Xavien Howard. You have a good corner with a body of work in CB Nik Needham. The question that we all might get from readers – I've gotten this a few times – is if you could take us through the thinking that you and General Manager Chris Grier had in deciding to stick with a young group beyond that, obviously with CB Keion Crossen and CB Noah Igbinoghene, DB Elijah Campbell obviously can play some corner and CB Kader Kohou, as opposed to the other option that you had. Was there a couple of 30-something former Pro Bowl corners out there? The Joe Hadens the Chris Harrises – what was the thinking of you and Chris in sticking with these young guys instead of an older former Pro Bowl-type corner?) – "Well, as you guys were very consistent at reminding me in in the course of the offseason, they may be young and new to the Miami Dolphins fan base and to you guys, but because we were going through some injury stuff during this offseason, we actually got more opportunity to really coach and evaluate and see our young nucleus of defensive backs, which was the driving force of our move to make no move, so to speak, because they're very veteran to us in regard to their capabilities, their strengths, weaknesses, and so on. So we were actually pretty fortunate in the process to get those opportunities to kind of evaluate all those guys so closely, getting them to see every single defensive structure, coverage, responsibility, and then even getting extensive time in the preseason. There was a lot of value that the collective group really offered us. And then you weigh that against who's out there and decide if you really want to go down that road and for us, we felt like we had enough NFL players that were best served, not doing so."
(On the running back rotation) – "Oh, you got some fantasy decisions to make? (laughter) No, you just – and you guys have heard me talk and it's following through with kind of the whole ideology of not getting yourself ahead of the curve. You just have a group of guys that you try to go out and compete with, and then you kind of see where it falls. So there are some skillsets that are overlapping, but that wasn't necessarily by design. You really just let the stuff play out and that group of running backs was as competitive as I can really remember having in my NFL career, which is great thing for the Miami Dolphins. And what that affords us is a lot of guys that the whole group has the ability to make plays in both phases of offensive football. And with those overlapping skill sets, to me all that means is we should be able to have someone fresh who is someone that we can lean on a hot hand if necessary, but we can keep running backs fresh because in this day and age where there's physical football, plus on top of that, it's a very fast game – the fastest it's ever been really. I think data would support that you want guys that are in charge of carrying the football and making plays in the pass game as well to be as fresh as possible and I think that's what our group allows us."
(Has any of your running backs stood out to you in short-yardage goal-line situations?) – "I think they all have specific type concepts and plays that I didn't know going into this offseason that I know now depending on if they like to be under center or in gun, what side of the – certain types of ball handling – all of these things you kind of find and learn your runners. And yes, there are some schemes that are tied to them. I'll leave that for your best guess, and I guess opposing defensive coaches who we're facing – and there's some overlap there, too. So I think the biggest thing is for us to be able to have fresh ball carriers at any given moment. And I know they're all capable of toting the rock for the Miami Dolphins when called upon, which is why I'm excited."
(The New England Patriots are reportedly coming down here this week to practice to acclimatize to the heat and humidity. Have you done things like that in the past, whether it's the wet ball or blaring opponents' fight song or cranking up the temperature in the practice dome and does it work to any degree?) – "That's the fortunate thing about being this old young guy that you're looking at. I have been in league for an extensive period of time and been under different head coaches, so I feel like I've tried a lot of different things. Whether it's correlation or causation, I think my personal philosophy is you fit it to the needs of your team. I don't think that this has been, like, kind of his mode of operation – Coach Belichick's in years past. So clearly he feels like it's important for this team. There's compounding variables and I don't think it will be the reason they win or lose. It will just be a contributing factor to either. So that's kind of the way I look at stuff generally and whether it's crowd noise, whether it's fight songs, I've been a part of it all. I remember early in my career – I think it was my first year coaching in Denver, but I feel the whole week that we were playing the Raiders, we listened to that Raiders anthem, which was droned in my head. And it's kind of like a high-low, too. Like it starts off really soft and you're like, 'what is this?' So we've done that. Have gone time zones, are generally important, where if you're going to do two across the country trips, we've spent time there. And we've tried to compensate for the heat in the past. And so there's a bunch of different avenues that coaches go, and you know what, they're always right when they win, and it's up to debate if they lose, so I think that will be the same moving forward with this game."
(Some players say that like they need to be hit before they really feel comfortable in a game. Is facing Bill Belichick in your first regular season NFL game like the coaching equivalent of that?) – "Yeah, I mean, can there be a larger disparity in career win-loss total? (laughter) No, it would be a bigger deal I think if Coach Belichick and I were on the field, maybe doing like an Oklahoma drill, but I don't foresee that happening. I don't think the fans would really pay for that. We do our best. I know one thing that coaches in the National Football League – especially experienced NFL head coaches, especially arguably the best coach of all time, Bill Belichick, he's going to be prepared. So you know that as a head coach, you better prepare your team and leave no stone unturned. Otherwise, you'll end up kind of coaching with regret after the fact. Luckily, the schedule came out a long time ago, so I digested that and knew what Week 1 was, and luckily it's the Miami Dolphins versus New England Patriots and not a one-on-one square-off between head coaches."
(I wanted to ask you, it's been about a week since Jason Jenkins' passing and with his Celebration of Life today, I just wanted to check in and see how you were doing, how the team has been doing as you get ready to celebrate his life.) – "It doesn't go away. I think that's human nature. You just asked me before Hal's question, so I'm getting choked up and it's going to be tough, but I'll get through it. Yeah, it doesn't go away. And nor should it. That's just being human. You just know that – really the hardest part for me is thinking about Liz and the kids. I don't think anybody is shortsighted in that. There's things that our day-to-day lives have been substantially adjusted, some people more than others, but regardless, it's affected and that's tough. And so you just try to lean on the people that you love and care about and try to really lean on each other as a team and put your best foot forward. But it's not anywhere corrected or fixed. That feeling doesn't go away nor I don't think as a human being, should it."
(It's hard to go back to a football question. Now that we're past the preseason games and vanilla play calling and so forth, I think people are kind of curious as to what to expect from you in terms of a play caller. I know game situations dictate a lot of that, but in general, how would you categorize your philosophy toward calling plays?) – "The good ones were my calls. The bad ones were my staff's suggestions. (laughter) No, I think you just – to me, the best way offensively or defensively to call plays is not to live in a box of predetermined X, Y or Z. You're trying to play to the strength of what your team is good at, what your players are good at and then balancing what you're going to see and just trying to stay productive. You try to keep people out of harm's way while also getting explosive plays on offense and preventing them on defense down-in, down-out. What does that mean from a practical application (standpoint)? Absolutely nothing. It means that from week to week, if a defense is presenting one thing that's terrible and run certain types of plays, I'll do my best not to run those plays. But I think what you will see from me as a play caller is someone that's doing their best to adjust to the defense while playing to the strengths of our nucleus and our players. And I think that may change after the first two series. There might be some crazy orbit-style defense that I hadn't thought about and we didn't prepare for and after the first two series, we'll adjust. That's the coolest thing about Week 1, in general, is because, you know that there's build up on both sides of the ball. You have stuff that you've planned for, but what you haven't planned for is the unplannable. So then you adjust during the game, and I've been fortunate enough to be in a position in my career where I've been able to put myself through that whole play calling process deliberately for basically the past decade. And so it's not something that – I don't see the cause for the unexpected or the call for unexpected. I know Week 1 you expect the unexpected, and we'll get into a rhythm and hopefully that rhythm is drives that are a lot of yards and end in points. And then we'll go from there, but it's not something that could ever typecast I don't think because I think that's short-selling the defensive players and the scheme that were going against."
(How much do three practices in the South Florida heat get a team acclimated based on your experience or during training camp when your team…?) – "I don't think I've ever done it. I think it all depends on the team and their situation. I know certainly it makes sense from my standpoint, what Coach Belichick and the Patriots are doing, because it is it is very, very hot. I think that as much was relayed to us from the Philadelphia Eagles head coach and team. They were like, 'whoa, this is different.' It is. So whether that amounts to X, Y or Z, I think it's just a part of it. As much as it's awesome to feel comfortable with the heat, I know Coach Belichick will be saying, 'well, it doesn't matter if we don't execute our fundamental core principles.' And they could be really, really hot on Sunday, and if we don't execute, is it going to matter how hot they are? So it is a component, but to make it black and white, I don't think myself nor Coach Belichick – I don't want to speak for him, but I think that's just a component that he's trying to help his team get prepared for that game, but it's not the entirety of it. And so it'll be good for them to – I feel very lucky, almost overly lucky that I get to work on my tan all the time. I'm sure there's a lot of players and coaches for the Patriots that'll be excited to bronze up a little bit before the TV regular season starts. So I know that for a fact that if you don't put sunscreen on, you will get bronzed. So, factually, they better SPF up. (laughter)"