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Mike McDaniel's Emotional Speech On What He's Thankful For Epitomizes Why The Dolphins Coach Is Crushing It In Miami

I've affectionately referred to Mike McDaniel as Mike ClickDaniel because of how well some of the blogs about him have done, and beyond obvious, selfish motivations for this story to reach a wide audience, it's in legitimate keeping with Thanksgiving and deserves to be heard. If you're not moved by this in some way, I apologize for wasting your time. I suspect you will be, though.

It dawned on me as I heard McDaniel speak about his family first, and then delegate any and all credit to anyone other than himself for the Miami Dolphins' 7-3 start to the season that's gotten them to first place in the AFC East, that his unique and disarmingly authentic leadership style is why he's changed the Fins' culture in such short order. It's just as important, if not more so, than the ingenious offensive game plans he masterminds every week.

I realize by saying this I need to be careful not to prematurely crown someone, yet McDaniel openly cautions about getting too excited about what the 2022 Dolphins have accomplished to this point. He's fully aware how fast fortunes can flip in the NFL, and to be excited is to be vulnerable. 

But bear in mind, this guy waltzed into a division occupied by GOAT coach Bill Belichick, Sean McDermott at the helm of the Super Bowl favorite Bills, and Robert Saleh, who's done a commendable job catapulting the Jets into playoff contention in his second year. Guess who's in first place entering Week 12? Mike McDaniel and the Dolphins.

Do you remember coming into the season what was going on in Miami? They were stripped of a first-round pick, owner Stephen Ross was accused of imploring McDaniel's predecessor, Brian Flores, to intentionally lose games. A toxic cloud was cast over the organization. Rising third-year quarterback Tua Tagovailoa's future and viability as a starter were very much in doubt.

Now look at Tua, McDaniel and what the hell this team is doing. And what you see from Tua on the gridiron as he leads the NFL in most major passing categories, you can also see some of McDaniel's influence in terms of his ability to connect to players rubbing off in a most positive way:

The circumstances surrounding Flores' tenure are definitely a little sketchy and there may have been some questionable fuckery afoot during that time. However, you can't argue with the fact that McDaniel has reinvigorated Tua Tagovailoa and the entire franchise, not to mention making the absolute most out of a bold-ass trade for the league's current leading receiver, Tyreek Hill.

Prior to the season, McDaniel sat down with some official team media members and talked about "authentic intention" as a key pillar of his leadership style. That is, to make sure there is a purposeful, genuine and selfless rationale behind every decision that's made on behalf of the Miami Dolphins. 

Beyond the obvious schematic genius McDaniel has put on display as a first-time play-caller, he's clearly had an impact on helping Tua come out of his shell and play the best football of his career. The same goes for many other Dolphins players I'm sure, but as we all know, you need an exceptional quarterback to get where you ultimately want to go.

McDaniel is a tone-setter in his own singular way. He understands that showing some vulnerability and humanity is actually a sign of strength rather than weakness. There's more cross-translation to the game of football that's fueled by passion, emotion and high stakes than you'd think on the surface where being a total hardo doesn't always resonate. Think about all the coaches who've failed because they're disingenuously screaming at players who are failing to execute. 

I'm not saying there's one best way to lead. I'm saying that so many people doubted Mike McDaniel when he took the Dolphins job simply on the basis of his physical stature and somewhat quirky personality. He's reinforcing the notion of how important it is to stay true to oneself and — as he alludes to briefly in this presser — not to let his high job status change who he is. McDaniel acknowledges that he can't do a single thing on his own, and is only as good as everyone around him, working together toward a common goal. And another important point: He really takes time to appreciate the fans who've been starving for a sustainable winner for so long.

Not sure if there are any Mike McDaniel detractors still remaining out there, or people who are rubbed the wrong way by his unconventional press conferences. Perhaps this'll change your mind if you're in that sad band of folks.

Twitter @MattFitz_gerald/TikTok