Patriots OC McDaniels: "This is the best group we’ve played all year"

New England Patriots offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels prior to the game against the Buffalo Bills at New Era Field.Photo: Rich Barnes-USA TODAY Sports

Patriots Offensive Coordinator Josh McDaniels Conference Call

Q: First of all, you’ve been through the head coach interviewing process. Having been through it so many times and then getting ready for a playoff game, how much of a comfort level is there? Can you also speak to the Chargers front four and what kind of challenges they present?

JM: Well, there’s a process obviously in place and everybody has to go through that at this time of the year and I think we’re all professionals and have to manage our time appropriately all year long and multi-task. If you’re going to go through one of those situations and you’re fortunate to have an opportunity to do so, you do the best you can with that while spending your time really on where it needs to be which is the current season and the team that you’re on and the opponent you’re getting ready to play. So that’s how I’ve always approached it and other people might do it differently. The Chargers defense in general is – this is the best group we’ve played all year. Their defensive front is extremely disruptive. They play a one-gap style of defense. That’s what Coach [Gus] Bradley’s always done and they’re really good at what they do, create a lot of issues for you with their penetration. They’re disruptive in the running game and create negative plays, which puts you into second and third-and-long which they excel at and then they can create a ton of problems then with their pass rush. The way that they play on early downs lends itself to them being able to turn it loose and really get after the quarterback in passing situations when they know you have to throw. It’s a group that’s got a lot of people that have created impact plays for them this year. I mean, across the board, inside and outside – everybody knows about [Joey] Bosa and [Melvin] Ingram but [Uchenna] Nwosu has done it, [Darius] Philon’s done it, [Damion] Square’s done it, [Brandon] Mebane’s certainly done it. So there’s a lot of people – [Isaac] Rochell – so I mean, there’s a lot of people that have created very disruptive plays in the front and they play as hard as any group that we’ve played all year. This is a tremendous challenge. Our ability to try to limit some of those negative situations and negative plays is going to go a long way in this game. We’re excited to get an opportunity to compete in this game and like I said, this is the best team we’ve played all year.

Q: Have you spoken to the Cleveland Browns at all about their head coaching vacancy?

JM: No sir. I have had no contact with them.

Q: How have they managed to mask their injuries at linebacker and have such success with sometimes four safeties and a lot of times, three?

JM: They’re a deep group in terms of their overall depth on the defense. I think that they’ve done a great job of adapting, which you know, credit their coaching staff, Coach Bradley and their coaching staff for being able to adjust. They were a little bit more of a nickel group earlier in the year, now they’ve really become much more of a dime group with at least six defensive backs in the game quite a bit. [Adrian] Phillips’ playing down there near the line of scrimmage when they go to that grouping, [Derwin] James is down there near the line of scrimmage. Both those guys are 210, 215 pound guys that can run and hit and they’re physical players. So they play similar styles to a linebacker and then they have a very good nickel back in [Desmond] King that plays physical. He’ll tackle. He’s disruptive in both the run and the passing game. He can blitz. They have depth in the secondary that they have now spilled over into that second level of the defense and the linebacking group by becoming more of a dime grouping. It’s just obviously very smart in terms of trying to use your best players as much as you can and that’s what they’ve decided to do. As I said, the front’s disruptive but you’ve got – this is as deep a group and as talented as a group as we’ve played all year. All of them have made plays whether that’s near the line of scrimmage or in the secondary in coverage. We’ll have our hands full. Excited to get started on them but this is a great challenge for us.

Q: Do you anticipate interviewing for any more head coaching opportunities or have you kind of closed the book on that for now?

JM: Yeah, the book is closed. It’s always a humbling experience to have an opportunity to interview with anybody for that position and I was thankful for the opportunity to meet with Green Bay. It always gives you greater insight into another organization and how they do things. It’s been very educational for me every time I’ve gone through it and I’ve appreciated every single one of them. That was great but no, I’m completely focused on the Chargers and our season and finishing it strong and I’ll be here moving forward.

Q: Do you feel as though what happened last offseason with the Colts impacted you with other teams at all for potentially getting other opportunities?

JM: I have no idea, Phil [Perry]. You know, you’d have to obviously ask them if that had anything to do with anything like that. I’m grateful for the opportunity that I had but obviously more importantly, thankful for the opportunity that I have here. I’ve said before, I think I have one of the best jobs in the world and I’m grateful for the opportunity to continue competing this week against the Chargers.

Q: When you look at the body of work, what stands out to you about your group of wide receivers this year?

JM: Versatility, unselfishness, adaptability and really, the way that they go out and practice and work every day to get ready to compete. They’ve all served in different roles this year. When you have a group that’s willing to do what the coaching staff thinks is best for the team that week and they don’t question it or second-guess anything, it’s really a great thing as a coach to come into the room and say, “Look, this is what we think we have to do to win the game,” and they embrace their role. That speaks to their character, how much they want to win and how much they care about doing what’s best for the team. I love the group that we’ve got. Really excited for them to have an opportunity to compete this Sunday in this game and they’re going to have to play very well for us to be able to do the things we need to do to move the football on this defense and try to score points.

Q: When you guys drafted James White, is his role as that third-down back the one you envisioned him filling when he joined the team?

JM: James was a very productive player period at Wisconsin. He ran the ball a large amount at Wisconsin in their offensive system and in-between the tackles and in cold weather. He was durable, did some of the tough things as a running back that you need to do in terms of being unselfish in terms of blitz pickup and physical and those types of things. He had a very productive career there and did a lot of good things. I don’t think you ever pigeonhole a guy and say this is the only role he can fill. Certainly we saw a talented guy with great character and intelligence and we felt like you get a guy like that in your system and you just continue to try to work hard and develop him as a football player. He’s got a lot of directions that he could go in terms of his skill set and we’re not done. James is still a young player and we’ll still continue to try to develop him. He’s still trying to work hard to improve in every area of his game, which is what you would expect if you know James White. He does a lot for a football team and he certainly does a lot for us offensively and there’s a lot of hats that he wears and again, excited to have an opportunity to coach him this week in this game.

Q: At this point last year, it was reported your role would increase inside the organization. If that’s true, how did you find those responsibilities this year? How do you think you’ve grown in that increased role?

JM: I don’t really think that that’s really changed. Hopefully I can improve whatever it is that I’m responsible for but my role here has been the same – that’s to do the best job I can at coordinating the offense and work with the offensive staff and Bill [Belichick] and doing whatever they need us to do relative to coaching the football team and trying to improve our players and develop our team that way and then assist in any other role that they need us to assist in during the course of the year. Really the responsibilities are the same but you always work to try to get better as a coach in a lot of different areas. We wear a lot of hats – teachers, communication, scheme, evaluation. There’s a lot of different things we do. So I think all of us try to work hard to get better in some area every year and hopefully I’ve made some progress in something. Like I said, excited to have an opportunity to continue competing this week.

Q: The Chargers said that they picked up on some of the Ravens’ tendencies based on the way the offensive linemen were setting their feet, things of that nature. How do you guys try to protect against your tendencies to avoid having tells like that?

JM: That’s always something you have to be conscious of, is whether or not you’re creating a tendency that somebody could pick up on, whether that be schematically or something smaller than that that maybe a specific position group would notice – you know, a defensive line group or what have you. We try to do the best we can at identifying the things that we’ve put on tape and being aware and alert for anything that we’ve shown too much or that has become a pattern. And then you try to do what you can to complement that or break those tendencies if you can throughout the course of the year. I think most importantly, if you go out there and you execute and you play with good fundamentals, there’s going to be times where the other team has an idea of what you’re going to do and you still do it well. I think when it’s all said and done, every team has tendencies, every team has things that they want to do, every team has things that they feel best about doing under pressure and at that moment, what’s really important is who’s players execute with good fundamentals and good technique and good toughness under pressure. I think that’s probably more important than reading too much into trying to break tendencies, et cetera, especially in critical situations.

Q: The age gap between Tom Brady and his teammates has obviously grown as his career has gone on and has become pretty unique for pro sports. What have you seen about how he relates to and connects with his younger teammates despite that age gap and do you think that’s something that’s pretty important for him and for the team?

JM: I think at the end of the day, we all coach and play for the Patriots and something that Tom has always done very well is – we all have things in common and most importantly, we’re all trying to pull in the same direction and help our team win. He communicates well with every player. One of the things that’s always impressed me is how he’s one of the first guys in the building to know a new person’s name, which speaks to how important that is to him, to introduce himself to somebody and also get to know that person, whether it be a practice squad player, a rookie, whatever it is. We all have important jobs to do here, we take those very seriously as Tommy always does. I think one of the big roles that a quarterback plays on the team is just being able to communicate openly with each one of his teammates, which Tom does. At the end of the day, we’re all different ages, we all come from different places, but we certainly have the same goal in mind when it comes to what we try and do here. I think he does a great job of connecting those dots and really trying to pour himself into his teammates and they know that they can communicate with him and talk to him about anything, whether it’s football or not. So it makes him such a special leader.