Mike Daniels Q&A: 'When are we going to punch somebody in the face?'
The former Green Bay Packers defensive tackle had a lot to say. Here's the text.
Football is a fight. Few players understood that as well as the Green Bay Packers’ ball of fury: Mike Daniels.
The former Pro Bowl defensive tackle has a lot to get off his chest. (He knows exactly what held those Packers teams back.)
You can watch or listen to our latest Go Long 1 on 1 conversation here, icymi. The condensed text is below.
Recent Q&As with former players…
Mike Daniels, pounding some orange juice. Probably just got out of the MMA ring.
Daniels: That’s tomorrow, man.
Still doing the MMA training then?
Daniels: Yeah, a little bit. Got some friends I grew up with that are into the Brazilian jujitsu, so it is definitely a great way to keep yourself in shape.
In April of 2015, you took me through one of your rigorous workouts, and I’m not just saying it was rigorous. I don’t know how you did that regularly as a player. It was like a little MMA, some boxing, everything.
Daniels: To keep that killer instinct going. Because I wrestled my whole life, and I didn’t realize this until I got to Iowa, but wrestling and football go hand in hand and there’s a physical component to it. There’s a mental. Being on the line is a combat sport. It’s not unlike wrestling and boxing and those things. It’s obviously not the same thing, but the mentality: We’re going to fight each other — straight up.
This was who we went to if we wanted the real, the raw. You would set the tone. Those teams that you were on were so good, won so many games. But what would always hold that defense back was an edge in the playoffs. We’re jumping right into some bad memories, Mike, but you were trying your damnedest to bring that edge year ‘round. It was like “Punch in the Mouth Fridays” with Mike Daniels when we would talk. Adrian Peterson’s on deck? “We’re going to punch him in the mouth.”
Daniels: That’s how I was raised in New Jersey. Even if my team wasn’t good. I was just talking to a coach who was a really good coach here for years and he was my linebacker coach. He was the linebacker coach at Iowa, but he was a great coach in this area for years. I said to him, “Yeah, man, my high school, we weren’t good, but we were tough. He said, “Oh yeah, you guys were always tough.” Didn’t necessarily say we’re the best players or good at football, but we were tough. It was going to be a fight at minimum. Our wrestling team, there’s a juvenile center in my hometown and some of those kids were on our wrestling team throughout the year. So one thing that I knew was toughness. I went to Iowa. That’s all we knew. Then when I got to Green Bay, that wasn’t the focus anymore. We had tough guys, we had tough coaches. Coach McCarthy loved that stuff, but for whatever reason it just wasn’t our identity and when I went to make it our identity, that was really off-putting to most of the guys. It was hard.
Why would that be off-putting?
Daniels: I think a part of that is I was young when I was doing it, so it was like “Who does this guy think he is? You just got here.” Well, I’m a football player. I’ve been playing this game my entire life and I’ve been playing it a certain way, and when I see that way not being exemplified, I’m a little confused. When I’m seeing that the fundamental aspect is less important than the scheme. At Iowa, we were a top defense every year. The fundamentals were so important. Film study of your opponent was so important. Sun Tzu, “The Art of War,” the battle is won before it starts. You’ve got to know your opponent. There were guys who didn’t watch film. You had to know who you were going against. It’s a fight man. It’s a fight without punches to the face.
I remember that’s what we did at Iowa. Our coach had the Sun Tzu quote up there: Know your opponent. The battle’s won before it starts. We drilled fundamentals so heavy that we would line up in a base 4-3, we never blitzed and it was like: “Stop us. We’re better than you. We’re bigger, we’re stronger, we’re tougher. Stop us. We dare you. We’re going to play basic football. Cover 2. Stop us.” And then when I got to Green Bay, it was like the exact opposite. I wasn't accustomed to that and I figured, “Well, maybe that’s the NFL.” Until I started looking around. I saw how Seattle (played), and that’s when they were starting to come along. … I’m watching defenses punch us in the face, bro. Then when we played Detroit, I was like, “Oh my God.” That’s the closest that I’ve seen to my high school or Iowa defense ever. These guys had some dirt bag to ‘em. They kind of teetered that line, but they intimidated. And I was like, “Dang, why aren’t we doing that? We have the guys to do it.” I remember Morgan Burnett at Georgia Tech. He knocked one of our receivers out the game. Then we had Ha Ha Clinton-Dix — that’s all he did. But then in Green Bay, we didn’t get to see that as much as we saw that out of them in college. And that was always a little odd to me. Now I understand the NFL is different, but I’m looking down the road and I’m seeing Kam Chancellor and Donte Whitner and we got guys that can do that, but why aren’t we seeing that from them?
It was strange. So when I came in there with that attitude, it was like, “Nah, man, we’re good. Stop with all that.”
Players or coaches?
Daniels: Players. But there were guys in private that were like, “Hey man, keep that up. That’s good stuff.” All the coaches loved it. They loved it. Kevin Greene told me before I took my first snap ever, he said, “You’re a guy that could’ve played with me and my guys in Pittsburgh.” And I said, “Wow.” Alonzo Highsmith said to me, “You remind me of Jerome Brown. Just angry.” Because Jerome was with him in Miami. And not to mention me and (Winston) Moss. The coaches all loved it. Trgo, he was crazy. It was an odd dynamic, which was even worse because these are all great guys I’m talking about.
I feel like this is speaking to so many questions that have kind of gone unanswered for a lot of fans that look at the talent level on those teams and wonder, “Just one Super Bowl. How did those teams not win more?” Outside looking in, it’s easy for us in the media to be like, “Well, maybe Ted just drafted too many choir boys.” San Francisco, Seattle, they had some bad dudes in there, but you’re saying you had the players?
Daniels: I’m a choir boy. Never been arrested. Never been in trouble. Straight A student throughout middle school. Honors Student in high school. Got my degree. Never been arrested. Worked in a community. I was a “good guy.” Thomas Davis was the Walter Payton Man of the Year, and he clocked Davante out the game. Football’s a light switch. You can be the nicest guy on the planet. I’ve seen guys that are straight dirt bags that are soft on the football field and I’m like, “Man, you’re supposed to be this tough guy, but you get on the field and get beat up.”
I played with Hall of Fame players. But the best defense statistically I played on was in Cincinnati. They did not have the type of guys we had in Green Bay. That Green Bay lineup we had? We got them beat. Defensive backs, D-Line, Edge. Only position where Cincinnati probably had an edge on us and during those years is linebacker. … Statistically, the best defense that I've ever been a part of was Cincinnati the year we went to the Super Bowl, and I can tell you that it was just a different set of guys talent-wise than we had in Green Bay. But the demand was different. Mike Hilton, I think he might be the smallest player in the NFL was single tackling Derrick Henry off the edge,
He’s the best pound-for-pound defensive player in football.
Daniels: He single-tackles Derrick Henry off the edge. He’s like, “You ain’t stiff-arming me. You’re going down.” You see, he’s allowed to have that type of attitude and swagger. I think the guys, they have it. Like I said, I watched Morgan firsthand knock our receivers out of the game in the Orange Bowl. I’m like, “Who the hell is No. 1? He’s killing us.” I watched Ha Ha. And then all these defensive linemen we had coming in. The DBs. But yet, you wouldn't necessarily see that once we got to Green Bay. … And you’re hearing the same thing about them right now. Kenny Clark sounds like me. I got a mention and I’m like, “Who's talking about me on Twitter? I’m not playing right now.” And it will be somebody saying, “Mike Daniels said this years ago.” And I look at what they’re tweeting to, and it’s Kenny making a comment about: “We need to be tougher, we need more dogs.” And I'm like, “What the heck?!” I thought that's what they did when they got rid of all of us and brought in all the new guys.
I don’t know why any player in a sport like this would temper attitude, temper swagger. Who’s telling you, “Knock it off?” Because that’s exactly what that team needed and that’s exactly what this team needs.
Daniels: It never was really direct to me. It would always kind of come back to me in a way like, “Hey man. Mike kind of tone it down a little bit.” Or, “Mike, you might not want to say this.” Which is all great advice from older players or an older vet guy or maybe a personnel guy or somebody like a coach, like, “Hey man, Mike. You don't want to lose the guys.” But I was just so bewildered by the fact that I’m on a team that's considered soft. I've never been on a team considered “soft” my entire life. And I refuse to have that. Because first of all, those guys that I go to battle with that do all this hard work and all this hard training and everything that we do — the way we get scrutinized — no matter if we win or lose, they don't deserve to be called soft because they’re not soft!
I remember we had a coach. He was assisting with special teams and he came from the 49ers. This might've been in 2015 or ‘14, but I asked him. I said, “Coach, when you were with the 49ers, when y’all were beating us four games a row— Week 1, and then the playoffs 2012. Then Week 1, and the playoffs again in 2013 — what was the deal with you guys? He said, “We knew we were tougher than you guys.” And that was like a dagger in my heart. Because I’ve never been a part of something like that. Like I said, I've been on teams that weren’t good, but you knew you were going to be hurting after the game. You knew it was going to be — at minimum — a fight. And to hear another coach tell me, “Yeah, we knew you guys were soft.” And as I've gone through the league, it's funny because the narrative changed, honestly, the more of a presence I had versus my first couple years. Because even talking to some of those guys that played for Detroit or in Seattle when they were beating us: “Yeah, we knew you guys weren’t as tough as we were or we knew you guys were kind of more of a finesse type team.” Then I think in that 2015 year when Letroy, BJ Raji, myself, Mike Pennel and Datone, we were the defensive line. … And that year, I remember before we played the Broncos, we were the No. 1 defense in the NFL at that time. And that was one of the odd years where the offense had some slight struggles. But the defense, we were actually starting to come along. And when I would ask guys who played us that year, like those AFC teams. Those guys, the talking point was different. They said, “We knew you guys were tough upfront. Yeah, y’all were young in the back-end, but we knew y’all were tough upfront. We knew it was going to be a fight.” And when I started hearing those words, I was like, “Right. Now, we’re getting cooking.” Because you always have to keep your ear to the streets. You’ve got to know what they’re talking about. Because your reputation precedes you.
That we-weren’t-tough stuff went out the window. And then that next season is when we struggled mightily in the back end. We were like 31st or something, but we were eight in the run. And that’s with a rookie Kenny Clark and Dean Lowry and Blake Martinez. So the following, then the end shorted up, and then upfront we were kind of doing this (moves hand up and down) and part of that too, Aaron got hurt. So, there was a lot more put on the defense and we should have been able to handle that. Unfortunately, we didn’t. And we fell back into being mediocre at best. So that was rough. But I will say the talking point was still the same: “You guys were tough upfront. We knew it was going to be a fight upfront.” And when I was on my way out the door, I told Kenny and Dean, “No matter what, just please just make sure y’all just keep being a-holes straight up.” I told ‘em when they got here, I said, “Guys, I look forward to playing with assholes over football players.” And those guys come in as rookies playing significant time, and we end up No. 8 run defense in the NFL. It's a mentality.
You did everything in your power early.
Daniels: My second year after the Lions game because DeAndre Levy knocked one of our receivers out the game. Mind you, Brandon Meriweather knocked out Eddie Lacy and tried to knock out James Starks, but James Starks ended knocking him out. And then unfortunately, Jermichael’s career ended, which I think was more of a freak accident, but it’s still goes along the lines of our guys getting pulled off the field because they got hit. So I'm pissed and I'm like, “When are we going to punch somebody else in the face?” I’m tired of watching my teammates, my brothers who I love get carried out the game because they got hurt. I took that personal and that's where some of the flags came in. That was hard, man. I hated watching my brothers on offense go through that, and I wanted us to be able to implement that type of punishment. But it seemed like that wasn't on the forefront of everybody's mind.
So that pissed you off though, seeing guys getting taken off the field?
Daniels: Yo, when Kenny Clark got hurt by Ryan Jensen, when that happened, I was on him the rest of the game. I was on him rest of the game, and I even went to (John) Harbaugh. I yelled at him, I’m like, “Hey, bro, I’m bleep-bleep-bleep-bleeping.” And he kind of looked at me. He probably likes that type of stuff. But I took that personal, I'm like, “Yo, you hurt my little brother dog. It's over with.” We lost the game, but whatever. As long as I beat him up. Yeah, I like to win. But there’s other things that are out of my control with that, so I'm going to make sure I win this battle right here.
I took a lot of things personal, and I think in a sport like this, you have to take it personal. The best defenses take things personal. I remember before we played the Raiders in the playoff game, Lou Anarumo pulls up Derek Carr’s interview, and he was just like, “I honestly just don’t like how the guy's carrying himself right now. He just kind of has this smugness to him that says, ‘We’re just going to win.’” In Green Bay, we didn’t really acknowledge things like that. Not as a whole. … I would try to bring things up. Like when the Giants went on that boat. And I took that personal, I’m like, “Yo, it’s Monday.” Looking at my watch. “It’s Monday.” We over here working at work. Y’all on the boat. It's a playoff game! OK, so you guys don’t respect us. Alright, solid. And I told Coach McCarthy, I said, “Coach man, I think we need to put that up in the meeting room and let guys know like, ‘Yo, these guys don't respect you. It’s a playoff game. And they’re sitting out there on a boat. They’re on a freaking boat with Trey Songz. Hanging out.” He said, “You know, Mike. I don’t know if that message is going to really land.” He wasn't sure if that was going to have the effect that I wanted it to have. And sure enough, I’d hear some whispers: Dang bro. They had some fun the other day. I'm like, “Maybe I’m getting old.” Because that’s something you’re supposed to take personal!
But if you do have these gnarly players that you say are on that defense, I feel like you could tap into that?
Daniels: When you don't use it, you lose it. And I think because guys haven’t been doing that and playing that way for a while, something that was so normal to them once upon a time, it just wasn't like that anymore for them. Because they’re like, “This is what I know football to be now.” A good example was Ha Ha.
Ha Ha ran downfield as a rookie — and the other guy was a rookie, too — but I remember we were in the indoor. They did a center pull. The center, guard or whatever. And you just see Ha Ha run downfield and he knocked Corey Linsley off his feet. Lit. His. Butt. Up. And I said, “Yo, that's what we need here.” And Corey's a monster, by the way. I remember seeing Kam Chancellor doing that to one of the guards from the Cardinals my rookie year. And I said, “Dang, how come I'm not seeing that?” But that wasn't encouraged the way it should have been. I’m not saying the coaches didn’t do their job. I’m just saying as a whole, that wouldn’t have been a highlight.
A moment like that should be celebrated in the moment: This is what we want.
Daniels: In Detroit and in Cincinnati, that’s a clip that would’ve been played in the meeting room. Like, “Hey, here's how we want to practice.” The guy who got knocked out, now guess what? You need to come back to practice. We ain’t headhunting, but you need to come back with some fire.” So now you’re breeding a guy to actually feel embarrassed about something like that happening versus like, “Oh, it just happened.” That’s why I made that comment going into my third year. I remember watching guys on the D-Line getting pushed in the back after plays and stuff in my rookie year and that made a lot of people upset. Nobody ever came and told me. But I know that made a lot of people upset. But I wasn’t trying to talk down on my teammates, man, these are my brothers. I was just saying what I was noticing and I said, “That just has to change.”
That’s when you said you were going to fight teammates?
Daniels: Well, no, that was a different comment. I said, “I'm going to punch you in the face if I got to get you going.” But that was tough, man. That was tough. Going back to Ha Ha, he made that play on Gronkowski right in Green Bay. And he got up and he was all in his face. And you fast forward a couple years later, I’m chatting, chatting. Talking some good garbage to Le’Veon Bell and Ha Ha is like, “Yo man, Mike. You don’t have to do all that.” Or “Mike, I understand what you're doing, bro, but chill.” And I'm like, “What happened to you? What happened?” I wouldn’t expect to hear nothing like that from you. … I was just kind like, “I wonder why he’s not taking that kind same approach he was taking when he stood over Gronkowski?”
He decompressed to the atmosphere that was there when he could have been with you changing everything.
Daniels: And he was. I used to walk around and look at guys and wondering like, “Man, how come you’re not mad at this?” I remember when Cam Newton was doing all the dancing. BJ Raji said, “Yo, we can’t let him do that.” Nobody really understood that. I remember Clay was getting at it with Kelce when we played the Chiefs on Monday night. You'll see these moments and they will happen at times and in these pockets and you’ll be like, “Man, we’ve got to do that every single game.” Because when we played Odell, them DBs took it personal. But man, you shut down Odell. But then Peyton Manning and then Philip Rivers both throw for 500, 600 yards in back-to-back games almost. But we play against Calvin Johnson, and it’s like, “You ain't catching nothing.” And that’s with us too. It was like, man, “Hey Adrian Peterson, you’re about to have the worst game in your life, bro. Marshawn, we’re going to make you pull yourself out the game, bro.” But we'll let an average running back somehow get 100 yards. .. .So it’s like the same mentality. Why aren't we bringing that every game?
A moment was the first 56 minutes of an NFC Championship Game. I remember being out there in Seattle for that week leading up to the game, talking to all those guys and thinking “They’re going to smoke Green Bay. Green Bay is a softer, finesse team. The Seahawks might win by three touchdowns.” And you physically dominated the Seahawks.
Daniels: We were pissed. I’m going to tell you, we were pissed from that first game. One thing we did do well, we did hold grudges well. I know I held them. Because Seattle got the Fail Mary on us. Then they embarrassed us with the way they ran on us in the first game of the season that year. We came into that championship game and we were pissed, but it collapsed.
How does that happen? That’s one of the most insane games anybody will see in any lifetime.
Daniels: Because that wasn't something that we were accustomed to doing. Now, when you watch that next year, we ended up the top defense in the NFL by midpoint of that season because that carried over. And then the next year, now we’re the No. 1 run defense by the time we go to Tennessee. … Watch that playoff run in 2015, the way we beat up on the Redskins offense, the way we got after the Cardinals offense. But once again, because it was so out of our norm, the Cardinals were able to get us the first play in overtime.
That’s a great way to put the Seattle game, too. You’re dominating them. Picking off Russell Wilson four times. Shutting down Marshawn Lynch. But it probably feels strange because this isn’t something that you guys normally do — going into Seattle, beating them up. What do you mean by ‘we weren't accustomed to winning that way?’
Daniels: The mind is an amazing thing. That’s why no matter what, the Ravens will always eventually have a great defense. Same with the Steelers. The Titans will always eventually be tough. The Cowboys will always eventually have a good O-Line. The Eagles will always eventually be a tough team. The Packers will always eventually have great quarterback play. When you step into certain places you know what’s expected from you there. You go to play linebacker at Penn State, you’re going to become great because in your mind every day, you’re like “Yo, I play linebacker at Penn State. I have to make myself great. I have to be great.” When you go to play line at Iowa, “I have to be great. We are a lineman school.” Same with Wisconsin. When you play DB or receiver at LSU or Texas: ‘Oh, I got to be great.’ When you go to Alabama: “I got to be a first rounder.” These schools have their identity. I go to Oklahoma: “Oh, I got to be a great player.” They have their identity. Boston College, “I got to be tough.” So now that’s why guys come out of those programs with that mentality. So if you're a defensive guy and you're going to Green Bay, the chances are you might lose some of that edge because, once again, you’re going in with that mentality. But then also the whole atmosphere encourages that. If you're a finesse guy and you go to Iowa, you're going to come out a physical player. Because you're like, “I'm at Iowa. I’ve got to be physical.” And the atmosphere encourages that.
When we beat the Bears at the end of 2013, Aaron threw it to Cobb, that told me everything I needed to know. Because I'm on the bench. I'm a second-year guy. I’m on the bench and I’m watching how great we’re celebrating. And all I'm thinking is “Why was this game so close?” All due respect to Jay Cutler, who was a very good quarterback. But Aaron Rodgers is a Hall of Famer. I was always about matchups — some of that arrogance. Like, “Yo, there's no way this should be a competition between me and you.” … Because at Iowa, that was a mentality: “You're not allowed to get blocked. And if you do, you better. You owe us.”
It does kind of transcend generations. Green Bay’s quarterback has been so good for so long.
Daniels: Look at Jordan Love! Look at him. He’s starting to step into that, “I’m a Green Bay quarterback.”
It’s hard to then wave a magic wand and say, “Alright, we’re going to have this punch-in-the-mouth defense that's built for January simultaneous with all of this great quarterback play is kind of what you're getting at.
Daniels: Well, that's why New England did so great, because it was legitimately like, “What is our DNA? What is our reputation? You’re just going to do your job.” That’s it. We don’t care about nothing else. That’s why they're able to rotate vets in and out the door. That's why they're able to bring in guys with “character” and get the most out of them.
Your story is crazy, too. When you’re a kid growing up, you’re getting bullied. Bad. Your transformation happened at Iowa. You went to Iowa at 200, 210. That program is always beefing guys up. How did you get to this point?
Daniels: I always had a point to prove. That goes hand in hand with competition. I would look at certain things and I’d be like, “Alright, solid.” The Vikings open up their new stadium and they open up with us. I’m like, “Yo, they chose us.” Meaning that they chose us for Homecoming. They say, “Hey, we’re going to choose a game we know we can win. Yo, I’m taking that personal, and people look at me like I got three eyes: “Wait, what do you mean? What are you taking it personal for?” I’m taking it personal because they said, “Hey, we're going to schedule this team.” “Oh, they didn't say all that. You're doing too much. You're tripping.” And then we lose after shutting down Adrian Peterson, he had what? Three yards. And then unfortunately he got hurt and we still lost. I remember watching that playoff game. The Steelers and the Bengals, and I said, “Oh my God, that's how we need to be.” And I gave the speech the next year against the Vikings. I said, “When are we going to hate our rivals the way the Steelers and the Bengals hate each other?” The guys looked at me like I was crazy. And that’s what made it so tough.
I tell you right now, when I went to Detroit, the mentality before playing our rivals was, “We actually hate these guys. We hate the Vikings because they think they had a couple of good games against us against us. We hate the Bears because “Yo, nah, nope. We're the more historic franchise. Screw you.” And we hate the Packers because “They're arrogant and they think they're better than us.” In Green Bay, it was like, “Hey, these guys are our little brother. If they beat us like, man, how'd that happen? That's not supposed to happen.” It's a football game. Anything can happen. When I went to Cincinnati, they hated the Browns. They hated the Steelers and they hated the Ravens. I've never felt that hate for my rivals until I got to Detroit.
You need some hate in football. That’s kind of crazy that you wouldn’t tap into it.
Daniels: Mike tried to, it just never felt like it. He would put up posters that said “Division Week.” I remember one time I said, “Coach shouldn't have to put posters up to remind us it’s a divisional game this week.”
How do you look back at your Packers’ career? You made a Pro Bowl. You were one of the best D-tackles in the game. At your size, there's nobody shaped like Mike Daniels out there. And you could dominate somebody that had 20, 30 pounds on you.
Daniels: And four or five or six inches.
There’s frustration because it sounds like the tone of this is “What could’ve been” and “What if?” If the mentality was just different, you’re winning a Super Bowl. Maybe two. Do you look back at it more as the “good old days” or “Shit, we really left us to meat on the bone.”
Daniels: It’s definitely the good old days. I had the time of my life playing for the Packers. I wanted to retire Packer. I never wanted to leave Green Bay. Ever. I loved it there. Green Bay is a second home. I loved every bit of playing there. And this is just us going into things that it's like, “Hey, here's what kept us from dominance, from being great.” But it's never “Oh, I couldn't stand it.” Some of my fondest memories was playing in Green Bay. And because I loved it so much, that's why I wanted us to be great. I watched how hard these guys work, and I just wanted to see my brothers be able to sign a nice contract, go to the Pro Bowl, be NFL Top 100, be an All Pro, get a Super Bowl ring. I wanted my dudes to experience that type of stuff. I would be genuinely happy when a guy was signing a new deal, man, get voted into the Pro Bowl. When Mike Pennel won a Super Bowl with the Chiefs, I texted him. I was happy, man. I wanted to see my guys experience that stuff. And then when guys got cut, man, it sucked. I hurt. I always try to reach out to guys when they got released.
Cincinnati, you were on that Super Bowl team in 2021. So you mentioned Lou Anarumo before the game against the Raiders. What was that like? So he put Derek Carr up and was like, “I don't like the look on his face?”
Daniels: It was just to get the guys fired up. That’s another thing: guys bought in. I don’t know how much buying in there was in Green Bay because it was hard sometimes. Because some things just, you’d be like, “That doesn’t make sense.” But if you ever watched the Mic’d up with Mike Singletary when he was coaching with the Ravens, he sat Ray Lewis down and told him like, “Hey, there was times I hated the calls that I got too, but guess what? I couldn't let the guys know I didn't like the call. So, I couldn't let them see I disagree with coach.” So I think that's something that we all were guilty of. There’s a lot of things. We’re supposed to support our coach.
Should Lou get some opportunities to be a head coach?
Daniels: I would say so because I’ve been very fortunate to be around really, really either legendary or great coordinators. And my only concern would be like, look what Matt Patricia did with the Patriots. Smart guy. And then he gets the head coaching job, and now it's not just creating a defensive scheme. He goes from all the guys that played for him in New England texting me and saying, “Yo, Matty P! That's my boy. You're going to love that dude.” To the guys that were in Detroit kind of airing their grievances and stuff. And I'm like, “How do you get two different narratives?” Well, what's the difference? Different positions. D-coordinator, everybody loved them. Head coach, guys express how they felt to the media. With Lou, and that's the thing with coordinators, you would hate to see them be in that position of like, “Wow, he’s a great coordinator, but it doesn't really translate when he’s a head coach.” And that’s something that you never know with a guy.
But with that being said, Lou definitely deserves an opportunity. I said they need to build a statue for you outside of Cincinnati. I said that if we win the Super Bowl. But I still say it because of what he did with what he has. He’s got those guys playing lights out, man. If you got a bunch of A+ and A players and they’re giving you D+, C-minus effort, what good are they? If you got a bunch of B players, B-minus players, and they're giving you that every single play, hard work beats talent when talent don't work hard. And I'm going to tell you right now, that’s Cincinnati’s defense in the nutshell. Those guys get after it. They get after it. Lou deserves an opportunity. He deserves a shot. And I love to see it for him, man. I love to see it for him.
No Joe Burrow, but that’s a team that could still make a push because of that defense. The coaches they have on offense. I mean they're figuring it out as we talk here right now, who knows? The AFC is wide open.
Daniels: They’re a good solid team. There’s a lot of plug and play that happens on that team that a lot of guys don't see. Kind of like the New England model. And I remember Lou told me that when they were in the process of signing me, he said, “We’re really basing how we do things off of the New England model. And that’s ‘do your job.’” And in Detroit it was the same thing. But like I said…
We had a big story on the Lions, Patricia-to-Dan Campbell. Tracy Walker was fairly honest reliving the Patricia days. Everybody said that the Matt Patricia in the hallways was a good dude.
He’s somebody that you’d want to talk to and get a beer with and then you’d get on the practice field and you hate his guts.
Daniels: I think with Matt, I loved everything about him. Everything about him. Even some of his on-field stuff, because I am cut from that cloth. I think it just rubbed some guys the wrong way because it might’ve been too much. He was still learning. And I think if he would’ve potentially had another year, I think he would've figured out, “OK, let me pull back a little bit.” Because when you’re trying to establish something, you’re trying to make sure you have guys buying in, and sometimes that comes with an iron fist to really establish the tone, the standard. Unfortunately, in the NFL, that’s tough to do because you may get kickback. You may feel like, “Yo, I might have to do more than needed.” And with Matt, we think very similar. “Gotta grind, gotta grind, gotta grind.” But when you’re a leader, everybody doesn’t think like that. And everybody doesn’t function well like that. So even though you might be a grinder, everybody isn’t like that. So you’ve got to cater to everybody: “Hey, maybe I need to take a week where the guys are just in helmets all week.” Because that guy who isn’t a grinder might say, “Oh shoot, coach threw me a bone? You know what? I got you coach. I got you coach, I got you coach. Yo, I appreciate that coach. I got you.”
Matt started to understand that. I feel like if he would've had another year… which they made the move when they needed to make, because Dan Campbell’s doing amazing, but I think if he would've had another year, he would’ve really got to get a good flow of things. And that’s the tough thing about being a coach. You’ve got to figure it out in three years. Maybe two, Maybe one. And with being a coach, it’s all about establishing your program. Your mentality. And that’s why I say a team reflects the coach. You got to establish your DNA to your players. And that’s hard to do with 50+ men in two or three years.
What are you seeing in the Packers the rest of the way?
Daniels: They’re finally getting comfortable with Aaron no longer being there. And as crazy as it sounds, I said I see them winning a Super Bowl once Aaron left. Yeah, you’re not going to have Hall of Fame quarterback play anymore, but what you're going to have is a different mentality. Like I said, that Bears game. 2013. All guys were celebrating: “We won the division, we’re in the playoffs!” And I'm like, “That's fine, but this game shouldn't have been that close.” Why was it that close? I can’t celebrate because this game shouldn't have got to this point. Now that's like, “Yo, I can't celebrate. OK, good. Let’s fix everything that made this game that close.” That's my mentality. That’s tough, man.
The Packers are going to do very well to answer your question. And what’s happening with them is everybody's getting used to: “Aaron’s not here anymore.” Because you can go through a whole of season and everything without him. You could physically watch him on TV in another team’s uniform. But when that first game hits and you’re on defense and you’re like, “Whoa, why are we going back on the field? Three and out? What's that?” Or when you’re on offense and the ball might not be exactly where you were used to it. Now they have a lot of younger receivers, so that helps. It just changes so much. And I believe the Packers have finally made that adjustment and that’s allowed Jordan to play better and eventually they’ll all play better. I think the Packers will be back to being the Packers.
I think you just solved the psychology of the Green Bay Packers, Mike Daniels.
Daniels: During that (Bengals) Super Bowl run, I was on the practice squad, but Zac said he wanted to bring me back because he understood how important I was to that team in that locker room. And I’m like, Zac, “I've only been here for a year and a half.” He said, “Yeah.” So that’s a compliment. They asked me to give all the team speeches before every game. At one point I told Joe Burrow and Sam Hubbard, “Guys, I can’t do this anymore. I’m not playing. I don’t feel right.” They said, “No, you’re the emotional leader of this team. You’re speaking.” When the playoffs came, I said, “Yo, y'all got it. It's playoffs. I'm not playing. You guys got it.” I just didn't feel right. But that's what they wanted and I had to respect them. There was a lot of psychological building behind the scenes when I was in Cincinnati.
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