Dolphins Postgame Quotes (Week 18)
Head Coach Mike McDaniel
Q. You said at the beginning of the season that this team belonged to the defense essentially until you were convinced otherwise. Did they show up today in the biggest moment?
Absolutely. A six-point outing is tough any way you cut it in the National Football League, and I’ve been really, really proud of them specifically in the last three weeks. I thought that down the stretch when we needed it most they’d really come through, so yeah, I can’t say enough about that effort when this team needed it.
Q. You guys have been through a lot, but now to get into the playoffs despite all that, how does it feel?
Well, I would say it feels tremendous. That doesn’t mean that that wasn’t the goal, was just to get to the playoffs, however, understanding all involved – you’re talking about people that have been within the organization for 30-plus years, you talk about a fan base that hasn’t seen their team go to the playoffs since 2016, you just talk about a lot of people involved, it’s very fulfilling for the way it happened. I feel like guys were very energized about their output during the season right around the bye week and right after that, and then to take five losses in a row, specifically the last three where I thought that we really had a chance to win, a phase was off in one way, shape or form; and for guys not to quit, because it is so much easier to quit, I’m very, very proud to be called the head coach of this team. It wasn’t just about the players that were playing in the game today. This was an accumulated effort. You can go down the line of all the injured players that weren’t able to play had an effect on this game and our ability to get to the playoffs, which is what you want for your organization. For you to ultimately finish the season the right way, you have to get into the tournament and put your best foot forward. Very, very happy about the defense. Very happy about the offense. Shoot, I think we’ve gone – how many tackles have we played? I feel like it’s like seven. Skylar Thompson, a rookie, gets the start, doesn’t turn the ball over. Heavily, heavily influenced and assisted by his position coach, his position coaches, Coach (Darrell) Bevell and Coach (Chandler) Henley, but also Teddy Bridgewater and Tua are humongous – they’ve had a huge impact in how he’s approached the game. I know he’s very – that doesn’t happen without them. You can go down the line. We had – I think the last quarter of the game – we had a guard playing tackle, and then defensively for them not to give up a touchdown was absolutely critical, and then how about — you can almost sum up the whole season, which I think this is life, this is what a football season is. Hopefully it’s not as extreme as five on, five off. But Jason Sanders, to come through the way he did and have all the points, especially that last one, you have to be built different for that. I’m very, very happy with the entire locker room, the entire building, and I feel they wanted no part of this season to be over, and it’s not. Now they get another opportunity to play together, which they really hold dear to their heart, and I think that goes to show, by the way, that they’ve really put their best foot forward through some games that haven’t turned out the way you’d want them to.
Q. I know that earlier you said you didn’t want to pay any attention to the score of the Bills-Patriots game and the videoboard didn’t show the score, but when your game was over were you able to take a glance, and when did it finally hit that that outcome was what you needed…?
There were a couple people right after I shook hands with some of the Jets’ coaches that I know too well, so I didn’t know any sort of score, because that was the objective. We needed to win, regardless. Nothing mattered if we didn’t. Then I saw Anne Noland – I’ve never played her, but she’s probably terrible at poker. She had a grin, and I was like, ‘oh, okay.’ And then the game was on in the locker room, so guys were able to see that it was a two-score lead, and guys were able to see that it was a kneel-down. It’s to everyone’s credit. You don’t want it to always be this hard within the game or within the season, but at the same time, for you to do anything special, you have to go through adversity. You have to learn from it, and you have to improve. The bottom line was we, the last two games specifically, the team did enough to win and then critical mistakes, which we weren’t void of, but critical turnovers in the second half had led to our demise. Today that wasn’t the case. It was team football that was really a field position match-up. There was a lot of runs, not as many explosives, and guys really had to dig deep, but very happy with the outcome.
Q. We’re aware of your usual postgame, how you leave the field, but you went running off today. Was that to watch the end of the game or was that just…?
I’ve pulled that card a couple times. It’s my move when I’m really excited, so I don’t know what else to do, but I just run. It’s the only running I get all season. That’s happened a couple times, but it’s just because I’m fired up and want to go sit down and try to take it in because I literally don’t take in anything that’s happened the entire game, so it’s like — then I like to run into the room and be like, yes, get a couple high fives — I’ve got a bruised finger from high-fiving something. All that was is just to dissipate energy, I guess.
Q. What would the process be with QB Tua Tagovailoa this week and where is Teddy in terms of his status?
We have a lot of question marks. I left the Tua question last Friday. He’ll have another day. We’ll continue to take it day by day and I will not even think about any sort of game, whether that’s this year or next year, until he’s fully ready to do so, and that comes with medical clearance. That’s why the procedure is in place. Haven’t even thought about that. Ready for either quarterback against the Bills. There’s a lot of things that have to – we have to get through the training room first. Teddy was battling to be available and we think that he was in a spot that he could have come through in an emergency situation, and Skylar (Thompson) got twisted up a couple times, too, so we’ll have to see how all that shapes out. But yeah, there will be some question marks, but fortunately this team has proven not to blink in any sort of question marks either way. We have guys that we really believe in, and we’ll go with the healthiest group up to Buffalo and play a very good football team.
Q. You need obviously to get him through the protocol, QB Tua Tagovailoa, before you would consider it. Do you need a full week of practice coming off of that long layoff?
Again, I’m pretty disciplined. Once it was articulated to me that it doesn’t help Tua in any way, shape or form if I project any sort of things besides, hey, what are we doing today and are we getting better today, I haven’t even thought about it. I just want him to take everything day by day, and we’ll assess everything when he’s fully cleared, whenever that is. But I’m not worried about timelines or – saying yes or no to the postseason is another added layer of anxiety either way, whatever I say. I’m not in the business of that. I’m going to do what’s best for that player. We’ll see each and every day. It’s not because I like keeping people in suspense. It’s because it’s the best thing for the human being.
Q. You had your first successful challenge of the season. How did it feel to finally get it done?
I was actually saying that on the headset, because I was very aware of that. I had a feeling, and I was like, ‘You know what? How fitting would this be if I finally get one right, and it’s the 18th week, 17th game, fourth quarter.’ Like the rest of the locker room, I just was battle tested, tried to learn from my mistakes, but it was nice that it ended up being a big turning point, and so credit goes to all the people communicating with me and provoking me to not have a long memory on all these failed attempts, which I had one that half, as well.
Q. Did you get a chance to talk to QB Tua Tagovailoa at all after this game and see his reaction?
Yeah, no, he was in the locker room waiting for his teammates, and he was just all smiles because this is his team that he – this was the first game we were able to pull off without him, and he was just happy for his teammates and happy for himself because, like I said, everybody that’s a part of – that’s what’s so cool about team sports, so it’s not, ‘okay, this person got us to the playoffs, that person…’ I mean, shoot, he’s led us to where we’re at to the point that we’ve had two games down the stretch of the season that if we win one, we could possibly make the postseason. That’s to his credit. He was very happy and shaking hands and just being there for his teammates.
Q. Has he been talking to QB Skylar Thompson a lot?
No, icing him out. (laughter) Yeah, of course. Tua is a great guy, Skylar is a great guy. They have great guy conversations.
Q. What was it like sharing that moment with Steve Ross after the game, the guy who brought you here?
It’s really cool. I am not one to feel entitled to anything. Also, my walks of life have kind of led me to have an infinite memory of anytime someone takes a chance on me. I’m very loyal to that. It was very — I know how many other teams were interviewing me, so the answer is zero, and he felt his gut that that didn’t matter, that this was the right fit for everything that we’re trying to do here, and I’ll forever be loyal to that. I really feel like over time people will truly realize what type of unbelievable owner he is, and he’s just been a hundred percent supportive, so I was very happy to share that with him and then the president, Tom Garfinkel and Chris Grier and Brandon Shore. All those guys, I feel indebted to. We’re not nearly done by any stretch, but to continue to progress with your goals, you have to get goal one. To be in the tournament was something that I feel like I would have felt shortchanged the team, the players and the organization if we weren’t able to do it, and we found a way, so I’m very happy about that part.
Q. How do you sum up those emotions that you felt once it was over, when the clock hit zeros, and you found out also that Buffalo had beaten New England?
I still haven’t — you get terrible versions of me in postgame press conferences. I’m trying to keep the integrity of every decision that I make during the course of a game, so I can’t spend any time having emotion on anything that happens. In that process, you get to the end of the game, and it’s like, all right, you’ve done that for three and a half hours; what’s next. Okay, now I need to go talk to the team. Then I need to come in here and talk to you guys. I’m not sure if it’s really — long story short, I’m a terrible podium guy because I don’t really know how I feel. I’ll probably figure that out later tonight, but I know one thing. I will be excited tomorrow to come to work and begin the game planning process again because I was not ready for that to be discontinued for the season. I think a lot of guys really are – it meant a lot to them, this team, and they didn’t want to see it go, and they knew what the stakes were, which is why I’m that much more proud of them.
Q. How does it feel?
Do you see my face? (laughter) It feels amazing. Throughout this whole entire year for this entire football team, to experience the things that we experienced and to finish it like this, it’s pretty special. I think it speaks volumes about the type of guys we’ve got in our locker room, and they’re willing to fight. That’s something that I’ve prided myself on my entire life is fighting, and I felt like that game today was the definition of just fighting. It wasn’t always pretty, but we did what we had to do to win and made the plays when we needed to to win. That is all that matters. I am very grateful to stand up here and be part of this team and to have the opportunity that I did today. It was special and meant a lot to me.
Q. When the outcome of your own game came, not only did you get the win, but the video board showed the score for the Patriots game for the first time. I’m assuming you didn’t know the score. When you see that, what’s going through your mind then?
Obviously, we had to take care of business. I wasn’t paying attention to that at all until obviously after the game, seeing it. It just gives you butterflies, man, to have the opportunity to go to the playoffs. It’s something that we’ve talked about for a long time around here, and what? It’s been (20-plus) years since we’ve (won) in the playoffs, so that’s something that we’ve set a large goal to accomplish this year. Like I said, just the adversity that we’ve faced, overcoming what we have to get to this point is something to be very proud of and is very special.
Q. Can you take us into the locker room? What was it like? Did they give out any game balls? What happened?
Yeah, game balls for everybody. Everybody was part of this win, from top to bottom. That’s what’s so cool is everybody is just so happy for one another, to see each other succeed. Everybody was making plays. That’s something that I tried to just preach before the game is just to trust the guy next to you, trust the preparation that we’ve put in and go make plays for the guy next to you and trust whenever it comes down to the wire, we’re going to make a play and we’re going to win the game. Having a one-play-at-a-time mindset is what I had all day today, just one play at a time. OK, one play is over, what’s the next play? What’s my call? What’s my read? Go through it and execute it the best I can to give us a chance to win. And we did that at the end of the day, and it’s awesome.
Q. Do you leave here thinking that – it’s a long week ahead, but do you leave here thinking you’re going to be starting that playoff game?
You know, I’m soaking this in as much as I can right now. I have no idea what that’s going to look like. That will be something for a couple days from now, whatever that looks like. I’m enjoying this. It’s important to celebrate stuff like this for the time being and soak it all in, and that’s what I’m going to do.
Q. When you think about the storyline of this year for you, your last game of your rookie season is your first win as a starter, and you put your team into the playoffs. Could you have scripted it any better?
No. No. I mean, it’s crazy. One thing that I’ve just held true to myself all year, because I’ve had my own ups and downs, and it’s been a crazy journey for me this year and just the experiences and situations that I’ve experienced. It hasn’t always been pretty, hasn’t always been perfect, but I believe everything that I went through set me up and prepared me for this moment. I had so much confidence coming into this game because looking back at this year, it was like, ‘What have I not experienced?’ I’m ready for this. I’m built for this, and I’ve prepared for this my whole life. I’ve just got to be myself, have fun out there and let the game come to me. I truly felt like I did that today.
Q. Where do you feel like momentum is with this team? It’s been a really streaky year for this team. It seems like you either win or lose and then go on that streak. What’s it feel like right now? Do you feel like you can get something going when it matters the most?
Yeah, of course. That’s something that we’re working through as a team is not getting too high, not getting too low, stay right in between. That’s key for us to get where we want to get to. I think this is a great opportunity for us to get back in the win column, get some momentum going. Guys are confident. Seeing a win and feeling a win is important, especially going into the playoffs (and) going to Buffalo, which is a very good football team. We’re going to be confident, and I believe we’ve been confident all year. It’s great momentum for us moving forward.
Q. In a game like this where you don’t know if one play could decide it, it’s going to be low scoring, one mistake could decide it. As you’re going through, what are you thinking as far as managing that, making sure you don’t make that mistake and getting them and setting it up just to kick field goals if you had to?
Yeah, well, not thinking about not making a mistake. My mindset was just to take care of the football. It’s having positive – there’s ways of saying that in a positive way to where it’s not a playing scared type thing, where it’s just taking what the defense gives us and trusting our defense. Our defense played so well today, special teams, everything, trusting that everybody is going to do their job. All I’ve got to do is put us in a position to score. If that is field goals, if that’s touchdowns, whatever the case may be, it’s having that one-play mentality that I was talking about. I think that really helped me manage the game and put us in a situation to win.
Q. Was there any one person, whether it’s teammate, coach, relative, who helped put you in the right frame of mind before this start today?
I touched on this earlier in the year. I have so many great people around me – my family, my circle, the people in my life that I have are very special. Throughout this whole week, it wasn’t like anybody was telling me, ‘Hey, you’ve got to go be a hero. You’ve got to go save the season. You’ve got to go do this; you’ve got to go do that.’ It was just, ‘Hey, you’re prepared for this. You’re built for this, and this opportunity, this moment is what you’ve worked for and what you’ve lived for your entire life.’ I heard that from a multitude of people. That just – that kept me so calm and so just dialed in to the process. My college coach, Coach Klieman reached out to me, I want to say it was Wednesday, and just told me to trust my preparation and prepare. ‘You’re going to win this game with your preparation,’ and that’s something that he always told me in college. My quarterback coach in college reached out to me, chatted a little bit last night. It’s just those people in my life that I have great relationships with that know me and I know them really well, I got in contact with and just talked. I think the biggest thing for me this week was that I’ve experienced the week of preparation as a starter, so I knew what to expect. I knew what it was going to look like, I knew what it took. I felt very confident when I woke up this morning that today was going to be a good day. It sure was.
Q. Can you walk us through that last drive? Obviously, the penalty on WR Jaylen Waddle when you got a horse collar was a big swing. What was that drive like for you all?
Yeah, well, season is on the line. What’s crazy is you would think that guys would feel the pressure, feel the – get tight and get anxious about making a play. But I felt we were very loose, very calm in the huddle. We have great leadership. Tyreek (Hill), Trent Sherfield, guys were speaking up, ‘Hey, it’s one play at a time. One play at a time. Take it as it is, trust each other, we’re going to do this.’ That really helped me just not trying to be a hero, just making a couple plays there, making a couple throws to get us in that situation to have a chance to kick a field goal and win it. And then Jason (Sanders) nailed it. It’s the true definition of just trusting each other, trusting your brothers, and guys pulled through and did their job, and it’s awesome.
Q. Did you watch K Jason Sanders’ field goal, or did you turn away?
I was pacing. (laughter) Yeah, I watched it. I watched it. I had all the confidence in the world he was going to nail it. He did. It was awesome.
WR Tyreek Hill
(Is there one word to describe that field goal going through the posts?)
“I’ve three words; I was emotional.”
(Why were you emotional?)
“I don’t know, man. You really understand just the history of the Miami Dolphins, just the grind of this whole season and everything that this team has been through. Just thinking about that moment, it felt really good. For Jason (Sanders) be able to go out there and give us the lead and then the way the defense played for us all day, it was great.”
(How do you put the emotions aside of the past five weeks to concentrate on this one game?)
“For myself, and what I tell the guys in our room, we just have to look beyond that. We have to find ways to look at our losses, take accountability and get better from it. That’s what we’ve been doing this whole season.”
CB Xavien Howard
(You were the only player last time you all made the playoffs. How sweet it is to finally get back?)
“It feels good to be back in there. Last one was in 2016 versus the Steelers. Now we have the Bills, so we have to keep our head down and go to work. It’s a great feeling just being in that group of guys, especially those young guys that are getting that feeling just being in the playoffs.”
(What was that feeling like on the sideline when the field goal went in?)
“We still had to get out there so the game wasn’t over. We had to make sure it was 0:00 on the clock. It was a great feeling after the game seeing a lot of people happy and like I said, we just have to keep growing, keep getting better.”
(How does that must-win mentality equip you for the playoffs?)
“I feel like each week we try to have the mentality to win one game at a time. It came down to the end. They fought hard. It was a good game and we ended up taking it off.”
LB Jaelen Phillips
(How great does it feel to accomplish the goal that you guys came in with and now you guys are in the playoffs?)
“We are all incredibly excited. I am just so, so proud of our guys and so proud of this team for pushing through everything. But (it’s a) 0-0 season now, so win or go home. We are excited. We’re really excited.”
(What did it feel like sweating that out, not only focusing really what was happening on the field but I’m sure, every once in a while, glancing up at the scoreboard?)
“I mean, I was just playing. I had confidence in our guys, man. Like I said, even though we had our ups and downs during the season, our confidence never wavered and our trust in each other never wavered. It was really just a testament to what kind of team we are and the guys that we have here. It felt good.”
(What can you say about the job QB Skylar Thompson did, to be a seventh-round rookie to come in and help lead you guys to the playoffs?)
“He was super poised, did exactly what he needed to do, protected the ball, moved the ball down the field, helped facilitate things and get the ball to the guys. Yeah, he did an amazing job – proud of him.”
LB Elandon Roberts
(Throughout the course of the season, you win three, lose three, win five, lose five — what kind of rollercoaster was that like and how did you guys stay together to pull out the must win-game situation of the year?)
“I just think it is the need. It’s a lot of ups-and-downs throughout the season. It’s about how you respond. It’s about not letting it just go downhill. You see the ebbs and flows and it’s just about ‘okay I’m on the rise, how do I duplicate, I know that response, okay I am dipping again what do I need to do to respond from that?’ There is no secret to winning five games. It’s about how you respond. And like I was saying, if they told us that we would be able to control our own destiny the last game of the season, who wouldn’t have been ready for that opportunity? And we took advantage of it today on offense, defense and special teams.”
(So many times we ask you what Coach (Mike McDaniel) said after a game, but what did Coach McDaniel say before the game to motivate you coming out?)
“I think ‘guys, let’s just lock in’ we heard the message that we’re here and like I said we were guaranteed 60 minutes and it was on us. What we did was take full advantage and played the full 60-minute game – offense, defense and special teams.”
(As bad as those last five locker rooms felt, what did it feel like when the ball went through the uprights?)
“It felt good. I knew Jason (Sanders) would hit it. Jason doesn’t flinch. If there’s one thing about Jason is he doesn’t flinch. I knew. And then we would get back on the field and play defense the way we know. We had been talking about the situations and because we had no doubt he was going to hit it. Like I said, it was going to be that type of game – offense, defense and special teams. That’s what it came down to.”
K Jason Sanders
(Before the kick I saw you standing, I think you were by the opposite 20-yard line just taking in the moment. What were you thinking before you get the chance to go out there?)
“It’s kind of my routine, I like to come from behind the 50 whichever direction we’re going. I’m going to say the same thing I do every time. Every kick is the same whether its 50, 30 yards. I’m going to take the same approach. Every kick is a big kick for me.”
(At what point during the game did you feel like, “all right, this might come down to me?”)
“You can kind of feel it throughout the game. Low scoring, it was 6-6. When that penalty hit, it was just one of those kind of things like, ‘it’s time.’ We’re going to have an opportunity.”
(Did it feel like the playoffs with a must win mentality?)
“Yeah, I mean we had to win. That’s what makes it more special. And that’s why I am more happy about these guys, the way they fight. They never give up. They put in good hard work at practice all week and sometimes it shows and sometimes it doesn’t, but they’re working hard and it’s cool to see it pay off.”
WR Jaylen Waddle
(Through all the adversity this year how does this feel for you? I’m sure there was a big celebration when you saw the Bills score when you came in.)
“It feels great. A lot of hard work that goes into the season. The ultimate goal is to get into the tournament, so now we’re in there. We’re ready to go out there and compete.”
(What can you say about QB Skylar Thompson today and how he handled what he needed to do?)
“Man, Skylar (Thompson) was balling. He came in, really kept his composure and had control of the huddle. He just really showcased his attributes that we all know and love him for. He is here for a reason. (For) him go out there and compete, I’m happy for him.”
(I know you guys do this for each other, but for Head Coach Mike McDaniel to experience this his first year, can you just put it into perspective how much he means to you guys and how much this means?)
“Yeah, man – (Head Coach) Mike (McDaniel) had real big goals and aspirations when he first came in. It’s just a milestone and I’m happy he gets to hit it in his first crack at it. He’s a great coach. He’s just going to continue to get better and make us better.”
RB Jeff Wilson Jr.
(Can you tell us how QB Skylar Thompson did today?)
“Tremendous. I like to feel people. Get people’s energy and every time he came in the huddle I never felt a tremble, I never felt a terror, I never felt a fear. He was just ‘I’m going, I’m going, you all just stay with me’ and that’s what we did. We just told him to do your job and we got everything else. Just focus on playing ball. He did a tremendous job.”
(11-6 was ugly, but a dub is a dub.)
“A dub is a dub, our win. I don’t care who it is or what time it is; to get a win in this league is hard. It isn’t like you’re playing a sorry team or somebody with no talent, everybody has talent from the top of their roster to their bottom. To come out and get a win on any Sunday is a blessing and I’m very thankful.”
(You’ve known Mike McDaniel for a little while now, what do you think this meant for him? Not just to get in the playoffs but to have a winning season in his first year as a coach?)
“I’m so happy for Mike because I know the work that he puts in. When somebody is working extremely hard, you just want to see them reap the benefits, reap the fruits, and that’s for anybody in anything they’re doing in life. To see him get rewarded for all of his hard work, all of the stress, all of the backlash, all of the talk, all of the sleepless nights, all of the time away from his family; to see it finally pay off that’s an absolute blessing.”