In spite of the recent controversy, the Miami Dolphins are moving forward with their plans. Now, former 49ers offensive coordinator Mike McDaniel will be the new head coach for the Dolphins. The hope is that he will be able to install the same run-game concepts he did with San Francisco and revolutionize Miami’s offense.
McDaniel beat out Cowboys OC Kellen Moore for the job after his second interview with the team on Friday. The 38-year old McDaniel has 15 years of NFL coaching experience, and has worked under both Mike and Kyle Shanahan in his coaching career. He also worked under other respected names such as Gary Kubiak (2006) and Dan Quinn (2015). While this will be his first time as a head coach in the NFL, McDaniel is well-traveled and has gained respect around the league for his football acumen.
49ers head coach Kyle Shanahan recently came out with high praise for McDaniel. Although there was a comment regarding McDaniel’s dry sense of humor, Shanahan made it clear that McDaniel is extremely intelligent.
“He’s an acquired taste and you guys are getting it.” Shanahan said on Jan. 19. “So Mike’s a good dude, he’s really good at what he does and he’s himself. He’s one of the smartest coaches I’ve been around and he’s been huge to our team and huge for me throughout my entire career.”
Back in 2019, Shanahan actually blocked McDaniel from being interviewed by other teams. At the time, he was the 49ers run-game coordinator. Several teams wanted to see if they could hire McDaniel as their offensive coordinator. Shanahan refused to let him go, as he deemed him too valuable to let escape.
In 2020, fullback Kyle Juszczyk explained just how much work both McDaniel and Mike LaFleur (now the OC for the New York Jets) did for Shanahan and the 49ers.
“They have been extremely involved. Both of them could run their offense right now — probably could have years ago. Right now, LaFleur and McDaniel have been pre-recording videos for us to watch on all our pass concepts, our run game. They’ve done a lot of them — I’m talking 30 15-minute videos, where they’re in their living rooms in front of a projector going over how we install everything. Really just installing the offense for Kyle.
“And then we go into these offensive skill meetings, and Kyle elaborates on what they already have installed. I truly believe both of them are so capable and ready to run their own offenses. It’s going to be a bummer for us when we lose one of them. They’re going to be really hard to replace, because they’re so valuable and important to this offense and contribute so much to what we do as a team.”
“Mike McDaniel might not be a household name, but he should be after the last two weeks. The @49ers 'run game coordinator’ is a master of working the angles and mastering Kyle Shanahan’s visions.” — @PSchrags pic.twitter.com/L5KKKAftfh
— Good Morning Football (@gmfb) January 20, 2020
Shanahan echoed those same sentiments on Jan. 19. McDaniel is heavily credited for the evolution of the 49ers run game.
“Mike does a ton of it. We all do it in here, but we all have our separate areas that we work on.” Shanahan said. “Then we try to bring it together and patch it all together to make an offense as a whole. And then we distribute it to all our position coaches, so Mike gets as much credit as anyone in this building. [Offensive line coach] Chris Foerster gets a lot of credit, our O-Line, all the assistants, all the guys who draw it, the position coaches, but Mike’s in charge of that. And Mike’s been unbelievable, not just here, he did the same thing for me in Atlanta, Cleveland and was a big part in Washington too.”
Already, pending free agents are making it known they would love to play for McDaniel. Running back Matt Breida, who spent a year with the Dolphins in 2020, was excited about the idea of a reunion.
“It was awesome to play for him,” Breida said per the Palm Beach Post’s Joe Schad. “He was on the phone with me the entire draft. They wanted me on the team. He wanted me on the team. He’s a players’ coach. Guys relate to him … He understands formations and motions, we had a lot of formations but ran the same runs out of them. He just looks at things differently.”
In that same article by Joe Schad, former NFL WR Andrew Hawkins also came out in support of McDaniel. Hawkins played under McDaniel in 2014 when he was the Browns’ wide receivers coach, and he had the best season of his career by far. Unquestionably, McDaniel’s intelligence stands out to everyone he works with.
“He’s truly a football savant,” said Hawkins. “And I know there are a lot of brilliant minds in football. His approach is very, very unique and it’s why he’s able to exploit the norms. A lot of players swear by him. He has a very unique ability of identifying talent. And also knowing exactly how to get the most of out of a certain skill set. Players swear by him because players have had career years with him.
“When I got with Mike, his whole philosophy turned everything I thought I knew upside down. How you get off the line of scrimmage and here are the options. Here are the two techniques every DB uses. And if you do this he takes all the thinking out of it. How you approach catching the football. How to approach running after the catch. I was very, very skeptical. But we did it his way and it worked. The way be broke down and explained strategies, it felt very Mr. Miyagi-like. You’re doing this and that and this and that and then one day it all ties together.”
In contrast to his offensive predecessor Adam Gase, McDaniel isn’t expected to be a “QB guru.” His job is not to fix quarterback Tua Tagovailoa. He will likely be looking at the big picture, creating an offensive scheme that will maximize the available talent across the board. In turn, that will help Tagovailoa to shine brighter. One thing Tagovailoa doesn’t have that his fellow 2020 draftees do, is a running game. Since that is McDaniel’s specialty, that stands to change.
Make no mistake, McDaniel has a lot of work to do. The Miami Dolphins are in dire need of something positive to shake off the dark cloud looming over the franchise. Hopefully, McDaniel can show that his intelligence and creativity were not merely side-effects of working with the Shanahan family. Obviously, the fact he has no head coaching experience is a concern for many fans.
Nevertheless, McDaniel comes highly recommended, and what he brings to the table is just what the Dolphins are missing. With this in mind, the future seems much brighter than it did just days earlier. Now, McDaniel needs to assemble a coaching staff. Hopefully, his choices will make things continue to look up from here.
Luis Sung has covered the Miami Dolphins for numerous outlets such as Dolphins Wire for seven years. Follow him on Twitter: @LuisDSung
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