Get to Know… Miami Dolphins Head Coach Mike McDaniel

Get to Know… Miami Dolphins Head Coach Mike McDaniel

In the era of Bill Belichick, intimidating press conferences, and a general distaste for speaking to the media, very few NFL head coaches act like Mike McDaniel.

The Miami Dolphins head coach is outgoing, quirky, interesting, and by NFL standards, incredibly talkative – and his unusual journey to Miami may give an insight as to why.

Born in Denver, Colorado in 1983, McDaniel grew up an avid Denver Broncos fan and travelled to the team’s training camp to collect players’ autographs as a child. After McDaniel lost a baseball cap one day, Broncos video coordinator Gary McCune replaced the upset youngster’s hat, and then offered McDaniel and his mother the chance to watch the Broncos practice. Eventually, the video coordinator became McDaniel’s stepfather, helping foster his love of football. 

Earning a scholarship to Yale University, where he played wide receiver for the Bulldogs, McDaniel worked as a ballboy for the Broncos during his breaks from college, and although it was clear he would never have a future playing the sport, he knew he wanted to work in the NFL. In 2005, McDaniel earned a job as a coaching intern with his hometown Broncos under then-head coach, Mike Shanahan.

McDaniel moved to the Houston Texans the following season to work as an offensive assistant under former Broncos offensive coordinator, Gary Kubiak, and with Mike Shanahan’s son, Kyle – a future, longtime collaborator – who was the Texans’ wide receivers coach.

“At first, I didn’t know him at all,” Kyle Shanahan said in December.

“Kubiak put him in my office and that’s how it starts.”

The pair worked together in Houston until 2009 when McDaniel left to join the now-defunct United Football League, and he was reunited with Kyle Shanahan, now an offensive coordinator, in Washington in 2011 – but this time, things were different.

“I was used to being the young up-and-comer,” McDaniel told The Athletic in 2022.

“And I look at Kyle at the head of the table. And flanking him were Matt LaFleur [now Green Bay Packers head coach] and Sean McVay [now Los Angeles Rams head coach]. And they were just rattling stuff off every play. You couldn’t get a word in edgewise.

“It was a position I wasn’t used to being in.”

Despite the competition, McDaniel worked tirelessly in Washington, desperate for Shanahan to use his offensive plays in the playbook. His work paid off, and for the rest of his assistant coaching career, McDaniel would never be too far away from Kyle Shanahan. The pair joined the Cleveland Browns in 2014, then the Atlanta Falcons in 2015.

When Shanahan became the San Francisco 49ers’ head coach in 2017, McDaniel was, of course, one of the coaches he selected to fill out his staff. After spending four seasons as the team’s run game coordinator, McDaniel was promoted to offensive coordinator for the 2021 season. The role came with certain media responsibilities, and so the world finally caught a glimpse of the coach’s sense of humour.

“I’m just excited to be here,” McDaniel said at his first press conference.

“Equally excited for you to truly take in how physically imposing I am.”

After helping the 49ers to the NFC Championship Game that year, and his impressive work with the team’s rushing offense, McDaniel was hired as Miami Dolphins head coach in February 2022.

Now with free rein in front of reporters’ microphones, every media member in Miami has a front-row seat to the Mike McDaniel show – and the show was in full swing during his introductory press conference, and when he was first welcomed to the city.

“That’s my fifth ‘welcome to Miami’ and I’m feeling welcome,” he said.

“I’m just waiting for you to bust out some ‘Welcome to Miami’ and then finish the verse.”

Under McDaniel, the Dolphins’ offense exploded in 2022, finishing near, or in, the top-10 in multiple statistical categories, despite injuries to starting quarterback Tua Tagovailoa. Plus, players like receiver Tyreek Hill, who racked up a franchise record 1,710 receiving yards, had career-best seasons.

Finishing the season 9-8, McDaniel became the fifth Miami coach to lead the team to the playoffs in their first season, and they faced the Buffalo Bills in the Wild Card Round. Despite scoring over 30 points against one of the NFL’s best defenses, the Dolphins lost, 34-31.

Known for his innovative rushing schemes and ability to improve a team’s run game, Dolphins fans will have one of the league’s brightest, and most entertaining, young coaches leading their franchise for years to come.

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