Read the full transcript from Head Coach Mike McDaniel's press conference on November 17, 2023.
(Barring a setback, will RB De'Von Achane be activated for Sunday? And are you ready to rule out OL Robert Hunt and WR Chase Claypool?) - "If today doesn't exist, then tomorrow cannot. (laughter)"
(A true remark.) - "We have practice today. I know, patience is small. We're prepared to, if everything goes well, we're very optimistic about that. But you don't know. As we've held our ground on, we're not going to rush processes. But it's been so far so good. Encouraged by that. We'll make a decision on that after the completion of the said most important practice of our lives, today."
(OL Robert Hunt and Chase Claypool?) - "Rob Hunt, he'll be out for this game. It's not that it's that far away, it's more that I think it'd be pretty risky this week. So we're going to keep working, but he's doing a good job. He hasn't had a setback. Then Chase Claypool, he had, over the bye week, just a little minor procedure on the knee. We're not expecting it to be - it wasn't a major issue, but we'll just take it week to week with him. He's doing good."
(WR Braxton Berrios?) - "He's a part of a crew that there's a couple guys that we have to get through today. For him, especially soft tissue, he plays the game one way, and it is very vulnerable if he's vulnerable, because he knows how to go one way. (laughter) But I feel good about it. It's a day-to-day thing with that. He's working his way through it, and there's a chance, for sure, that he'll play in the game. But if not, it's proactive. He's definitely close."
(OL Liam Eichenberg detailed to us that he's been working at right guard. What went into that decision? I think he said he's more comfortable on that side.) - "Liam Eichenberg holds the crown of versatility. The thing that really opened our eyes was the residuals of him playing center at other positions on the offensive line. There's a certain amount of ownership that the center position takes when you're not a quarterback Mike point when he's making all the calls, but also you have to know the assignments. You kind of get an extra window of the vulnerabilities of a play if you kind of get (and) understand if you're in a combination block as a center, trailing the guard, what you need from the guard. Yeah, you hear it, but you can really feel. So he's a very, very prepared smart player. But what he's really done is completely committed to all of our fundamentals and techniques, but then he's kind of learned guard in a new way from the center position. So that versatility along with some consistency at some other spots of the line, it just made a lot of sense and he's done well working there."
(Anything in your Yale experience that helps you prepare for a certain defensive coordinator for the Raiders this week, Patrick Graham?) - "You threw me off for a second, because I didn't go to college with him, but I went to the same college as Mr. Graham. Patrick is a great dude. When I was in the UFL for a couple years, he took the time at a Combine, I think it was 2009 maybe, to sit down with me. At that time, we were the lone Yale soldiers in the National Football League, and he had such a cool experience with winning so many games with the New England Patriots. Then through mutual friends and connections in the business, I know him pretty well. He's been in league for a while. He was the defensive coordinator with the Giants in 2020 when we played against them. It's cool when you see people go from different teams and you can find a consistency. The one thing with Patrick is of the various teams that he's coached or the position groups that he's coached, you have a bunch of guys that they develop during the season, but they always play hard. So I know that's a cool piece of his coaching DNA. From an X's and O's standpoint, I would say that I don't think Yale really helps for any sort of competitive advantage. But I think the starting point of his system that he runs, getting more experience going against that in the AFC East, is probably more helpful than Eli Whitney, or Whitney Gymnasium or Naples Pizza - Yale references. Somebody somewhere is like, 'Yes, he said, Naples.'"
(Going back to the decision to hire Butch Barry as offensive line coach, what convinced you about him? Because he was a guy that was much maligned at Denver last year. He was known down here for not having a great year at University of Miami the one year he was there. So what convinced you that he was the guy for this job?) - "What was funny about the process is, for me, a lot of people in the business just really gravitate to familiarity, which is important. However, for me, when I'm making decisions like that, I don't want to take the path of least resistance at all. That irks me. So immediately I thought of Butch. I thought it'd be a great fit. Then you do your checks and balances to make sure you're just not chasing familiarity, and when you do things like that, you come full circle and become that much more convicted on he's the right guy for what you want. And how I knew that is as a head coach, I realized that one of the most important things to me, that are so important for the players, and for me to do my job and the organization, is absolute commitment to the development of the players they're coaching. That can come in many different shapes and sizes, but what that is is what I see my duty to do for the organization and the players anyway, is make them the best they can be. So when you're doing that, you realize quickly that it's cool if you believe it, but you need everyone to believe it. You need people to that you can rely on, that you can trust, that will leave no stone unturned and put themselves behind as a secondary priority to what they're asked to do. Butch Barry takes his job as coaching players very serious. When they fail, he fails. When they succeed, he succeeds. He lives that. I could tell the guys on this team, the tremendous human beings that Chris Grier and the personnel department have been organizing and gathering together, they flourish when they know that they're invested in. So I can't say enough good things. He has done a tremendous job, is an unbelievable asset for me and everyone. He rolls his eyes and scoffs anytime you tell him good job, because his devotion is to getting guys better. You can have a 76-yard touchdown, he'll be like, 'Eh, we're just too flat - too flat on the backside.' That's what you want and that's what the players want. So I think they've connected in a cool way, and the residuals have been obvious."
(You guys are undefeated at home and there's a lot of confidence that surrounds this team, even through wins and losses, the ups and downs of this football season. What do you think is contributing to that aura of confidence that surrounds this team?) - "I think they know they're committed more to each other and to their craft then they ever have been before as individuals. And I'm serious, every guy on our team is in that process or in that moment of going, 'How much better can I get? How much more can I do? What can I do with my game?' You stack a bunch of people - or list of the people that have the same mindset, that competitive mindset to be them best selves together, that to me is what more than anything is an energy of preparedness, commitment. They're very confident because they know they've put in the work. They know they're talented and that doesn't mean we know or expect to win every game. We expect to learn from every game, win as many as possible, but continuing to build everything we do. That is not fake confidence, which is what's cool about it. There's a lot of energy when things are going well. But also, it's not like a quiet, all of a sudden retraction of your personality when tough things happen. I think you get a lot of confidence going through things with people. I think you gain confidence when you fly overseas, go all in into a game and then you lose it. Then you come back to work and you see how your teammates and how yourself responds to that. In many ways, we've gained confidence through the course of the year with losses as well as wins just because you experience live speed who you're dealing with. Everybody loves to high five each other when you're winning. What are you going to do when the inevitable happens and what is it going to like when you are all in and that happens? So I think our confidence is really, really organic, real and earned by the daily work and investment that these guys are doing. It'll be a confident team at home and we are very aware of narratives, but don't really care about them. So we'll be confident on the road and when we play a team that's good, by the way every team is good, but when we play a good team, we're going to be confident too. You just understand that kind of stuff. Our world is a little bit different. You understand that people will say you are something until you prove it otherwise. So, we have no reason not to be confident because we continue to get better and they know that in the realest way with their own eyes watching their teammates play and playing with them."
(Are WR Robbie Chosen or CB Kelvin Joseph known to be joining the practice squad at this time?) - "The reason why we made the move with Robbie yesterday is in hopes we can get him back. But that isn't in our hands. Had to do a tough thing there. I can't say enough about the commitment that Robbie has had to the team. He's a tremendous human being that has taken ownership over his life, acknowledged anything that he's not happy about and worked to improve that on and off the field. He's a human being that's really earned a ton of respect with his humility and his commitment to being a part of this team. I see him as a part of it, and you just hope you get him back. Such is the nature of the NFL and random numbers that our roster is."
(From my eyes, OL Austin Jackson seems like he is playing the best season of his career. I know a big pillar of yours is to get the most out of guys. Can you maybe take me into what Offensive Line Coach Butch Barry and your staff has done, specifically with Austin, to get the most out of him?) - "If you think it's cool and obvious, I get goosebumps thinking about it because it's not as simple as - when you're trying to coach and get the best out of someone, it's not just saying the right thing. It is getting your hands dirty by earning their trust on a daily basis. The connection between coaches and players and the journey that they're on, it starts with the earned trust. I don't believe in entitlement. So you have to show players that you care and you have to earn the respect that you know those coaches are giving you the right information and the right emphasis. On top of that, the player has to really want to be the best version of himself really with a resiliency that is pretty awesome. The daily commitment, the relentlessness, the intent, the coachability of Austin, and then I think it's so cool that the world tried to beat Austin down and tell him he was something. It's funny, people don't have sympathy for it. Traditionally, I think guys that are trying to prove the team's investment in them. First-round draft picks are kind of attacked a little bit. No one wants to be labeled as a bust. That's hard. A lot of people don't have the mental fortitude to withstand narratives, which is why he's doing an abnormal thing because he's 24 years old, got in this league before he could drink alcohol and has been the focal point of many people's conversations and opinions. Fortunately, he's the type of person he is and fortunately Butch and Lem (Lemuel Jeanpierre) do the job they do for him. Every day they know, regardless, they've done everything they can to best prepare him and then he takes that and doesn't worry about anything else. It's a very, very hard thing to do but admirable and very, very enjoyable for me to watch Both Butch and Austin had opinions out there of them that I don't share. It's cool to watch them not worry about that and just do their jobs with passion and love for the game, love for the position they're in and regard for the position they're in and love for each other."