Read the transcript from Head Coach Mike McDaniel's press conference on Wednesday, September 7, 2022.
(You've obviously been involved in game planning a lot before, but what's the part of being a head coach, what aspect of it – whether it's having final say on the game plan, whether it's something defensive – that for the first time in a while in your career, what are you most relishing or enjoying about this week as a head coach that you're doing for the first time?) – "Oh, I guess it's this particular staff. Me, personally, just not knowing if the opportunity would ever come but knowing that the bottom line was that I would never forgive myself if I wasn't ready. I've been preparing as though I was calling plays for years internally, to the point of each play, just being careful not to murmur it out loud. But really, this particular staff that I'm able to lead, just really getting – you spend all this time really making sure, I mean, it's countless hours to make sure that you see the game the same way because everybody's from different places and has different experiences. So there's no shortcut to it, you grind through that, but then going against an opponent and having all their contributions really, really helped the process for me, and made it pretty seamless to the point that I wasn't – I've been involved in not just the run game, but in the pass game for years as well. So doing that together has been enjoyable and I'm excited about that those working relationships really."
(It's obviously your first game, your first regular season game as the head coach of the Dolphins. But kind of continuing that play-calling experience with QB Tua Tagovailoa, what is your overarching message to him entering first game this season?) – "It's very similar to a lot of the players. I was talking to the team today, specifically about what are the unintended consequences about really putting your best foot forward and committing to your profession and your craft on a new level than you really have your whole career. The unintended consequences are that you may put pressure on yourself to say, 'Okay, I'm going to have the greatest game.' This has been a lot of buildup before Week 1, so guys can fall into the trap of losing sight of what football is. And that's a bunch of guys who have been working at their craft together for an extended period of time, playing together. So my biggest message to all the guys really is don't let all that investment hurt you. And start to think that you need to make X, Y or Z play. This is a team sport, the ultimate team sport, and that trust, all the training, have a very good week of preparation and then go have fun playing the game that you all have learned to enjoy, hopefully at a new level, with their current teammates, at the peak and pinnacle point of their careers."
(The unique thing about football is it's 348 days of preparation for 17 days of games and we've written a lot. We think you've got a pretty good team. Do you think you have a pretty good team? And if so, why?) – "I think in the National Football League, you have to have all cylinders aligned to win. To me, there's a group – I don't even know what the ratio would be. But I think it was Mike Shanahan who said it to me early in my career, that there's only a portion of the teams that have a chance because everyone's working together and you have the prerequisite talent. That being said, everybody's vulnerable to the wrong injuries at the wrong time. I do feel like we have a chance to really compete, and that's all you really want. I think we deserve to be in the party. And really, that's the cool thing about football is you're not guaranteed results. You just go all in and if you have the right talent and mix of people, you really give yourself a chance to do something pretty cool. So I'm very confident in the team. I'm very, very, very proud of them for where they're at. And then the name of the game in the National Football League is you put it all out there, it's game one, and then one of two things happen. We're either crowned or we suck. Either way, we have Week 2 And either way, I think a one win team in the course of a season wouldn't be to the satisfaction of the organization or the fans. So you really have to keep it in perspective, because that is the challenge. It's a huge buildup. That's one of the reasons why there's a phrase called like overreaction, whatever. The only reason is because people care and you guys are thinking and reporting about it. You have people tuning in or are reading all the material you guys provide for an extended period of time. It's not only the offseason, but then it's after Week 1. All of the best teams that I've been a part of, every single one of them got better during the course of the season. There was one time we went to the Super Bowl, I think we were 8-0, one time we went to the Super Bowl and we were 0-1. So you just try to build. That's what you're doing. You're building together and leaving it all out there each and every week because it's finite for all of us. It really is. So to bask in that and really enjoy all the work and camaraderie is my main point. But you're right it is. It is kind of a weird existence."
(What do you look for in a punter? And why did Thomas Morstead, why is he here from that standpoint?) – "Well, a prerequisite is they have to be able to kick it farther than I can. (laughter) I have a very limited range, so doesn't weed too many people out. It's an interesting question because a lot of people can kick and a lot of people can punt. If you went to a punt, pass and kick situation, I'm not sure if the person that won there would be a top 32 NFL punter because it is a different skillset. It's not only the ability to boot the ball from foot to air, but you have to have a timing to it. You have to be able to have hand-eye (coordination), and you have to be able to handle pressure. They don't get a ton of opportunities. But when they do, they want to impact the game. So it's a lot more person than one would – I know at least I thought getting into it. But you realize it's so much about the strength of character, the resolve and people that live for big moments, which is one of the reasons that Thomas is so attractive to us."
(I don't know if you knew this but this actually a point of the year where NFL head coaches actually reveal who they're going to use and kicking off on kick and punt returns. So who's it going to be?) – "(laughter) You think you get good help around here and then you're just blindsided but I just take you for your word. (laughter) I meant it when I first (said it) – it wasn't just coach speak. This has always been curious to me, but an NFL game is like 150, 160 plays together, and you're trying to win a game. So special teams plays, they account for yards and points and can change the game as much as any offensive or defensive play. So that being said, the plan is to be very strategic with regard to the flow of the game, how much wind people have, where the ball's at, the score. But I plan on using – and I know Coach (Danny) Crossman feels the same, I plan on using our best players in the best situations for the team. So when it was early in my career, I think it was 2006, and Devin Hester took over the playoffs and then had all that buildup going into the Super Bowl, and made a huge impact on a team's entire journey. And I don't think there was an asterisk that it was special teams. So we'll be very strategic with that. You have to balance out what's going on, on offense and defense, for all of the players involved. But we're fortunate to have some highly skilled players that will use when appropriate and accordingly."
(We saw QB Tua Tagovailoa and WR Tyreek Hill work on a limited basis during the preseason together. WR Jaylen Waddle did not play during the preseason. If he's ready to go, as you anticipate, what do you hope that connection will be with two and Jaylen under game-like conditions when the season starts?) – "Well, ironically, I think that's the highest comfort level that Tua has had in his NFL career. When you're contributing to an NFL record, the amount of rookie receptions – and I noticed that when I was evaluating Tua this offseason, how convicted and how confident he played when throwing the ball to Jaylen specifically. So I don't see any negative. I mean, he went into the whole process with the most comfort level with him to start and he's been gaining a ton of confidence and comfort with our other receivers. And they've been catching up to Jaylen, really. So I have no worries about it. I'm excited to see him play and really see all of our guys play together, because we haven't got to do that besides on the Miami Gardens practice fields."
(Do you expect WR Jaylen Waddle to go this week then?) – "What did I say last week? Very, very…"
(Three very's) – "Three very's? (laughter) I mean he is limited. But my confidence hasn't changed."
(What do you see when you watch QB Mac Jones?) – "He's a really cool player. I really admire – it is one of my, it was one of the more impressive collegiate performances we've obviously had. We were involved in the quarterback evaluation process (in San Francisco), and just came away super impressed with his ability to play the NFL game. I think he's a guy that for whatever reason, people like to say subtle disparaging stuff. I see a really, really good NFL quarterback that he'll just continue to progress. He's one of the guys that I feel very confident in how he plays the position. And even if he has any sort of hiccups, he's one of the guys that you know is going to be a legitimate NFL player at that position, which is so hard to do. He commands the game. He really has a feel of timing and – elusive, people don't really say hand in hand, but within the pocket, he is very elusive. He's got a real cool charisma and command that I first saw when we were doing I think Zoom interviews at the time, talking to him about his stellar collegiate receivers, which one of them we have. I really like his play and I think the best is right in front of him for his career and I look forward to watching it 15 out of the 17 games of the NFL season."
(Is there some uncertainty preparing for the Pats offense that you have on Matt Patricia? Joe Judge is coming in. There's some uncertainty with the Pats offense with play-calling on their end. Do you not what to expect?) – "It's kind of like the norm to me. It's one of the features of Coach (Bill) Belichick's team for years is there's plenty of elements of surprise. So I guess I'd be surprised not to be surprised. There's a degree of – I'm not sure if it's uncertainty, but there's a little unknown. I'm sure people are saying the same thing about me and the Miami Dolphins. But at the same time, I do know that it's going to be very sound, very tied together, players are going to know what they're doing and there's going to be an intent with which they play football. So however that manifests itself, with different sort of wrinkles. At the same time, it's not about plays, it's how an offense kind of executes a system. And I've seen from the brief preseason footage, a team working on a system, which is a common denominator for successful offenses in the National Football League."
(Going back to the punt return situation. Your depth chart has WR Tyreek Hill, WR Jaylen Waddle and S Jevon Holland in that order. Obviously, those are three very important players on this team. How do you weigh the injury risk when deciding who to put out there?) –"They are. It's always been confusing. If I didn't trust teammates, it'd be an issue. But this just in, every single play, people are trying to tackle you. So again, and maybe you can explain it, why are special teams yards any different than throwing a screen? Now, if you don't trust your blockers, then – but I've just never, it doesn't really click for me. I think you also have to weigh in, on both sides, how they're being used the upcoming series or the series that we just had, and you have to be mindful of all of that. But if I sat and worried – if I made decisions, based upon safety in football, I'm not sure – that would be a process where I'm going to fail, I feel like. So every time they're on the field, it's a risk. If there's situations where – now maybe there's a punt team that is very, very, very hard to block and makes a ton of plays in punt coverage. That's a different story. And that's why it's not noncommittal because you're trying to be a guru guessing game. It's really because you're making decisions in real time that's best for your football team. You have to trust your players to lean on each other and keep each other out of harm's way. But yeah, every single play, every single snap, there's a huge risk for injury. That's the nature of the beast."
(Have you seen enough from CB Noah Igbinoghene this summer to be comfortable with him as your starter until CB Byron Jones comes back?) – "What I saw was Noah – it's really funny when I talk about him, because I've seen him make huge progressions in his game. And then, you have to remind yourself you're talking about a guy that's younger than a lot of our draft picks. I mean, he's 22 years old. So in the process, we're allowing him to compete every day. And in the short term, we'll never just pigeonhole things. I'm very confident with him out there. He knows that it's all about development. And I think he himself, when it's all said and done, wants there to be no conversation about whether or not he's a starter or not. That's his goal. And in the process, we're just going to keep allowing him to get opportunities in practice and in games and we'll always just play the best player for that given matchup on that given day."