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A Greatest Hits Blog On The Force Of Nature That Has Been Mike McDaniel At Miami Dolphins Training Camp

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Any press conference by new Miami Dolphins head coach Mike McDaniel has become appointment viewing for me. After you read this, even if you loathe the Dolphins for some odd reason or your initial impression of McDaniel is that he's an awkward freak, I think you’ll be won over. I’m here to gaslight/brainwash you into vibing with my one of my favorite new head coaching hires in NFL history. 

McDaniel is a master of the spoken word. A wily wordsmith. An oratory genius. He’s also a hell of a schemer when it comes to offensive football. He’s as hilarious as he is insightful, and even when the hardball questions pop up, he has a knack for adding levity to the situation, or deploys a well-timed one-liner to dance around fully giving the answer.

I was fast-forwarding one of the many media availability videos I've done a deep dive into to get off that annoying “PRESS CONFERENCE WILL BEGIN SOON” graphic, and the literal first word I hear from Miami Dolphins head coach Mike McDaniel? “GROUPIE.” And here's the result of that snapshot, as fellow beat writers teased longtime Sun-Sentinel reporter Omar Kelly for having a wildly outdated/small-camera'd smartphone:

In case you’re unaware, McDaniel has spent his coaching career in lockstep with Kyle Shanahan. He’s widely heralded for his abilities to design running game concepts and form genuine connections with players. His reputation precedes him when it comes to play design and game-planning, so if he lives up to the hype in that department and is this consistently entertaining when he has to hold court before the press, I feel like the sky's the limit for McDaniel's widespread popularity.

I personally don’t care what Mike McDaniel’s record winds up being as a head coach. He might be a one-year lame-duck hiring before the Dolphins try to execute their 3D Chess Plan of acquiring Sean Payton and Tom Brady in 2023. So what? This dude is gonna go down swinging, and every single beat reporter in Miami will miss him if he’s shown the door after one season.

To start, I'm going to compare and contrast an example of a coach who fucking sucked, failed spectacularly and how much cooler McDaniel already is than him. The best part? This dunce of a man who I'm bringing up to illustrate a stark juxtaposition happens to be back in the Dolphins' division, coaching offense for the first time in his career after failing moving up the ranks as a so-called defensive mastermind.

Ladies and gentlemen, how NOT to call out a local reporter, brought to you by alleged Patriots offensive coordinator Matt Patricia!!

What a self-important fuckwit.

Now let's see Mike McDaniel, admonishing Barry Jackson of the Miami Herald in hilarious fashion:

But it's not just about the playful way McDaniel trades barbs with the media. He actually provides detailed, thoughtful answers. All kidding aside, you can really tell he authentically cares about his players and the interpersonal relationships that are so vital to the game of football. At least in the early going, it seems McDaniel is determined to build camaraderie regardless of what the forces on the "business side" of the league may threaten to sabotage.

When was the last time, for instance, you heard a coach be so honest and specific in praise over a quarterback who has a very precarious future?

McDaniel is allergic to coach speak. He feels compelled to make those around him at ease, and clearly recognizes the importance of the quarterback position. And how vital it is, no matter what, to have that player's back, get on the same page with them and boost their confidence.

The Dolphins have failed Tua at every turn in his two prior seasons. Built him a shitty offensive line, brought in a hand-picked play-caller for his rookie year who specifically catered to Ryan Fitzpatrick's strengths, and did some weird shit with multiple offensive coordinators in 2021.

Cut all that bullshit out. McDaniel is now calling the shots, and based on this tidbit about Tagovailoa trying to outfox safety Jevon Holland, it seems like Miami is in great shape at a couple pivotal positions: 

Sometimes you have to put out some fires as an NFL head coach. Some controversies can spring up as a result of your own players speaking out. Whether it's tactfully defusing any discord about Preston Williams' frustration over not getting enough practice reps at wide receiver, or to be less trivial, when Tyreek Hill says shit like he and Jaylen Waddle are the fastest receiver duo of all-time, McDaniel is as prepared for the podium as he's rumored to be for game days.

Not sure why the above tweet is "sensitive content" but basically, HC McD says, "I agree that I'm excited to see them prove one way or the other that being the case!"

When it does come to the insane speed between Hill and Jaylen Waddle — not to mention a blistering tailback in Raheem Mostert and Miami's other weapons — McDaniel's answers to questions along those lines were some of my favorite quotes from any training camp:

You'd think McDaniel would know curveballs like bold predictions or insane Tua hype are coming from someone like Tyreek, who's a one-of-one, uber-confident, electrifying playmaker the likes of which the NFL has seldom, if ever, seen in its entire history. That McDaniel and Hill are in a place where they can openly joke with each other bodes very well for the Fins' fortunes in 2022:

It could've easily been a situation where Tyreek comes over from Kansas City, accustomed to annual trips to the AFC Championship Game, with a certain idea as to how winning in the NFL should go. A lot of McDaniel haters comment on how unimposing he is — aka not a Big Physical Presence — and how there's no way anyone would respect him. Well…it seems like he's having zero trouble with that so far in his new gig, and hasn't seemed to encounter any shallow, appearance-based disrespect anywhere else.

Establishing a good culture and basic principles to follow is part of laying that foundation. In that regard, McDaniel keeps it simple yet effective:

Getting cultured on the Dolphins franchise is something McDaniel has prided himself on, too — even at the cost of his own childhood rooting interests…

Let's go a little beyond what McDaniel says himself and travel back a little before camp (I know, I'm breaking the headline rules but bear with me a second). Take this anecdote from veteran linebacker Elandon Roberts as proof that his new head coach is much more than a mere class clown who was setting the tone even earlier in the offseason: 

An even more detailed example of this comes from legendary wide receiver and current Dolphins position coach Wes Welker, who spoke about how McDaniel, during their shared time in San Francisco, taught him how to teach, via a great feature released last week by Joe Schad of The Palm Beach Post:

Everyone who has ever played for McDaniel seems to talk about "the tapes."

"You start looking at (Mike's) tapes, and you see everything, like it's telling a story," Welker said. "And you're like, 'Wow, this is that was like, really cool.' Like, I've never had a coach do something like that. And so it was, it was very different from me."

[…] "People can attach to ideas when they are in a linear story," McDaniel explained. It blew Welker's mind to see how organizing and editing cut ups in a highly unique and efficient manner could change everything.

"I was in league for 12 years, I've been coaching for two years already," Welker said. "Nobody had made tapes like that. And so it opened my eyes like, 'Oh my gosh, like, yeah, you can, you can really dial it in for these guys.' If your tape's on point, and you're talking the right way, and you're given the right information, you know, you can really dial stuff in."

It must be reassuring to hear for Dolphins fans that McDaniel isn't just angling for a backup career in improv comedy. To go for humor as often as he does when addressing the general public speaks to a certain comfort in his own skin that distinguishes McDaniel from some of his more standoffish, curmudgeonly counterparts.

Not saying you can't project an image of leading a miserable, almost joyless existence on this gigantic rock hurtling through space and not be a legendary football coach. Bill Belichick has turned that into an art form…and his pressers are a master class in minimalist speech. Wonder if he'll change his tune if more frequent losing keeps happening in New England's post-Tom Brady era.

Speaking of Brady, how about we tip the cap to how cool under pressure McDaniel was when pressed about that rumored TB12-to-Miami flirtation:

And in case you're wondering how McDaniel's imprint on this team is translating to the gridiron so far, well, the Dolphins won their first preseason game 26-24 on Saturday in Tampa. McDaniel successfully iced the opposing kicker in the final seconds. Impressive. The highlight for me? He made a Bucs player jump when he squared him up on the sidelines:

Aaand oh yeah, call it vanilla schemes and whatever qualifier you want to put out there…but rookie seventh-round pick Skylar Thompson completed 20 of 28 passes for 218 yards and a score. Thompson wasn't given much of a heads up that he'd be playing the whole night as McDaniel tested him with a very short-notice scenario. The Kansas State product responded with an excellent outing.

Whatever your thoughts are about what an NFL head coach "should" look like or how he should carry himself, McDaniel seems to break all the traditional molds. Not as a deliberate, calculated contrarian. Rather, McDaniel is a refreshing and fully original personality who further proves there is no one best way to be a leader of men.

Inject the Mike McDaniel Miami Dolphins era directly into my fucking veins. As he stated upon first getting hired, "Check your pulse if you're not fired up!"

Twitter @MattFitz_gerald and a bonus Mike McDaniel clip on your way out…