2022 New Hire NFL Head Coach Analysis #1: Mike McDaniel, Miami
I need to address two things at the top, and I’ll probably copy and paste this into every intro ahead of the new hire coaching analysis for 2022…
1: Why are your (RC’s) famous coaching studies just now starting (July 2022)? You usually do them in Jan.-Feb.-Mar.?
I used to be excited to jump right on these studies but the longer I research and study the NFL, as it relates to Fantasy Football, the new head coach is not as big a factor as I thought it once was. I do some base research right away, when they are hired, to identify trends/patterns in their (and their staff’s) history on offense especially -- but a full research report, as I have done for years, I am arriving at a belief that it just isn’t as important as player scouting and study, so I put it off until I had the time to work on it…so, he we are.
It's a definite, purposeful lack of priority as to why I’m starting the deeper reports in the summer.
2: Why do I (RC) think the new head coaching hires are not as important as they once were?
After years and years of NFL study and observation, I’ve come to the most simple/obvious conclusion about a new (or any) NFL head coach importance to team wins/performance: Tell me who their quarterback is, and I’ll tell you how ‘good’ a coach they’re gonna be this season/ahead.
All my years of NFL observation, all I see is coaching failure and nonsense from the top (head coach)…out of touch philosophies, fighting with the GM, strange decisions for their starting lineups, and inability to manage a salary cap or construct a roster. Now, they do know how to do the ‘job’ of coaching…they know playbooks, weight rooms, stretching, dumb/cliché filled speeches, dress codes for road trips, practice schedules, blowing a whistle, coach speak press conferences, play calling from the playbook…they know how to perform the job of ‘coach’, but ‘difference makers’? Legends? Geniuses? Name one.
Ask yourself, if head coaches are so smart and such great communicators and understand the game so well…why are ex-quarterbacks getting tens of millions of dollars to analyze the game on TV, and not ex-NFL head coaches? Have you listened to the Bruce Arians, or Jeff Fisher, or Brian Billick, or any of the ex-coaches try and call a game…or even host a pregame show or something like it? Useless. Ex-quarterbacks in the booth are always natural and detailed and understand what they are seeing and can communicate it. Ex-head coaches…well, there’s Rex Ryan as a nonsensical sideshow on a dying media company’s pregame show. Steve Mariucci? Are you kidding me?
We all thought we had Bill Belichick to look up to, but then we saw how he handled the Tom Brady situation and how he wanted rid of Tom, and how he’s fared since Tom (and how Tom has fared without him). Who has been a better coach in the NFL? Bill Belichick or Bruce Arians? Answer = the one possessed Tom Brady, that’s who.
There are better coaches than others, for sure…but it’s more ‘least damaging to things’ is better than ‘very damaging to things’. They do know how to swing a whistle on a string around their finger and bark nonsense while the players stretch out pregame/practice.
In the end, this following statement is going to make you deny it…and then when you think about it, you’ll agree…and then it is sobering (for coaches): the location/geography, the weather, the stadium, the surrounding city, and the tax ramifications of that area/state are more important in attracting and keeping players than ‘head coach’.
A head coach has one main characteristic they MUST possess…don’t piss off the elite quarterback/you must befriend the elite quarterback.
Football fans are always so religious in their faith and defense of and promotion of their team’s new head coach -- it boggles my mind. People believe in a new hire head coach, likely a guy they may have never heard of before they entered the interview cycle/media cycle, with more rigor than church goers believe in God on Sundays. You can have hope in your new head coach for your favorite team, but these coaches are mere mortals, and most doomed-to-fail (and these adoring fans will turn on them within two years of their hire)…and many of these new head coaches were not the first or even third-fourth-fifth choices during the interview process, but when these coaches land on ‘your’ team then the making-them-into-a-god process by the media…and thus the sheep/fans go right along for the ride.
So, what do I think about Mike McDaniel’s coaching ability for the Miami Dolphins? I dunno…tell me who his QB is.
For McDaniel, that QB is Tua Tagovailoa…one of the 5-10 worst QBs in the NFL. A guy who probably won’t be a starting NFL QB in another year or two – so, Mike McDaniel is not likely to be successful for Miami, as long as he has Tua. What if they make a QB change? I dunno…tell me who his new QB will be, and I’ll tell you if McDaniel will be a good head coach in the future.
That’s the short answer. Now, let me get to the long/RC answer and background…
I’m going to boil all my research of McDaniel’s background into some simple broad bullet points…and when I do, if you buy them, then you won’t be all that impressed.
-- College WR at Yale, History major at Yale…and that’s impressive to those who value judging someone on where someone went to school vs. their actual real self and talents. But it’s fair that Yale is more impressive than a local Community College grad…but some of the NFL’s worst coaching minds are Ivy leaguers (like Jason Garrett). Ivy League = football coaching success is not really ‘bankable’.
-- Started as an intern with Denver, with Mike Shanahan (and thus a relationship with Kyle Shanahan), in 2005.
-- A year later, McDaniel went to the Texans as an offensive assistant…for three years…all the time/working with Kyle Shanahan.
-- Left Houston to go be a running back coach in the UFL for the California Redwoods (2009-2010). I $#!& you not.
How a Yale educated person could leave the NFL ladder he was climbing for a low-level position in the UFL is astoundingly stupid, but it happened.
-- 2011 back to the NFL as an offensive assistant for…you guessed it…Washington, back with the Shanahan’s. Since 2011, McDaniel has basically followed Kyle Shanahan around as an assistant grunt, not a big-time assistant.
McDaniel became the run game coordinator for Kyle Shanahan in SF from 2017-2020, before becoming the O-C for San Fran in 2021…coordinating the 13th ranked offense in the NFL. But Kyle Shanahan is really the play caller/shot caller and McDaniel just a lackey carrying the water, essentially. I have to put it in those crude terms, so we get the feel for his background to become an NFL head coach.
McDaniel’s #1 attribute to become an NFL head coach was, to me, ‘close friends with Kyle Shanahan; a dedicated employee’.
McDaniel also would have been part of the 2021 hive mind that scouted Trey Sermon…only to watch it fail year one. And who also (I assume) scouted Trey Lance…and Lance has had all these rumors/reports for two years that he isn’t adapting/progressing like they thought. Isn’t that, in some way, a McDaniel issue…from the scouting of, and to the coaching of, as he was the 49ers’ O-C in 2021? I’m just saying…just spitballing.
Miami’s owner tried to orchestrate a Sean Payton and Tom Brady pairing for 2021, and instead they got derailed on that plan and wound up with Mike McDaniel and another year of Tua. A big drop off, no? McDaniel wasn’t the main plan, in fact, he probably wouldn’t have been one of the first 3-6 choices, but Miami’s plans got derailed by Brian Flores’ lawsuit and they had to reach for someone late in the process…and thus Mike McDaniel. BUT he sure does say some funny things in press conferences! He’s a real knee-slapper!!
Mike McDaniel = not the team’s first 3+ choice/option to head coach, was a long-time friend/assistant to Kyle Shanahan, never been seriously mentioned as a hot coaching prospect for the bulk of his career, and he says some odd things at his press conferences – that’s the summary of the new savior of the always pathetically run (under Steven Ross) Miami Dolphins. But McDaniel is going to overcome all that and just ‘quirky press conference’ his way to Canton. OK. Sounds great.
In 2021, as O-C, McDaniel’s claim to fame is he ran the ball with Deebo a lot…starting about a half a season into the campaign they finally gave Deebo more carries, out of desperation due to injury and it worked so they stuck with it -- that somehow makes Mike McDaniel a genius. Good luck with all that.
Oh, and Tua is his QB…so, even more ‘good luck with all that’. And let’s talk about Tua for a moment, in relation to Mike McDaniel…
I have watched several press conferences with Mike McDaniel, and they are borderline brutal. The guy is supposed to be ‘funny’, and he does have dry wit…but not that much wit. Heavy on the dry, light on the wit. But any ounce of ‘wit’ from an NFL head coach (a collection of stiffs and goofs and out of touch with reality humans) is seen as the new Dave Chappelle…so McDaniel is getting made into something that I don’t really see. All his pressers are dull, to me. No passion. No master/impressive ‘plan’. No nothing. Just monotoned, half-stoned gratitude/disbelief he’s in the position he’s in. He promises everyone he’s gonna work really hard…the hardest. Wow, that’s fresh. Never heard that before.
To me, Mike McDaniel seems like your corporation’s IT guy who does a good job, is reliable, is pleasant enough to have a one-minute interaction with, but the Miami Dolphins grabbed that guy, that personality and pushed him to be the face of a billion-dollar business because he followed respected Kyle Shanahan around the NFL.
In the NFL, you’d like to have a leader who is either…
-A long-time successful coach from college or the NFL.
-A former NFL player, a respected player.
-A natural born leader of men type of personality.
-A physically imposing leader players won’t wanna cross if they can help it.
Mike McDaniel is none of these.
Mike McDaniel is smaller than most/all the league’s kickers and comes off as ‘half-stoned’ (to me) in his press interactions. The NFL has never really tried that approach with desired NFL head coaches…so who knows? Maybe it will work, and the IT departments of the NFL will be the hot bed of future head coaching candidates.
Back to Tua, I didn’t forget that this past section was supposed to be about Tua. Watch this 90+ second clip of Mike McDaniel calling Tua on his cell, on a private jet flight soon after getting hired…I mean really listen to the words McDaniel says and the cadence at which he is speaking, but mostly the words. The more I watched these 90 seconds over again…the more disbelief I was in. https://youtu.be/diSQlY3lpIU
Why did he allow his call to Tua be filmed? Because it was a charade. He likely thought it was brilliant, but then I question just how brilliant he is then…because he looks like, sounds like, and comes off as a naive middle management hack. I would never be filmed talking to my new players, and ESPECIALLY not the most important player in the franchise – the quarterback. And not even tell him upfront that the interaction was being filmed during the call.
Either McDaniel thought going to a team with Tua at the helm was brilliant, which then tells you all you need to know about his football scouting ability…or McDaniel was a desperate/fortunate opportunist who wasn’t going to get hired anywhere else but smartly pounced on an opportunity where Miami was desperate…and current quarterback be damned. He was smart to take the money and take a chance in Miami, because I don’t believe he’d be hired anywhere else as a top guy.
In conclusion, I did this McDaniel research piece as the first of all the new coaching hire studies/pieces because it seemed to be the most curious/odd one -- that I thought might be secretly clever in its unorthodoxy, but the more I dug into it, the more disbelief I was in that THIS GUY got a head coaching job. Not that he’s awful or anything, but is he one of the top 30…top 330 coaching minds and persona’s out there? But here he is. And, again, it’s all gonna be about the QB so his personality doesn’t really fully matter. I’m sure he’ll run the team, and its practices and meetings as well as all the other competent/organized employees or coaches of an NFL team. But it sure feels like this was not a brilliant move by Miami…which is ‘in character’ for them.
McDaniel’s coaching prospects will rise if he does one thing before August 1st…something I think is quite possible – and that is Miami works out a trade with his old employer, a basic trade with a renegotiated 3-year deal for Jimmy Garoppolo. If that happens, it lets me know – McDaniel is not a full idiot…he knows QB is everything and JG is better than Tua, especially for a team that did well in the offseason and is a QB away from being a legit playoff team. But if that doesn’t happen, it means McDaniel is currently the GM’s hand-picked lapdog to control, there to try and make sense out of the ridiculous Tua draft pick…because that GM would have been neutered/gone with the Payton/Brady plan and is likely to fall/get fired if Tua fails.
Mike McDaniel worked extensively on run game coordination for Kyle Shanahan – the trusted assistant to plan the run game…like the employee good at planning out a big corporate meeting event – does that make said employee CEO material because they plan a slice of something well? You have to assume that McDaniel favors the run game…a lot…and you see he is collecting RBs like my dog hoards tennis balls around the house. If this isn’t an offense that is top 5-10 in rushing attempts per season, under McDaniel, I’ll be shocked…or they are down in games all the time and have to abandon the run for a flailing pass game comeback.
Take a guess who the pass game coordinator is that Mike McDaniel hired?
Think of some of the worst offensive coaches in the recent NFL…a guy who always fails but is always getting hired. I’ll answer it at the end.
I watched some interviews of McDaniel’s new O-C is Frank Smith, another low-key personality and someone who wasn’t on the tip of anyone’s tongues in the NFL prior, but to be fair McDaniel was hired late and had to scramble a staff together. Thus, a stretch hire of Smith late in the process…and McDaniel retained the existing Miami D-C.
McDaniel is low key and seems very non-confrontational, and so does his key staff have that ‘feel’…which may or may not work but feels like they could get pushed around. I’m early worrying that Tyreek Hill is going to be a problem for them…as Tyreek is more important than the staff and starts vocalizing issues, but the staff doesn’t believe that a player knows better…they never do. But with Wes Welker as the WR coach, who might/probably should be the head coach more than McDaniel, Wes might be able to keep Tyreek in check.
Tyreek should get the ball a lot because the entire staff and QB will be afraid of the outspoken mega star. If Jimmy Garoppolo comes in, he could change all that…it will be Jimmy G. effectively running the locker room and team by proxy for McDaniel, that’s why I think that could be coming soon…unless the GM tries to stop it because he’s tied to Tua…and the plan B is for Tua to fail in 2022 and Payton/Brady to ride into town in 2023.
I wonder if Miami’s ownership secretly hopes/knows this is set up for failure…and it needs to fail with Tua to usher in Payton/Brady.
Oh, and Miami’s passing game coordinator? The experienced, the always despised, always the back cat of bad luck in the NFL (wherever he is, the losses will continue) – Darrell Bevel. The guys in Seattle hated him so much during the Legion of Boom era that it broke the team up as player’s (on offense) wanted to leave to get away from him. Marshawn Lynch retired, in part, due to Bevell. But I’m sure it will be fine here.
Good luck to Mike McDaniel! Hope you’re renting, not buying a home in the area…
*Bevel’s NFL journey after he was run out of Seattle…
2019-2020 DET O-C for Matt Patricia, leading the #24 (2019) and #30 (2020) PPG offense in the NFL.
2021 JAX O-C for Urban Meyer, leading the #32 PPG offense in the NFL.
Matt Patricia and Urban Meyer are two of the worst head coaches to grace the NFL the past few years…and they were both impressed by Bevel. Now, Mike McDaniel is going down the Bevel road? Good luck with all that.
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