This blogger has sung the praises of Miami Dolphins head coach Mike McDaniel through training camp and into the regular season. In case you had any lingering doubt about whether McDaniel's ability to coach was on par with his knack for slaying every single press conference known to mankind, well, you might have that doubt promptly erased after hearing what former NFL receiver Andrew Hawkins shared today.
In this segment from The Rich Eisen Show, Hawkins kicked things off with some general, overall praise based on what he witnessed in 2014 when McDaniel was the wide receivers coach for the Browns.
"Mike McDaniel flipped everything that I knew about offensive football and receiver play on its head that year, and he was like, 'Yo I just need you to trust me, and you are going to have the best season you've ever had, and it's gonna change how you think about football.' [...] He is a Yale graduate...he is the kind of person that probably should be a scientist, but he just loves the game of football, right? So he approaches it as such. [...] He gets a kick out of finding a different way."
I'm only using partial excerpts and skip-ahead dots for this transcription, because it's a lot more interesting to hear Hawkins explain it via his own personal experience.
The next bit is probably my favorite: Hawkins describes the incredulous-seeming yet undeniably effective coaching methods McDaniel put into action on game days. Instead of breaking down how the best NFL wideouts work on beating press coverage at the line of scrimmage and showing release cutups, McDaniel spliced together footage of Allen Iverson's crossovers.
"We went like eight straight games to start the season without one person getting jammed in bump-and-run," Hawkins said.
Hawkins also referred to McDaniel as a "football savant", noting how his experience in all different position groups helped him develop a holistic understanding of how every part of an offense works. The most fascinating thing Hawkins shared might've been about how McDaniel "teaches the opposite of everything that I was taught."
Wait, what? The opposite of what every other receiver is learning are key elements to the finer points of playing the position at the professional level? A physically unimposing (to use McDaniel's own words) former Yale football player? Really?
Yep. Here's the last bit from Hawkins that I really dig:
"Break the rules of everything that they've taught you, because that means they've also taught the defenses that, and the d-coordinators, so we're gonna do the opposite of what everybody else is doing. Because that's the only way to innovate. So, this is the kind of stuff he sits there in the meeting room and says…As players it's like, 'Aw man, this isn't going to work.' But then slowly, you start having these games, and these career games, and then the game slows down and it starts to become easier. That's why you have players that have played for him swear by him."
To cap everything off, Hawkins referred back to a tweet from 2019 in which he campaigned hard for McDaniel to get offensive coordinator jobs:
At this time, Kyle Shanahan kept blocking teams' interview requests for McDaniel, as he didn't want to lose him. The NFL has since changed its rules to stop that practice. Still, it seems like everything timed out perfectly for McDaniel and that he picked out the right head coaching job that suited him best.
Critics were wondering if McDaniel could cut it as a play-caller since he'd never officially done it before in his coaching career. Based on the 42-35 comeback victory over the Ravens this past Sunday in which Tua Tagovailoa threw for 469 yards and six TDs, I'd say McDaniel is doing just fine calling the shots. Mind you, he built his reputation as more of a running game specialist. So that's pretty crazy to think about for a second.
Oh yeah, so Andrew Hawkins on that 2014 Browns team, who had to play X receiver at 5-foot-6, with Brian Hoyer as his quarterback for the majority of the year…how did that turn out, you ask? As McDaniel predicted, Hawkins had a career year with 63 receptions for 824 yards. He could've easily been a 1,000-yard receiver if the QB situation wasn't, you know, a nightmare.
This got called back but I'll never forget the play where Shanahan, Cleveland's OC in 2014, brought Johnny Manziel to the sideline for a trick play and McDaniel sold the shit out of it:
The QB controversy between Hoyer and Johnny Football derailed the Browns down the stretch. An actual thing that happened, though: Cleveland was in first place in the AFC North after a Thursday night Week 10 win over the Bengals, and improved to 7-4 before losing their last five. Their leading rushers were Terrance West and Isaiah Crowell. Their three leading receivers were Hawkins, Taylor Gabriel and Miles Austin. Again, Brian Hoyer was their quarterback for 13 starts.
Shanahan famously put together a 32-point bulleted list undressing the hapless Browns organization and why he was getting the fuck out of dodge. McDaniel followed him to Atlanta and then to San Francisco. The rest as they say is history.
Imagine the colorful personality that is Mike McDaniel and the snark master Shanahan in offensive meetings looking at their depth chart of skill position talent — all due respect to Hawkins, who had some of the sickest lateral quickness I can recall — with a completely disinterested Johnny Manziel and all the outside noise about how Hoyer's ass should be benched. Then GM Ray Farmer criticizing Shanahan via texts to offensive assistants DURING GAME DAYS. What a shit show. Oh, to have been a fly on the wall at that time.