Jason Taylor – February 9, 2016 Download PDF version

Thursday, February 9, 2017

Defensive End/Linebacker Jason Taylor

(Opening statement) – “First of all, I apologize for making you guys wait. Some things never change. (laughter) I want to thank everyone for being here. It’s obviously a huge honor. I couldn’t be happier; I couldn’t be more surprised, but what a great experience we had in Houston. I had the chance to take my sons with me so Isaiah and Mason got to see it all and experience the whole ride and the emotion of sitting around waiting. Obviously, to get the knock on the door, to go into the Hall of Fame, it’s the pinnacle of what we do in professional sports, the pinnacle of professional football. I can’t be more elated to be in the Hall of Fame with the other nine Miami Dolphins that are there. One of my best friends and mentors for so many years and a guy I look up to, even to this day, Dan Marino, is here today. When I came in, in ’97, I used to sit across the locker room and look at Dan, knowing who he was, what he was, what he meant to Miami and to the National Football League. I’m not on Dan’s level but I’m a Hall of Famer like Dan Marino and that just blows my mind. I still have not grasped it yet because it’s been a whirlwind. As you can see, I’m way behind schedule, as I’m here an hour late; but I owe a lot of people thanks – and this will all go over the next six or seven months, to get a chance to thank everybody, hopefully individually – but if I don’t get to see them, I’ll have a speech in Canton and touch on them there. But (President and Chief Executive Officer) Tom Garfinkel and (Senior Vice President, Special Projects and Alumni Relations) Nat Moore had a chance to be in the room in Houston, and (Senior Director, Video and Game Day Production) Jeff Griffith, had a chance to be there and experience the anticipation, the nervousness. My daughter called at like 4:30 p.m. and when the phone rang, everyone kind of got real quiet; but thank God it was her and not somebody else from the Hall of Fame saying, ‘You didn’t make it.’ I want to thank (Vice President of Historical Affairs) Harvey Greene and (Senior Director, Digital and Print Media) Scott Stone who have done a ton of work, and (Executive Director of the Jason Taylor Foundation) Seth Levit, who did a ton of work putting together stats and information from my body of work for 15 years. These guys are good. They came up with stuff that I didn’t know – numbers that I had not been aware of. As a defensive end, you know how many sacks you have, you know how many touchdowns you have, but it’s the game changing and affecting plays that I was lucky enough to make. These guys worked tirelessly to put together to present to the Hall of Fame selectors. I want to thank the selectors as well. (Miami Herald Columnist) Armando Salguero did the presentation there in Houston and 80 percent of that group felt I was worthy to go into the Hall of Fame. So as I said, I’m still trying to figure it all out but, as everyone has told me since then, I keep telling them that I can’t believe it. They’re like ‘Look, they can’t take it back now.’ So those 48 selectors, I owe them all dinner, or whoever selected me. One guy – there’s a bunch of guys that made it possible as teammates – and one guy that’s in the room here and I’ll touch on others I’m sure in the answers later, but Sam Madison. I said this in Houston at the press conference, with Sam Madison and Pat Surtain playing defense – playing man-to-man defense on the outside – I could teach anybody in this room how to get to the quarterback. When you get eight or nine seconds to get there to make plays, it makes it so much easier. Zach Thomas, Tim Bowens, Trace Armstrong, I mean the list goes on. I don’t want to exclude anybody but the guys that I played with over the years, offensively and defensively, made this possible. There are so many things we take away from different teammates, no matter what side of the ball they are on. I’ve always said that I was the lucky recipient of making plays and getting a chance to stand up in front of the media and talk about it, and get my picture out there and my name out there and all of that. But there were some guys that really, really grind that don’t get credit, that don’t get seen, that don’t show up on the stat sheet. I had a chance … I was walking around the NFL Experience Friday night with my sons in Houston and got a call from Tim Bowens. Tim Bowens is the man. To get a call from … he actually texted Seth (Levit), who works over at the office, and told Seth to tell me congrats; and Seth said why don’t you just call him, you have his number. He’s like, ‘Man, he never answers the phone.’ So when the phone rang an hour later at the Experience, I had to answer it. But it was crazy in there with fans and people and trying to keep track of my kids but I answered the call and Tim was like, ‘Man, what the heck are you doing answering the phone?’ But it was good to get a chance to talk to him and then he texted me obviously after I got selected. I want to thank (Executive Vice President, Football Operations) Mike Tannenbaum and everybody here at the Dolphins organization for always making me feel at home. This was home for 13 of my 15 years and even when I played for the Jets and for Washington, this was always home. I could always come back here. I see (Team Security Emeritus) Stu (Weinstein) in the back. Stu was always welcoming and this is home. I can’t even put into words how much this means to me as a player, as an individual, as a Miami Dolphin, to my family and all of the hundreds and hundreds of my teammates that I’ve had throughout the years. My bust is going to be in Canton but Sam Madison, Dan Marino, Pat Surtain, Zach Thomas, Richmond Webb – another guy that should be in Canton – Tim Bowens, Daryl Gardener, Adewale Ogunleye, the list goes on of guys that are all a piece of that bust as well, because without them, there is no me. So with that being said, I guess I’ll open it up for questions.”

(You said when you were drafted in 1997, correct me if I’m wrong, you were hoping to just make the practice squad? And if I could follow up, you keep saying you were surprised that you got in. Were you surprised because it’s on the first ballot?) – “To your first question in 1997, when I was leaving college, I wanted to come in the NFL and be on the practice squad, cover kicks, whatever. It’s funny to think back now that I would be willing to cover kickoffs back in 1997, but that’s how desperate I was to get into the league. You get picked in the third round, you kind of figure out that you’re going to be here for a minute. They don’t usually cut third-rounders, but Jimmy Johnson would. But yes, I just had to find my way. Football was still new to me. I was only six years into playing the game in my life. I didn’t start as a young kid, so it was still new to me and I had to figure out with the weight issues. ‘Can he play at 240? Can he put his hand in the dirt?’ All of those things. I would do anything to be in the league at that point. When you’re coming out of college, coming out of Akron, I had 25 bucks in my pocket and I probably owed somebody 10 bucks so I was down to 15 dollars. You’d do anything to get on the practice squad and make seven grand a week. But never did I think that 20 years later, I’d be standing here for sure. What was the other part of your question?”

(You keep saying that you’re surprised that you got in on the first ballot.) – “I am. You look historically at the guys who have … Correct me if I’m wrong, I think the other defensive ends to go in on the first ballot were Bruce Smith and Reggie White? Is that right? Bruce Smith, Reggie White and Jason Taylor? I just never put myself in their class. I didn’t win a championship, and I thought that would come up, but for whatever reason, maybe I was playing mind tricks on myself and trying to talk myself into not worrying about it so much. I really wasn’t worried about it. I thought that it would happen one day maybe. I thought that it probably should happen one day because based on the numbers and where I finished in the overall list of sacks and game-changing plays and other things. But I went to Houston expecting to fly out Sunday morning and come back to Miami. I would go to the awards show, congratulate the guys that made it, but my plan was to change my flight and come home early. My kids, they’re kids, but they’re like, ‘Dad, we’re not coming home early. We’re not going home until Monday night.’ They expected it, but they love Dad and they support Dad regardless. My son kept saying, he probably said it when Nat (Moore) and Tom (Garfinkel) and those guys were in the room. He told me all day Saturday, my youngest son Mason kept saying ‘Dad, if you don’t believe it, you can’t achieve it.’ And it’s funny he said that, because it’s things that I say to the teams that I coach and the kids that I coach. We’ve heard it for years, but I didn’t expect to get the knock on the door. The look of shock and surprise was genuine. It was not … Even when we went to the awards show and they announced it on stage at the NFL honors, I was standing backstage with Jerry (Jones) and ‘L.T.’ (LaDainian Tomlinson) and the rest of those guys. ‘L.T.’ we all knew was going to go in. ‘L.T.’ was a given and he still had that look of awe and surprise a little bit. It’s a big moment, so it’s a lot of weight; but I’m looking at Jerry and ‘L.T.’ as they’re calling our names about to walk on the stage and I’m like, is this real? Are we really doing this? It’s really cool to be able to go in on that first ballot and not have to deal with the emotions that Morten Anderson and Joe Jacoby and some of these other guys have had to deal. John Lynch, I was with John Lynch a lot on Friday night talking about it. So it was really cool.”

(What did it mean to you that Patriots QB Tom Brady wrote a letter of endorsement for you? He called you the most tenacious defender in the league.) – “It’s pretty cool. It’s pretty humbling that a guy of Brady’s caliber … We know his resume and his body of work and how much weight he carries in this league. You play this game for a lot of different reasons. The number one reason is to win. And you want the respect of the fans and the media and everyone that plays, but there is nothing better than hearing from your peers – the guys that are in the trenches and doing it as well and putting the time and the work in over the years and understanding what it takes to play this game at a high level. So to get that respect from someone like a Tom Brady … I saw a lot of comments. The letter from Brady was ridiculous. It was humbling. We had a lot of battles. But I see comments from Jonathan Ogden and Orlando Pace and Bill Polian and all of these guys that are so lofty in this league and it’s really humbling to get those kinds of comments from guys.”

(I know it’s very soon since you were voted in but 1: Have you picked who is going to present you? And 2: What do you suspect the theme of your speech will be when you get to Canton?) – “Man, you are way ahead of me. You are so far ahead of me. (laughter) No, and I don’t know. I haven’t picked a presenter yet. Literally, I got the news Saturday night, went to the game Sunday, did all of the orientation and measurements and stuff on Monday, got home late Monday night, my son had surgery at six in the morning on Tuesday and then it has just been non-stop. I haven’t had an hour where I’ve sat down yet and really took it in. When I get home at night, I just go to bed and try to get as much sleep as I can and kind of pound the pavement the next day. I’ll figure those things out. I’ll talk to a bunch of guys that are in. I’ll go have a bite to eat with Dan (Marino) hopefully and get a lot of direction with him but the theme, I didn’t even know there was supposed to be a theme. This is all new, man. I have a lot of people to thank and they give you, I don’t know … How long did you talk Dan?”

Dan Marino:

“Fifteen minutes.”

Jason Taylor:

“Dan talked 15 minutes; they give you eight. The try to stress to keep it to eight but I don’t know how you get everybody in eight minutes. There are just so many people that make this engine run from upstairs, the administrators and assistants and coaches and equipment guys and security guys and trainers. There are a thousand people to thank and unfortunately, you only get so much time. So we’ll figure it out.”

(If you could make a case for LB Zach Thomas to join you at some point, what would it be? And do you think it’s going to happen for him?) – “I said this too in Houston, there are a handful of guys … There are a lot people that, like I said, made me who I am. There are a handful of guys that I’ve played with that are elite status as far as players, people, competitors, teammates, and Zach Thomas is No. 1 on that list. He made everybody that played with him better. He’s one of those guys that I think never got the respect he deserved. He never got the attention he deserved. To me, is he a Hall of Famer? Absolutely. Because again, without Zach, there is no way in the world I’m standing here right now. Without Sam (Madison) and without Pat (Surtain), there’s a handful of guys that there’s absolutely no way – Trace Armstrong – that I’m here without them. Richmond Webb. Richmond Webb and Zach Thomas I think are two Hall of Famers. Whether their bust is in Canton or not, they’re Hall of Famers to me and hopefully one day, people will wake up and see that and realize it and they’ll get a chance to go through this too.”

(You’ve been involved with the current team a little bit. What have your impressions been of Head Coach Adam Gase during the time that you’ve interacted with him?) – “I think Adam’s great. I think he has done a great job. You see the success that the team had this year and came out of nowhere. After a rough start, he made some really tough moves for a head coach to make at that point in the season and you see the way the team responded. Are there holes to fill on the team? Sure, and I think he’d be the first to tell you. Obviously if you don’t win the championship, you have things that you need to correct. If you win the championship, the Patriots are working as we speak to correct things too. But they’re on the right path. It was great to see them in the playoffs. The excitement … It’s amazing the excitement that builds in this city when this football team is playing well. The other teams in town, the Heat had a run and the city was electric; but it’s just different when the Dolphins are good. I think Adam is on the right track and he’ll continue to build. I know Mike Tannenbaum and Chris Grier and those guys are working tirelessly to not just make the playoffs but win the division, win playoff games and hopefully be in Minnesota (for the Super Bowl) next year.”

(DE Cameron Wake is having a run over several years kind of along the lines of what you experienced. Do you see him kind of trending towards this direction as well at some point?) – “I think he’s been trending in that direction. Hopefully he can play as long as he can and keep being as productive as he’s been. He’s just a remarkable athlete. The things he’s able to do and the way he bounced back from an Achilles injury at his – I hate even saying it but at his age, so to speak. It doesn’t surprise me at all. Having a chance to be around Cam and be a teammate of his, knowing the way he works, knowing the work he was putting in, in the offseason, when this building was empty of players and they’re off and when he’s probably supposed to be on crutches still or in a boot still and he’s pushing it. He’s just that kind of guy. He takes care of himself. He’s super athletic, ridiculously strong. You guys see how … I mean he never wears a shirt so you guys see how he’s built and how he takes care of himself. He can do it for a long time. He’s already trended in this direction, trust me. Cam Wake is a better football player and a better pass rusher than I ever was and hopefully he can keep doing it for a while.”

Mike Tannenbaum and Chris Grier – January 25, 2017 – Senior Bowl Download PDF version

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Executive Vice President of Football Operations Mike Tannenbaum and General Manager Chris Grier

Mike Tannenbaum:

(Opening Statement) – “Just to give you guys an update on Ryan (Tannehill), we’re still working through the process. Nothing’s been definitively decided yet. As always, with all of our players, organizationally, player health and safety is paramount. We’ll do what’s best for the player. We have no material updates as of today, but it’s something (that Head Coach) Adam (Gase), (General Manager) Chris (Grier), (Chairman of the Board/Managing General Partner) Steve Ross and myself, we’ll keep talking through. When we have more information, we’ll share it; but nothing materially new as of now.”

(You won’t know on QB Ryan Tannehill until what, January 30, when he has the other MRI?) – “No one test is going to make a decision for us, so we’re just going to keep going through the process (and) talking to our doctors. Obviously Ryan’s (Tannehill) very involved. We’ll rely on our medical people to give us some suggestions. So we’ll just see how the process plays out.”

(This is mostly in QB Ryan Tannehill’s court? Right? The ball is in his court because he’s the patient, right? He’s the one that’s going to dictate what’s on right?) – “I think like on any significant medical decision, we want to do it collaboratively and certainly we have a very good and experienced medical staff. With that said, one of the things that I like about our medical staff is they’re exhaustive in their research. Anything like this, obviously a player ultimately decides what they want to do; but we’re in constant communication in talking to Ryan (Tannehill) and he’s talking to our trainers and doctors all the time. His agent is involved and it’s been something where we all want to make sure that we’re doing this correctly (and) taking our time. Again, our player’s well-being is always a paramount concern for us.”

(The last update you had with him with the doctors and everything, was he still on pace to recover without surgery? The last time you guys had an update with the doctors and the MRIs and all that?) – “I think the best way to say it is again, we just want to take the benefit of the time and be thorough in our process. When we have something more definitive, we’ll share it. We’re just not there yet.”

(Is time about letting the swelling go down or seeing what can heal naturally?) – “I think it’s, again, just taking the benefit of the time that we’re in the offseason. We want to be thorough and just making sure that whatever decision that we make is the right one, and get as much information as possible.”

(Is time not a factor in terms of even if he has the surgery, you guys believe he’d be ready for next season but for training camp?) – “I don’t think we want to put any timelines. Every player recovers differently from different procedures, but again we wanted to take the benefit of knowing that we have no more games to play to try to get as much information as we can and make the best decision at the appropriate time.”

Chris Grier:

(Have you started any negotiations with WR Jarvis Landry and his agent?) – “No. As of right now we’re – like we said at the end of season press conference – Coach (Adam Gase) gave the assistant coaches off about a week and a half or so. So again, they’ll come back. They just started evaluating our roster again, so we’re going to meet as a staff here next week, with the coaches, and we’re just going to go through the process and be very deliberate. Again, just making sure we evaluate our roster right and then we’ll worry about the guys right now with the immediate free agents and then we’ll start working towards the guys that are still under contract.”

(This year, your team made progress in a lot of areas, but stopping the run was not one of them. You guys gave up 2,247 rushing yards, 4.8 yards per carry. How does that get addressed the offseason, especially with so many positions on that defensive line and linebacker unit being unsettled?) – “Again, I would say it was a good first year for the organization with our new regime and the culture we’re establishing. There are a lot of things we would have liked to have been better. There were a lot of areas we can improve on. I think we’re going to work through, like again I know it sounds like a broken record, but it’s going to be very deliberate. We’re going through right now talking about the guys on the roster and then we’re going to go through the free agents again and we’ve already started meeting with the pro scouts. (Director, Player Personnel) Joe Schoen and (Director, Pro Personnel) Anthony Hunt have done a good job and have already been looking at the free agents. We’re going to do everything we can. We’ve had good discussions with (Defensive Coordinator) Matt Burke already about some things we may do a little bit differently, and so it’s been productive so far; but we’re going to take our time to make sure we can do everything we can to get it fixed.”

(Do you think that the Wide 9 approach was successful and will you continue to take that approach with this defensive line?) – “Yes, I think Adam’s plan for when he brought (Defensive Coordinator) Matt (Burke) and ‘V.J.’ (former Defensive Coordinator Vance Joseph)  in together was that, kind of knowing that ‘V.J.’ was – we talked about – may not be here more than a year or so because he’s an immensely talented coach (and) a good person. So we just thought he may be moving on, which he did. So we don’t want to change a whole lot, we’re trying to do where there will be continuity. That’s the one good thing organizations like the Patriots and stuff that have won, is that you’re not always changing every time someone leaves. We’re trying to have it where if a guy leaves, we can keep going and we can keep building. There are a lot of things the defense did well and there were things that can be improved on, but I think that will come as we keep adding positions and building the people that fit the scheme of what we’re looking for.”

Mike Tannenbaum:

(What is DT Ndamukong Suh’s injury?) – “It was just a very minor knee clean out. He’ll be fine and ready to go for the offseason program.”

(How is S Isa Abdul-Quddus doing?) – “He’s coming along. All of our guys now are in rehab. We will get updates from the trainers to see how he’s doing, but right now like (General Manager) Chris (Grier) said, we’re just kind of focused on the evaluations from a playing standpoint and then the medical stuff, we’ll continue to monitor; but there’s obviously not a sense of urgency in terms of anything we need to do right away.”

(When you do identify positions of need that you want to address in this offseason, what is your philosophy in terms of doing that through the draft versus through proven free agents?) – “I think the offseason is one big continuum and we’re going to look at every avenue to improve the team. That can be trades that start around the (NFL) Combine and then we’ll get into free agency. Again, our focus philosophically though is we’re going to try to keep our own the best we can and then be opportunistic, be it in free agency or trades and obviously just try to draft as well as we can. Sometimes, it’s been my experience, if we have a need, sometimes you fill it both in free agency and the draft and again, we’ll try to be opportunistic and use any avenue we can to improve the team.”

(I know you don’t want to tip your hand as far as any of your plans but can you give just generally some idea of how you think about those different avenues for filling a need?) – “I think it’s really important that when you get to the draft that you can line up a play of game. Again, you’re not going to have a perfect roster going into the draft. But we’ve talked about this quite a bit, we want to go into the draft and operate from a position of strength so when Laremy Tunsil falls unexpectedly, you can go ahead and take the best player and you’re not sitting there saying, ‘We have to get a star with our first pick.’ So we want to give ourselves as much flexibility as possible by the time we get to the draft. We have a lot of work to do, but as (General Manager) Chris (Grier) said, and as we mentioned a couple of weeks ago, I think a very underrated aspect of team building and the salary cap system is correctly evaluating your own and we have to get that right and we have to be realistic and we have to look at certain players and say, ‘Can we win with them?’ To me, once we do that, that’s the bedrock we build from and move forward; but until we do that, I think our plans are still somewhat up in the air.”

(How many years do you use as a timeframe for building that roster? Are there some guys you sign as just a stop gap to get through and then there are other guys where you look at it and they might be under contract but maybe they have a 2-3 year window? How far do you project?) – “One of the things that Chris and I have been spending a lot of time with (Senior Director of Football Administration) Brandon Shore lately, who handles our salary cap, and we have to have a pretty good idea from a salary cap standpoint for at least two years, what we think the cap is going to be and who’s expiring from a contractual standpoint. So I think that’s a realistic view is this year and one more. Then we’re constantly talking with (Head Coach) Adam (Gase) and the staff about ascending players, descending players and who we need to replace. So I think realistically, you go out more than two years in our system and there are just too many variables.”

Chris Grier:

(How do you view the roster composition as it relates to the defensive end position and where the team needs to work on that position moving forward?) – “The defensive end is, if you’re going to play the Wide 9, obviously that’s one of the key components of the defense. With us, we’re always going to be looking at it. Last year we addressed it with some veteran players. I think once we’ve kind of established the culture of what we’re looking for now, I think we’ll, like (Executive Vice President of Football Operations) Mike (Tannenbaum) said, pursue all avenues in terms of free agency and the draft. But for that position, yes that’s a key position. We’re going to have to find some players there.”

Mike Tannenbaum:

(With that linebacker unit, you got the trade for LB Kiko Alonso, that sort of panned out for you; but then the position sort of ran out of bodies at the end of the season. How do you address that moving forward to get that defense better?)  – “Philosophically, we have to keep improving the depth of our team and when you have guys on your roster, you have to assume they’re going to play. You can look at the four teams that played this weekend, they did a great job. Those teams, all four of them, had players that were playing that maybe were somewhat unexpected, be it from injuries or team players that were traded off of other teams. I think depth is critical. I think we’ve gotten better and we still have a ways to go and every team, every year, the 2017 team is going to be different than 2016 team, but depth is an area that we’re constantly talking about.”

Chris Grier:

(What are you looking for from a linebacker standpoint? What athletic traits do you think sets apart a Dolphins’ linebacker?) – “I think the big thing for us is finding guys that are instinctive, guys that are tough guys, but also have the ability to play in space. I think the one thing we talked about with (Head Coach) Adam (Gase) as well is improving team speed on defense. Again, the way the game is played now, it’s a little more in the passing and space, but you also still have those guys, like I said in the run game, that can hold up inside and make plays, are instinctive, can beat blocks and find plays. For us, again it’s finding guys that are productive – a good history of production, smart, intelligent and can run a little bit.”

Mike Tannenbaum:

(Where are you guys at with DE Dion Jordan right now and what kind of future do you see for him?) – “He’s still on our team. He’s still on the roster, so (there are) really no updates on what we may be doing moving forward.”

(DE Mario Williams, have you guys made any kind of decision on his future?) – “No. Again, we’re going to sit down, as (General Manager) Chris (Grier) just alluded to, the coaches have been gone on vacation and will be back at the end of this week. We’re going to sit down in earnest starting next week and from there, I think our plan will start coming together.”

Chris Grier:

(I understand that some teams have strict measurables for their draft preparation. Some teams will completely cross out a defensive back whose arm length isn’t a certain point, or a tackle whose arm length isn’t a certain point. Since I haven’t been around, do you guys have a couple of rules that you are willing to share? Or is there not that rigidness in your draft evaluation?) – “We believe in prototypes. (Executive Vice President of Football Operations) Mike (Tannenbaum) and I both started with Coach (Bill) Parcells. That was my upbringing with him and (Patriots Head) Coach (Bill) Belichick. The same with (Seahawks Head Coach) Pete Carroll and (Alabama Head Coach) Nick Saban, they’ve all had prototype standards as far as what you’re looking for. The one thing we’ve said is that there are always exceptions, but you don’t want to be a team of exceptions. You can’t be too rigid where you’re like ‘Hey, you can’t take this guy because he’s 5-foot-8 or whatever,’ but he’s a dynamic player. Then you say ‘Well, he doesn’t fit everything, so he’s out.’ I think you hurt your team by doing that. You just want to make sure that those players that are the exceptions have those rare traits or something that’s going to stand out to make sure that they have a role to contribute – a defined role – I think that’s really key. You don’t want to just take a guy that’s really small and dynamic but you don’t know where to play him. For us, we do have prototypes and standards. We believe in that; but we’re also not going to eliminate good football players.”

Mike Tannenbaum:

“I think that line was, coach would say ‘Don’t draft linebackers that come out of Volkswagens.”

(What lesson do you think both of you as an organization can learn from what the Falcons did? They’re not an organization that are too far ahead of you guys. It’s their second year with a new coaching staff. How did they get to the Super Bowl in year two?) – “For me, one of the fun parts about the job, and it’s a privilege to be sitting here, is always learning. So it’s not just from the Falcons. It’s learning from Clemson and how did they get over the hump or how did the Cleveland Cavaliers do it? That’s something we’re constantly talking about within the organization. Look, they’ve done a great job. (General Manager) Thomas Dimitroff, (Head Coach) Dan Quinn, they’ve done a great job. I think that we’re always learning, we’re always trying to get better. I’m proud of the foundation we’ve laid here and I think our future is bright, but we have a lot of work to do. When you look at those four teams that played this past weekend, they’re well coached, they’ve made difficult decisions, they’ve been opportunistic and as I alluded to earlier, I think the other thing those teams have, they all have great depth. You look at some of those players on the field, they’re not necessarily household names that were playing meaningful snaps on championship Sunday. They all deserve credit for that.”

Chris Grier:

(You guys addressed the QB Ryan Tannehill’s situation and DT Ndamukong Suh. Do you have anyone else that you’ve determined since we talked to you two weeks ago that would need surgery this offseason?) –  “I don’t think so.”

(That’s positive, then?) – “Yes.”

Mike Tannenbaum:

“I don’t think there’s anything else that’s newsworthy that we can share.”

(How do you keep this season’s – well, last season’s – momentum going? 10 wins, playoffs – that’s a great start for a new situation. How do you keep that going?) – “I think when we look back at it – and we’re still going through it – I think (Head Coach) Adam (Gase) deserves a lot of credit from this culture of accountability (of) ‘the best players will play.’ Again, I think there are countless examples, but to me, one of the more noteworthy ones is here is Jay Ajayi, who doesn’t even travel to Seattle, and he’s our team MVP. That’s rare in our sport to happen. That says a lot about Jay and his work ethic and his resiliency, and I think it says a lot about Adam and the culture of, ‘the best players will play.’ We’re going to have short memories, but guys will have to earn it. I think moving forward, our players understand that, enjoy that and know they’ll have opportunities to play. I think it’s up to us collectively to go get the best talent, pay it the appropriate way and try to put a team together that can be sustainable for a couple of years.”

Chris Grier:

(You mentioned RB Jay Ajayi – and I was thinking about this earlier – how sustainable does the organization view Ajayi’s future success? Another way to say it is how do you view how far he has come and what his future might be?) – “I think he has just scratched the surface of what he can be. I think he’ll become more patient at times and stuff. I think part of it too is the offensive line. Guys have to stay healthy. He’s adjusting to different guys in (the game) each week, a couple weeks here and stuff. With Jay, the one thing is he wants to be good; he wants to be great. He’s young, and he knows his things he can improve on. We’re excited for his future. Again, it’s (up to) us to make sure we keep surrounding (him with) good players and keep upgrading the offensive line so that we can make sure he becomes a factor for years to come.”

(How important is continuity on that offensive line? You’ve had some injuries. Some of the guys are getting up there in their thirties. But when they were together, they played well. How important is it to keep that unit together, or do you feel like you need to get some young bodies?) – “I think it’s important. Look at Atlanta. Everyone is talking about how the Falcons … I think they didn’t have an offensive lineman miss a game all year. They stayed together all year. It just shows you that if you can keep those five guys on the field together, especially our offensive line – I forget the record when they’re all on the field together – they’re like 8-1 or something, 9-1 or something like that over the last couple years. Again for us, it’s important that we can keep those guys together. But at the end of the day, we know that they may not all be here and we just have to make sure that whoever the next five guys are next season that we do our best to keep them on the field together.”

(Looking at some of the moves you guys made in the offseason – at running back last offseason. Did RB Jay Ajayi significantly exceed what your evaluation of him was?) – “We always thought Jay was a good player. If you remember when (Head Coach) Adam (Gase) got here, he was going to be the starter. He said he was the starter. The one thing we always talked about is it was a really young room with Damien (Williams) and then (Kenyan) Drake. So, we were looking for a veteran guy that could come in and be a mentor. When we met with Arian Foster, we spent a lot of time talking to him. We told him, we said, ‘You’re going to be a 10-carry guy, 15 (carries), catch four or five balls a game, but we’re going to play these young guys, too.’ To his credit, that was the role he was coming in (to). He wasn’t coming in to be a workhorse again, and he understood that. He and Adam hit it off and everything was good. We were just hoping that he could teach them how to be a pro in terms of preparation, studying and doing everything right. From that aspect, Arian was great with the guys. When he decided to retire, all the guys – the running backs – were shocked. I think Drake and all those guys were thinking about working out with him in the offseason. So, it became a close room. I think Arian played a big part in helping those guys grow up fast.”

Mike Tannenbaum:

“The other thing too from a running back standpoint, if you look at Adam’s history when he has been a play caller, the backs have all been productive in the passing game, and that has been a critical factor for us is the running back’s ability to catch the ball. (Jay) Ajayi – going back to Boise (State) – was able to do that. And obviously, Kenyan (Drake) and Damien (Williams) both have that ability, so we feel good about that; but moving forward from a personnel standpoint, that’s always going to be a critical factor in terms of being able to play in the passing game.”

(What’s your vision for G/T Laremy Tunsil moving into Year 2? He had success at left guard. Do you feel like that’s a good position for him right now, or do you think he’s ready to move out to that left tackle spot?) – “I think we’re thrilled that we have him and we have that flexibility. We have to assess a few other variables obviously, but the fact that Laremy had so many plays – so many games – all under his belt is great. Obviously, he played in the SEC at a high level at left tackle, so the fact that he has that ability gives us a lot of comfort.”

Chris Grier:

(WR Kenny Stills was talking about how much he wants to be back. How essential do you view him to what you guys were doing this year offensively?) – “Kenny is an important part. (We) traded for him before I was in this role – (Executive Vice President of Football Operations) Mike (Tannenbaum) traded for him – and he showed the value the second half of the year. He made a lot of big plays for us. It’s a young group of receivers. Those guys all bring a different skill set, so it’s a good group. It’s important for us to bring him back. We’d like to have him back. It’s his right to test the market and see what he can get, but we’d like to have him back.”

Mike Tannenbaum:

(One of the criticisms about this regime – I’m not sure if it pre-dates you, Mike Tannenbaum – is that you guys don’t accurately assess what the market is for free agents when they do hit the market and make fair offers before they hit the market. How do you feel about that criticism and is there something that you are doing to try to address it?) –  “Again, philosophically, starting with (Chairman of the Board/Managing General Partner) Steve (Ross), (Head Coach) Adam (Gase) and (General Manager) Chris (Grier), we want to keep our own. We’re never going to bat 1.000. The system just is not set up for it. We’ve been able to extend some players before I started – some like Mike Pouncey or Ryan Tannehill we were able to do – but candidly, you can’t keep them all. We understand that and acknowledge that. We’ve studied it hard and we try to come up with offers that are fair, but knowing that – as Chris just said – these guys earned the right (to be free agents) and some are going to do extremely well in free agency and we totally understand that. Sometimes they don’t. That doesn’t nearly get the attention as the ones that do. We’re going to prioritize them. We’re going to try to keep our own the best we can. We’ll continue to do that and hopefully if we’re sitting here in August, not only have we kept some of our own but hopefully we’re also talking about two or three meaningful extensions of guys that are prospective free agents heading into 2018 because that’s something that again is going to be really important to us.”

Adam Gase and Matt Burke – January 12, 2017 Download PDF version

Thursday, January 12, 2017

Head Coach Adam Gase and Defensive Coordinator Matt Burke

Head Coach Adam Gase:

(Opening Statement) – “Obviously we’ve promoted Matt Burke from linebackers coach to defensive coordinator. The decision behind this  was Matt knows this defense inside and out. Him being with ‘V.J.’ (Vance Joseph) for the amount of time that they were together in Cincinnati and then him coming along with the Dolphins last season was really big for us in the aspect that I really felt like we had two defensive coordinators on that side of the ball. We were very fortunate to be able get him. He had plenty of opportunities to go other places and decided to coach linebackers for us when it was critical for our success this past season and for myself, so it was an easy decision for our organization and me to elevate him to this position. The players respect him and mentally they love the attitude and energy he brings every day. They respect his knowledge of the game. These guys know that they’ll be able to come in every game prepared and ready to roll to face whoever we’re playing that week. This is one of those moves where we’re able to keep the continuity of our system and our coaching staff together and we’ll be able to add a piece here and there, but for the most part, our players won’t be walking into a brand new system. They’ll have an idea of what we’re looking to do and we’ll really be growing from this point on.”

Defensive Coordinator Matt Burke:

(Your reaction being the new defensive coordinator of the Miami Dolphins?) – “It’s obviously an exciting moment personally and hopefully for our organization to move forward. It has been a hectic few weeks, or a few days, from Sunday forward. Everything has kind of happened pretty quickly. It’s taking a little time to sink in, but I’m really excited to get going and help this team move forward.”

(How would you describe your general defense philosophy?) – “Probably parts from everybody. We want to be an attacking defense, sort of what we started to try to build here this past season. (We want to) be aggressive. I know it’s been said before, we want to tailor our schemes to fit our players. Every year you have new players, new strengths, new weaknesses, so we’re going to evaluate that and move forward. It’s always better when you can play on the front foot instead of the back foot, so that’s going to be our general philosophy.”

(How would you assess the way the defense performed this past season?) – “Again, we really judge ourselves by wins and losses. We felt we made some strides there. I think whether there was a new coordinator change or not, you always take the offseason to try to evaluate what you did good and what you did bad, and we haven’t hardly started that process yet. I think there are going to be some things that we really like and some things we didn’t, and that’s going to be part of growing. I think we did a good job of instituting our structure and having a nice foundation to build from, moving forward. I was kind of happy with that. I think the guys bought into the things we were trying to do and I’m excited to have that foundation to build upon moving forward.”

(What happens with the linebackers now? Will you also coach them or will you have a linebackers coach?) – “I don’t think that I’ll be coaching the linebackers. It’s kind of early. Obviously, this happened pretty quickly, like I said. (We’ll probably need to) add a spot on the defensive staff. That’s something I’m going to have to get together with (Head Coach) Adam (Gase about) in the next few days here and really hammer out how we’re going to move forward with that. I don’t see myself filling both roles, so I would assume we’re going to find someone to put in that room, but we haven’t even started those discussions yet.”

(You touched on this briefly, but can you elaborate a little more on the advantages of having a defense going into a second year in terms of scheme and terminology?) – “Obviously, (Head Coach) Adam (Gase) mentioned to continuity and that’s something everyone strives for. Even the language and being able to talk the same way and understanding the way we approach things this year, the players coming back will have a lot of familiarity with that. Like I said, there is obviously going to be new players and a little bit of a new face or two on the coaching staff, so there are going to be some new pieces there, but it always helps not having to re-learn. Defense is defense, and that’s fine; but again, just being able to speak the same language and understanding how we install and all of that, the players will be walking back with a pretty good base of knowledge and way to communicate with us and each other and stuff like that. It’s always an advantage, I think.”

(You kind of have an interesting background. You’re a psychology major from Dartmouth, is that right?) – “I did graduate from Dartmouth, yes.”

(You’re kind of an adventurous sports guy too, right? An outdoorsman?) – “I guess you could say that, yes.”

(Tell us a little bit about yourself personally.) – “My adventure stuff, I’ve really taken to traveling a lot in the offseason when we have our downtime. You guys know as well as anybody, it’s a high-performance, high-stress business and it’s kind of my way to get away from things. I tend to take a pretty big trip outside the country every year and go hiking mountains or backpacking around the world somewhere. That’s kind of my reset before the season gets going to center me back and ready myself for the long haul. I haven’t planned anything yet this year, but I’ll let you guys know when I do.”

(What was your trip last year?) – “Actually the last two years I’ve been to Africa. Last year I did some more safari-type stuff up in Botswana and Zambia (and) South Africa. The year before that, I had actually gone to Uganda for a little bit and did some charity work with (Assistant Offensive Line Coach) Jeremiah Washburn, and then I went and climbed (Mount) Kilimanjaro. I’ve been to Africa for two years in a row, so I’m not sure. Maybe a third time or I’ll figure out another part of the world.”

(Who has been the biggest influence in your coaching career?) – “Honestly, it’s always hard … You reach these milestones, and it’s always hard to thank (everybody) because you don’t want to forget anybody and miss people, but I’d be remised if I didn’t mention Jim Schwartz. He gave me my first job in the league down in Tennessee as a quality control (coach) when he was the coordinator. And then when he got the head job in Detroit, he gave my first position coaching job. I spent 10 years with Jim and I think the world of him and, really, I owe him a debt of gratitude. I wouldn’t be here on this phone call with you guys if he didn’t give me my first break and first probably about 10 breaks to be honest with you. I learned a lot from Jim and he has been a guy I’ve leaned on for a long time and learned a lot of defense from. He’s probably first and foremost in my mind, but it’s really hard. Vance (Joseph) and I spent a lot of time together the last few years, but it’s hard to start naming a lot of names. I don’t want to leave anybody out. If I get a list together sometime, I’ll figure it out. But obviously those two guys – Jim giving me my start and Vance really helped me develop the last few years.”

(If I can follow-up, Jim Schwartz is a guy known for his fiery personality on the sideline. Does that describe you?) – “Probably. I’d like to think that I bring a certain level of energy and fire to the team. We say a lot of what we want and obviously I have somewhat of an academic background. I take an analytical approach to things, but this game is about emotions as much as anything. I don’t know if I’m going to do any patented fist pumps, but I’ll probably curse a little bit more than ‘V.J.’ (Vance Joseph) did on the sideline. I hope the guys are ready for that.”

(I know it’s early, but what is your inclination as far as the best use for LB Kiko Alonso? Inside, outside?) – “Honestly, not to deflect a lot of things, but it’s kind of early in that process, like I said. There are going to be a lot of changes obviously on the roster; it happens every year. What (Head Coach) Adam (Gase) said in bringing us here was and has always been is, ‘Look, when we get our roster set, we’re going to put our players in the best position to be successful for them.’ Obviously, (Alonso) had a successful season. We’re excited that he’s a part of the organization now. That’s a part of … Really these next few months are a two-fold evaluation of our roster, and trying to make that better, and then our scheme fit, and trying to make that better. It kind of goes hand and hand. We’ll see what other type of players we bring in through free agency and the draft and where Kiko fits in. Obviously we see him as an important piece of the future. I had a great time working with him and helping him get to that point; but, we really haven’t even started to evaluate position moves, fits, schemes, all of that stuff. That’s going to be an ongoing process.”

(Other than wins and losses, what do you consider the best barometer for a defense? Is it points allowed, yards per game, the bend but don’t break philosophy? How do you size up when a defense is being as successful as you’d like?) – “Obviously points. That’s what matters, if you keep points down. For us, I’ve always been taught this: the way you keep points off the board is by getting stops. So turnovers, third down stops, red zone stops, that’s how you keep points off the board. Yards have been a measuring stick obviously for a while in the league; but I think that can kind of be misleading. You need to keep points off the board, and obviously (Head Coach) Adam (Gase) on offense, he wants to score as many points as he can. That’s really what matters, and for us, it’s keeping scoring down. I think there are corollary statistics like third down stops and turnovers and red zone stops that obviously contribute more directly to keeping points down. Those are the things that we are going to try to hang our hat on. Like you said, low points equals big wins, so that’s where our focus is going to be.”

Mike Tannenbaum, Chris Grier and Adam Gase – January 11, 2017 Download PDF version

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Executive Vice President of Football Operations Mike Tannenbaum, General Manager Chris Grier and Head Coach Adam Gase

Mike Tannenbaum:

(Opening Statement) – “I want to thank everybody for coming. I want to start off by saying I appreciate everyone’s efforts in the organization.  Everyone worked incredibly hard this year. In an industry where people work hard, I felt like this coaching staff, led by (Head Coach) Adam (Gase), really went above and beyond. I really appreciate that. For us, the process now starts (with) evaluating our own players. I think an underrated aspect of building a team, something that (General Manager) Chris (Grier), Adam and I talk about all the time is to try to correctly evaluate your own. For us, we haven’t really even begun that process. We’re going to take the next couple of weeks to thoroughly evaluate our roster and that’ll help set our game plan moving forward. With that, I’m happy to open up for any questions.”

(Only one team is truly happy at the end of the season but obviously a lot of good things happened here in 2016. How do you assess it overall?) – “Yes, obviously there were some really good things that got done this year in terms of establishing a culture led by (Head Coach) Adam (Gase), the coaching staff and the players. But with that said, in 2017 we’re going to start 0-0. I’ve been fortunate enough to be around long enough to know that nothing is guaranteed – nothing is promised – and we have a lot of work to do to get better and the three of us, we’re committed to doing that. We’re going to go into this with a very honest, sober evaluation of where we are with our players. I think that’s really a critical aspect to building a team for the long term. So while there were reasons to be encouraged – and we are – there’s still a lot more work to be done.”

Chris Grier:

(You’ve been around here for a while. A lot of people speak of culture change. Can you give me two or three examples or one or two examples of where you see the culture change?) – “From the beginning, we told you that when we hired (Head Coach) Adam (Gase), we said you just had to be around him and he kind of had … Everyone talks about that ‘it’ factor. You just couldn’t describe it. I think that transpired on the field. You saw, even last week, we didn’t play our best game; but guys are still fighting. Our guys have that edge. They’re competitive. So right from the get go when he got here, I think the competitiveness, the way this team fought all year, coming back in games, I just think all of that is an attribute to Adam and his staff.”

Adam Gase:

(What are the two or three things you’re most proud of this year, things that succeeded to you in your mind?) – “The biggest thing that, when we look back at what happened during the season, was just our guys sticking together. Things weren’t always perfect, especially at the beginning of the year. We started off in a rough spot. That first month of the season wasn’t easy. We played some good teams and had some tough trips on the road and guys fought and competed and stuck with it for four quarters. Just being able to give ourselves a chance in the fourth quarter and then finding multiple ways to win games in the fourth quarter, which that’s what you try to do every week. You just try to make sure that those last five minutes of the game, you’re in it and giving yourself a chance to win, and guys did a good job. Some phase stepped up every week. For us to find five different ways to have a game-winning touchdown – which I think only had happened one other time in the last 20 some years – that was impressive to see the fight our guys had. We saw it early. We saw it early in that New England game – that first one. We were on the road, down the way we were down, and guys kept competing and fighting and trying to find a way to win the game.”

(You obviously went on that great 10-game run and then the last two games of the season you lost pretty decisively. What do you think is more reflective of what this team was in 2016?) – “Well even in those two games, we were in good position in certain situations of the game that we didn’t quite do what we needed to do to extend our competitiveness and the score being what we needed it to be heading into that fourth quarter. If we cleaned up a couple of mistakes that we made, whether play call or execution, we’re right where we want to be. Earlier in the season, in the run of games that we were winning, we made those plays to stay where we needed to stay to give ourselves a chance in the fourth quarter.”

(What is the plan for QB Ryan Tannehill? Does he need surgery? Does he not need surgery? And how much better can he get?) – “We’re still going through that process right now with the trainers with what our next step is, where his health is, how strong is his knee. We’re still going through that. We’re still collecting information. Doctors are still giving us what possibly could be down the road. So it’s hard for us to really pinpoint anything as of this moment right now. It’s hard to say how much better he can get. Every year is so different. Things happen within a season and sometimes confidence can go up and down and when we start next year, it’s going to be a different animal for him. He’s going to have a different perspective. I’m sure we’re going to have different guys on our roster. You’re starting over. You’re not starting as far back as what we did this year, where we started from scratch. We’re at least going to have a good starting point. We’ll see how quickly we can kind of gel as a group, starting in the spring.”

(If I could follow up on that, obviously you guys didn’t put him on IR because you thought he might be able to play at some point if you made it far enough. So is it now possible that the trainers might come back and say maybe he does need surgery after all?) – “We still don’t have all the exacts. We’re working through that right now. Until we’re told by our doctors and our medical staff, ‘This is where we’re at,’ specifically, he’s still going through a rehab stage right now and doing what he can do with the trainers. Our doctors are evaluating it. I’ve said it before. I don’t have the information to tell you guys what’s going on with where we exactly are at and what happens moving forward, so right now it’s on our medical staff to give us the information we need going forward.”

(One more follow up on that. Is it possible he still needs major reconstructive or there’s different kind of…) – “I don’t even know. I can’t answer that because that hasn’t been a question that really we’ve dove into quite yet.”

Mike Tannenbaum:

(Is it a priority for you guys to extend WR Jarvis Landry and S Reshad Jones and either way, what’s your thought process on those two’s future with the organization?) – “Like we’ve already mentioned, we have to go through the evaluation process, what’s really important to us, (Chairman of the Board/General Managing Partner) Steve Ross our owner, (General Manager) Chris (Grier), (Head Coach) Adam (Gase) and myself, we talk about constantly … To have sustainability, we want to take care our own. We want to care of our locker room. We ask a lot of our guys. There was a lot of improvement this year. So be it Reshad, Jarvis, there are a lot of other guys that are going to be UFAs (unrestricted free agents) starting the league year in March of 2017, that we want to look at to try to keep some of our own. In addition, we want to extend players. But one of the things that we also have to look at, one of the factors is: it’s not a one year view. So who is up in 2018? 2019? Adam always likes to roll his eyes, but I always say, ‘Our plan is firmly etched in pencil.’ Because things are going to change. We’re going to acquire players. There are going to be unexpected opportunities. I always feel like when we’re looking at this, we have to bring all of the information to the table. What does the draft look like? What does free agency look like? But with that said, we’re going to try to lean heavily towards keeping our own and building our program here, drafting and developing our own and getting coached by our guys. We are lock-step in terms of philosophically, that’s going to be our approach.”

(What did you see from the defense with the way it played down the stretch and how much needs to be done there?) – “Again, as (Head Coach) Adam (Gase) said earlier, there were a lot of good things that came out of the season. We had opportunities in every game, be it the New England game and the Pittsburgh game. We’re going to look at not just the defense, but all three phases. There were a lot of good things that were encouraging. Young players played a lot of snaps this year. I thought they were coached well. Sometimes they were put in tough situations, be it on the road, and we want to look at that and say what do we have and what do we need to do to improve.”

(Where do things stand for DE Dion Jordan?) – “He’s still under contract with us. He finished the season on NFI (non-football injury list) and that’s where he is, as of now.”

(Does DE Dion Jordan have a future with the Dolphins?) – “Again, we’re going to go through the whole process with all of our players, and he’s one guy that we’ll look at as well.”

Adam Gase:

(As far as the left tackle position. What are you guys thinking there? Are you thinking of moving G/T Laremy Tunsil there next season or is that T Branden Albert’s position?) – We’re still going through … We haven’t even started our evaluation process of what we went through this year. I’m still in the process of meeting with our position coaches (and) coordinators. I’ll see how things shake out for the next few days. Our guys are going to take some time off and then when we come back, we’re going to evaluate really what happened through the entire year. We want to make sure that we give all of our guys that fair shake of not just focusing on the last couple of games but the entire season and what they accomplished – whether it be started off strong, didn’t finish as well, had a good middle of the season, had a strong end of the season – whatever that may be, to where we really do a good job of evaluating our own roster. That’s really our No. 1 priority right now, when we come back from taking some time off and recharging. I haven’t even … I haven’t even come close to talking about or discussing with (General Manager) Chris (Grier) and (Executive Vice President of Football Operations) Mike (Tannenbaum) about anything to do with who’s playing what right now.”

(In regards to Defensive Coordinator Vance Joseph, there were reports out there that he had been offered the Denver job. He’s got two other interviews lined up. How do you move forward with this defense? Are you prepared to find a new defensive coordinator?) – “We’ll go through our process when … If something like that happens then we’ll handle it when it happens. I can’t speculate on things and wonder what could happen. We always will have plans for if things like this happen and being able to take steps forward, but right now, I’m not going to jump the gun and start working on something that hasn’t happened yet.”

(What makes Defensive Coordinator Vance Joseph, in your opinion, ready to become a head coach right now?) – “He’s done a great job with our players. I can speak for that first hand. He took so much off my plate where I never had to worry about anything with the defense. He really did a great job with all those guys in that room. He did a great job at directing those guys and he made my life a lot easier then probably what it could have been. There was a big trust factor there with me. Once he was hired, I knew that side of the ball was good to go and I was able to focus on what I needed to do with some of those things that we wanted to change between (General Manager) Chris (Grier), (Executive Vice President of Football Operations) Mike (Tannenbaum) and myself and being able to focus with the offense. That was really the one thing that I loved about being able to at least get him in the building was I knew he was going to be able to handle that side of the ball and he brings a leadership quality that you really love about him. He has such a great personality and such a strong personality. He has that alpha – I know we talked about it before – that alpha-type personality where he demands a lot from players and they give him everything they have. Just to have a guy like that on the other side of the ball really worked out for us well.”

(How committed are you to running a 4-3 or would you be open to a 3-4 defense change?) – “I’m not really looking to put our players in a situation where every spring that we’re looking to change a whole bunch of things. We’ll always look to improve as far as what we’re doing. We’ll always go back, evaluate and figure out what’s best for us for that next season. But one of the things that we had discussed when I first got this job was let’s make sure this is our defense, as far as the Miami Dolphins. (It’s) the same thing with the offense and special teams. We wanted to lay a foundation and build off that foundation, so our players aren’t coming in every spring going ‘Alright, what’s the new terminology? What are we doing here?’ Our players, we want to make sure that they come in and understand already that they have a section of the playbook already down because they’ve been here before. That’s our starting point right there. We’ll see what’s going to happen over the next week or so.”

(Aside from Defensive Coordinator Vance Joseph, how many changes do you expect on the coaching staff, if any?) – “None.”

(We heard from the NFL about looking into QB Matt Moore and the hit he took. What can you tell us from your perspective? His agent said he’s asymptomatic ever since the hit so he doesn’t have symptoms of a concussion. Is that your understanding as well?) – “Yes. It’s really in the league’s hands right now. I know the NFL and NFLPA are doing exactly what they should do, and that’s make sure that everything was followed properly. There are protocols in place. As a coach, there’s one thing that you always know. Any time a trainer walks out on the field, we’re taken out of it. We’re able to basically, whether it be our people or anybody that is involved in that process on the sideline with the league, or anybody that’s independent. We lean on them. That’s why they’re there. It’s to make sure that our players are protected and when Matt came back over and they told me that he was ready to go, I trust that the protocols were followed properly and everybody did exactly what they were supposed to do and followed their job to exactly the way they that they were supposed to do it. That’s why, as a coach, these rules have been put in place to make sure this isn’t on our coaching staff to make a decision like this. This is why these protocols were built.”

(What players do you know have had, or will require postseason surgeries?) – “Well, right now we’re just going through things with our medical staff so we can figure out what’s the right thing to do with some of our guys that were injured at the end of the season. We’ll know more as the weeks go on. Right now I’m kind of locked into dealing with our coaching staff. I usually get updated a little later than the two guys sitting next to me (Mike Tannenbaum and Chris Grier).  Right now, I’m dealing with the coaching staff.”

(Culture change was mentioned this afternoon and the players after the game Sunday mentioned that also, and Monday as they were cleaning out their lockers. What do you think you did this season to change the culture?) – “I think, really what happened was between our front office, the people in the building, our players, our coaching staff, I think everybody just bought into the same philosophy and that was taking everything one week at a time. I know it kind of became a running joke, ‘We are 0-0 this week and we want to be 1-0 at the end of the week.’ I really feel like our players really … They really took to that. They enjoyed that part of it because they knew that they didn’t have to focus on anything except for what was going on that week. They did everything they could to prepare themselves and then on Sundays, they knew that if they went out there and did everything they could to give everything they had and execute everything as well as they could, we had a good shot at winning that game. Really, that’s what we wanted to establish here, was making sure that we’re the team in the fourth quarter that we’re right in that thing; and then find ways to execute under pressure, which our guys did the majority of the time. Really, that’s what we were looking to do as far as developing what we wanted to develop as a front office, coaching staff and as players.”

(I’d like to follow up, I also heard the players say this during in the season … What happened in Week 1 with RB Jay Ajayi, and some of the players you cut, and these are the words of your players, that you were a ‘no nonsense’ type of coach, and this is the way it’s going to be done.) – “I think those situations were more about what was best for the team at the time. Sometimes you reflect back and wonder if that’s the right decision that you should make. We still have … Really in the next couple of weeks I’ll probably go back and wonder if some of those decisions were right, wrong or indifferent. That’s part of the offseason evaluation. I know there are a few things I wish I would’ve done different. That’s the good part about going into the offseason is you try to … You learn everything you can from the previous season and try not to make, whether it be mistakes or even things that you did well, just evaluating those and figuring out if there was a different avenue you could’ve taken.”

(A follow up to that, when you do self-assess … Is there something that you think as a second-year coach that you will learn from, as a rookie coach that you did, that you don’t want to do again?) – “Absolutely. We talk to our players about this, where if you’re not … You’re not doing your job correctly if you’re not going after every game, saying, ‘What can I do better? What did I learn from this game?’ I told them all the time, there are always 10 or 20 things a game where you question whether or not that was the right thing to do or the right call to make. Was there something in the week that we should’ve done different? That’s what this whole league’s about is how do you get better from week-in to week-out? And then, when you get to the playoffs, that’s when you want to really have things tightened up. That’s what we found out this last game was we made some of the same mistakes we made earlier in the year that didn’t get corrected, and it burned us. We had opportunities to take advantage in that game and we didn’t do it. We made the same mistakes we made in previous weeks. That’s where you have to learn. You have to understand that when you make mistakes in the regular season, you have to fix them, because when you get in the playoffs, there’s no turning back. Once you make that mistake, it’s over and all of a sudden your season is over.”

Mike Tannenbaum:    

(How would you describe the organizational progress relative to closing the divisional gap with New England?) – “Yes, like we said earlier, I feel like we’re heading in the right direction; but in 2017, all four of those teams in the AFC East are 0-0. All the three of us (Mike Tannenbaum, Chris Grier and Adam Gase) can control is how hard we work and how we can learn from last year and give ourselves the best chance to win. Look, I’m really happy we made the playoffs and won 10 games. That’s a great accomplishment and again, Adam and the players deserve the credit for that. With that said, we’re going to be 0-0, and all we can control is us – not the Patriots, the Jets or the Bills. I’m really excited about the future, but we have a lot of work to do. We’re excited about getting going on that and like I said, it really starts with evaluating our own and getting ready for free agency, knowing which guys are going to be free agents and going from there.”

Chris Grier:

(How would you assess your first year as general manager and what is one place where the roster exceeded expectations and one place it fell short?) – “It’s been an enjoyable year working with (Head Coach) Adam (Gase) and (Executive Vice President of Football Operations) Mike (Tannenbaum) and (Chairman of the Board/Managing General Partner) Mr. (Stephen) Ross. For me, like we’ve all said, we won 10 games but we lost at the end of the year. Really one team is happy at the end of the year and that’s always been my motto. I think the roster … It is what it is. We are what we are. Right now we are in the early phases of the evaluation process. We’re happy with a lot of things but we also know that there is a lot of improvement that can be done.”

(How do you get this defense better? You guys allowed 140 rushing yards per game, 30th in the NFL. How do you improve that aspect of the team?) – “Self-evaluation – as (Head Coach) Adam (Gase) said – in terms of the coaching. For us in the personnel side, it’s our evaluations, as well, of what we’re seeing with the players. We’ll get together and discuss it here in the next month or so and then going forward through free agency and the draft. There are avenues where we can fix things, but we’re not going to rush through it. We’re going to take our time and make sure we do it correctly.”

Mike Tannenbaum:

(Head Coach Adam Gase talked about how for the players, there is a certain comfort in you guys having a system down, you’ve done it for a year and they know what’s going on when they come into the building. How about on your side of it, working together as a team for the first year? How much more comfortable do you feel heading into this offseason?) – “Absolutely. It has been a great year. As Adam just said a couple of minutes ago, when you have the privilege of one of these jobs, it really starts with yourself and (asking), ‘How can I get better?’ I’m constantly asking myself that question. In terms of where we were a year ago, (General Manager) Chris (Grier) getting promoted to the GM position and then working with (Chairman of the Board/General Managing Partner) Steve (Ross) and the coaching search, I do feel like we’re, obviously, a lot further ahead, because now the foundation has been laid. Everything is in place and now we’ve got to get better. From that standpoint, for our fans, we should be encouraged. There should be excitement. From a year ago, with Adam back, most of the staff back it looks like, that’s definitely progress. Now it’s up to us to take advantage of that and give ourselves the best chance to win in 2017.”

Adam Gase:

(To what do you attribute QB Ryan Tannehill’s growth this year?) – “We got on the same page a little later than we really wanted to. I really felt like we were going to hit the season running. I think it took us some games to get it really rolling. It took me a little longer than I thought to get used to our whole group as far as a play caller. Once we really got in a better groove as far as what everybody was good at and what we could lean on, that’s where I felt like we took off a little bit. He did a great job of sticking with what we had talked about, especially from the spring on. You look at him, but it’s really the whole group – offensive line, the tight ends, the running backs and the wide receivers – of those guys getting on the same page at the right time. When you play quarterback, you’re at the mercy of a lot of guys. It’s really about, ‘How many guys can we get doing their job right on the same play?’ There are times where he has had to make plays, which he has done. There have been some times where he has been put in some bad situations where it’s the perfect coverage versus what we had called, and he made something happen in some critical parts of the game, and then other guys have stepped up to make a play to help him on that play. Really, that’s where I feel like he has grown the most is he has made those plays where he has had to escape from the pocket and make those throws down the field or just run with the ball. The more we can get him to really do those things that the off-scheduled plays, I guess – the off-scheduled plays that he makes that were huge plays within our season – the more comfortable he feels doing those type of things, the better we’ll be on offense.”

(It feels like a lifetime ago that S Reshad Jones got hurt. How is he physically? Do you expect him for the start of OTAs and all of that?) – “Once again, I’m really … I don’t know the timetable right now. I do know this: every time I would see him, he’d tell me how he could play that game, which always kind of hurt me a little bit, because I’m thinking, ‘You’re pretty good. Don’t tell me that.’ (laughter) I was so impressed with how he helped lead our guys even though he wasn’t playing. He stood next to me before every game and he was such a lightning rod for energy for our guys. He tried to help our young players as much as he possibly could. It was great for me to see a guy that it hurt him so bad to not be out there with everybody. But those guys, they felt his positive energy every week on the sideline. He was always out at practice and making sure guys were competing and giving it everything they had. Guys respect him so much. He’s such a good player. Seeing him develop as a leader, that was something that was very impressive to see a guy from … It could have been rocky for him and myself and neither one of us let that happen. We put that spring aside and we developed a great relationship. He has been a guy that I’ve really enjoyed being around this season.”

(After making the playoffs, how much do you think that’ll inspire the team next year going forward?) – “The one thing I told those guys after the game is, ‘Enjoy being together, because some guys aren’t going to be here next year.’ That’s just the fact of the NFL. When we start up next year in the spring, nobody is going to care what we did last year. That’s just the brutal fact of the NFL. The guys that are going to be here that were here the previous year, don’t forget what that felt like after that game. We saw a lot of guys that were emotional after the game. I know I felt sick to my stomach knowing how hard it is to get there. I was lucky to go four straight years and then just one year not being there, I just remember how terrible I felt the entire month of December knowing that we were going to go home. Just getting there and knowing you never know when the next time is going to be, that’s what makes you work so hard from the time you get this thing kicked off until the last game you play. Just give yourself an opportunity to get in the tournament and then after that anything can happen.”

Mike Pouncey – January 9, 2017 Download PDF version

Monday, January 9, 2017

Center Mike Pouncey

(Talk about the year from your perspective with your injuries and everything else.) – “It was a tough year but I’m just proud of the guys the way the season turned out. I felt like the way we started off was real slow and we got a chance to get going and prove a lot of people wrong and kind of change the culture around here. It was good to be around. It was our first playoff game in my career and it was just great to be out there. The atmosphere was crazy and it was just an unbelievable feeling.”

(Do you feel like the year was a success?) – “I do. I do feel like this season was definitely a success. Obviously we didn’t win a championship like our goals were set to; but this … We’ve been dying for a long time to get in the playoffs and it was just a good feeling to be there.”

(Compared to past offseasons, how much do you feel like the arrow is pointed upward? Talk about the future of this team and what it’s like compared to previous ones?) – “I think it was great. We started over. We got new coaches in and they did a great job with us this year. We played together as a football team throughout the whole year, no matter whether we were at our lowest or at our highest. We stayed together, stick the course. We had a lot of guys step up and play that were unexpected and played great. It was good to see.”

(How about the confidence going forward? Do you feel that…) – “It will be good. We’ll be in this program for two years now. We’ll get to work on different things that we couldn’t work on last year. We were trying to basically just learn the offense. It would be good to know it now and then kind of work the ins and outs of it.”

(What is this day like today as opposed to in seasons past, leaving here?) – “It’s always tough ending the season, because we’re going to be sitting at home on the weekend and watching other teams play for championships. It’s going to be real tough, but the camaraderie that we built on this football team – the togetherness that we have on this football team – it sucks seeing everybody having to separate and go their different ways. Even though the season didn’t turn out the way we wanted it to, there is a lot of stuff to be proud of this season.”

(What’s your level of confidence that you can get out there in July, be healthy and stay healthy?) – “Injuries happen. It’s a part of this game. But I feel great right now. I know I’m healthy. I’ll be healthy in a minute or so. It was tough the way the season played out for me. I didn’t expect it to go that way and no one ever does, but I got to see this thing from a different perspective and watch these guys work and it was just amazing to see. I’m proud of this team for sticking with me. I’ll try to stay as healthy as I can next year. I’m ready for this season, ready for this offseason. I’m going to attack it just like I do any other offseason to be the best player I can be possibly and I just can’t wait to get started back.”

(How frustrating was it for you yesterday knowing that you couldn’t be out there?) – “I got over it. I wasn’t really worried about it yesterday. Yesterday I was just trying to be there for the guys when they were going out on the football field and just being out there, seeing the way they were inside of the locker room before the game, the way they played. It was exciting to see. It was something different – nothing I had ever experienced before in the National Football League. I was just happy to be a part of it.”

(But you’re optimistic you still have a lot of good football left?)  – “I’m not retiring until 10 years. Trust me. (laughter)”

Andre Branch – January 9, 2017 Download PDF version

Monday, January 9, 2017

Defensive End Andre Branch

(On how he would sum up the season) – “At the end of the season, our goal was to win the week but we didn’t have that, so that’s disappointing. We knew we could have won that game, but we didn’t make enough plays to make that happen.”

(Would you like to be back here? I know you’re a free agent at the end of the season. Would you like to be back here or have you gotten that far?) – “Yes. I love this place. They believed in me when not too many people did. I appreciate them for that. So we’ll see how it goes. I don’t know what the future holds, but I had an amazing time this year.”

(What’s the frame of mind today? There’s got to be a lot of processing.  You guys had such a good season in so many ways by turning things around here. Yesterday was obviously a very tough day. Where’s your head at?) – “Yesterday was disappointing. But everybody’s mindset today was positive and we know what we have to do to fix it going into the offseason. It just makes you work harder.”

(What’s your most vivid memory of the season?) – “That’s a tough one. I can’t just pinpoint one. I had a great time all season, whether it be we stayed in Seattle for an extended amount of time to going to the West Coast for 11 days, and that’s where I think we really … where people really saw how much of a brotherhood we had. To the end, where we had a lot of injuries and players just stepped up, and we didn’t blink. We didn’t let that get us down. We just kept fighting. We’ve just got to keep that going into the offseason.”

(Do you think that bond played a role in the success?) – “No doubt about it. When you feel like you’re letting your brothers down, that’s when you start seeing successful play on offense, defense and special teams. For us, that’s what the culture is now. (Head) Coach (Adam) Gase brought the culture and all of the players bought into it and (they were) great things to happen.”

(How would you assess your season from an individual standpoint?) – “I’m always, ‘Yes, I can work on my game.’ So for me, it’s constantly watching film on myself and other players at my position, adding things to my toolbox and going into the off season full steam, full speed ahead. I’m getting better and coming back even better than I was this year.”

(How much do you enjoy so many players in this locker room saying that you brought energy the time you were on the field?) – “Amazing. I feel that from them. I can’t bring energy if they didn’t trust me to bring energy to them. I appreciate them for that. From Day 1 they welcomed me with open arms and allowed me to be myself.”

Kenny Stills – January 9, 2017 Download PDF version

Monday, January 9, 2017

Wide Receiver Kenny Stills

(On if there was a mentality change that just making it to the playoffs isn’t good enough.) – “I tell guys how I really feel. A majority of the time when I talk to you guys, we talk about the talent that we know that we have on this team and the potential that we all could see in each other. So us not being able to get a victory yesterday is something that we feel like we had a good opportunity of doing and we didn’t. We truly believe in this room that we could make a run – a serious run – and we still truly believe that. We feel like we didn’t do what we were supposed to do.”

(Considering you were 6-10 last year and 1-4 to start the season, do you think – whether it’s days or weeks – you’ll be able to appreciate just how far this team did come, even though you didn’t reach your ultimate goal, to appreciate what was accomplished?) – “It doesn’t take days or weeks to appreciate that. I’m sick about the game yesterday, but I still understand where we’ve come (from). I told the guys before the game, ‘Look how far we’ve come.’ It’s something that you can be proud of, but it’s not something to hang your hat on. We know what we expect out of each other, and we know the potential of this group. We’ve got to come back stronger next year and do it again.”

(Do you think weather played a factor yesterday?) – “It didn’t play a factor for me. I can’t comment on everybody else’s ability to play the game, but I don’t feel like it affected me at all.”

(Many of the guys talked about not feeling this feeling again. What needs to be done going into the offseason to try to correct some things and make sure that you guys can go a little bit further next year?) – “A lot of people say that we’re young and that we need to mature, but it’s knowing when you get in the playoffs, you can’t start slow, you can’t turn the ball over, you can’t have penalties. The way that we played yesterday wasn’t good enough. Sometimes things like this have to happen if you’re going to learn that lesson that needs to be learned. I definitely think that happened. Guys understand the way this feels and we don’t want it to happen again.”

(How much do you want to come back here with the way this organization is going?) – “I don’t know how to say how much I want to come back here. I want to be back here, yes. I love this team; I love these guys. We did something special after starting 1-4. We did something really special. We’re going to do whatever we can to try and make that happen.”

Jermon Bushrod – January 8, 2017 (Postgame) Download PDF version

Sunday, January 8, 2017
Postgame – at Pittsburgh

Miami Dolphins G Jermon Bushrod (transcribed by the Pittsburgh Steelers)

Was this a successful season?

No. Our goal was to be the last team standing, and we were not the last team standing. Where we came from earlier this season you have to be proud. I’m proud of everybody in this organization from the coaches down to the players. Things were not looking great for us. We were banged up. We were losing games but we found a way to look inside of ourselves and come out of a tough situation. This could have been a really tough season but like I said I’m proud. No, this is not where we wanted to be. We wanted to get into this dance and you never know what could happen. It is just unfortunate.

What was it like to play in that cold?

I still cannot feel my fingers. Like I said earlier in the week when it comes to the cold you either do it or have someone else do it. I do not care if it feels like negative five or zero. You have to do whatever you have to do to keep yourself warm. At the end of the day you have to do what you have to do.


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