Many NFL coaches probably are putting themselves in Mike McDaniel’s shoes Friday.
Miami Dolphins quarterback Tua Tagovailoa was stretchered off the field in Thursday night’s loss to the CIncinnati Bengals with a concussion. That came after he sustained what sure looked like a head injury Sunday against the Buffalo Bills, although Tagovailoa and the Dolphins said it was a back injury.
The ordeal is calling into question both the effectiveness of the concussion protocol and level of responsibility coaches have in these situations. Oftentimes, a player is not the one best-equipped in those moments to make a decision with their short- and long-term health in mind.
Dallas Cowboys head coach Mike McCarthy was asked Friday on 105.3 The Fan’s “Shan and RJ” how a coach handles those decisions.
“I’ll say this: I think the protocols that are in place now are obviously tremendously better than they were five, six, seven years ago," McCarthy said. "The medical staff and all the information that goes into that, you’ve just really got to trust your medical people there.
“I saw the aftermath – I had the game on but I wasn’t watching it live when it happened – trust me, there’s never a moment when one of the players goes down in the game, even (the Sterling Shepard injury) in our Monday night game, if it’s a player from another team, those are tough moments."
“From my personal experience, I’ve unfortunately stood over some neck injuries where the medical staff, especially at that moment, the work that they do is so important. I don’t know exactly the specifics of how it all went down last night, but I would trust the process.
“I don’t think anybody is trying to put a player at further risk, especially at the time of the injury and so-forth, but I think the medical people definitely are paying higher caution compared to years ago, and I think it’s definitely better for our athletes.”
The incident in Buffalo is among the most important factors in all of this. Tagovailoa was showing signs of a brain injury immediately after the play, but was allowed to return later on.
Had he been ruled out for the rest of Sunday’s game, that potentially could have prevented him from even playing Sunday.
"Very unfortunate situation last night,” Bills head coach Sean McDermott said in his weekly appearance on “The Extra Point” on WGR 550. “Any time a player on any team goes down, particularly on our team, your first thought is how are they as a person, right? Are they OK, how serious is it? All of them have families of their own that are watching on TV, or watching from the stands, concerned about the health and well-being of their son, of their husband, of their boyfriend. So whatever it is, those are situations that need to be taken seriously.”
McDermott also shed some light on what usually unfolds after a player sustains such an injury.
“The communication piece is huge,” McDermott said. “We try and get as accurate and as timely of information as we can to the family of the player when it happens. And then our trainers relay the information to me on the sideline, and then we try to get the information to the position coaches as well because it affects obviously numbers in the game and depth.
“That’s what happens in the minutes around the injury, and then in the days after the injury, as you guys asked me, it’s updated daily, and sometimes more than once daily just in terms of what their status is, how they’re feeling, so on and so forth.”
Even though the system has improved significantly from even a decade ago, there is still room for improvement.
Certainly, this situation will lead to many conversations about how viable the current protocol is.