Following the shocking firing of Brian Flores, the Miami Dolphins wrapped their first interviews with seven coaching candidates on Friday.
Each of the four offensive and three defensive coaches bring an intriguing scheme and future outlook. Among those, however, one has become a fan favorite.
San Francisco 49ers offensive coordinator Mike McDaniel comes from an esteemed coaching tree, including the likes of Sean McVay, Matt Lafleur, Kevin Stefanski, and 49ers Head Coach Kyle Shanahan.
Miami is the only team to have interviewed McDaniel thus far, but his name has caught steam on social media.
Mike McDaniel Background
Many have made note of his demeanor in press conferences, which looks to be a stark change from Brian Flores. While Miami’s former coach was kept to himself, McDaniel has a much more light-hearted attitude. His manner of going in-depth on specific schemes excites analysts and fans alike, as Flores typically shared very little.
The more important factor, however, is McDaniel’s scheme, which he brings from the aforementioned Shanahan tree.
Centered around pre-snap motion and pulling offensive linemen, San Francisco employs one of the heaviest zone-run schemes in the NFL. Behind sixth-round pick Elijah Mitchell and a stellar offensive line, the Niners have amassed 2,166 rushing yards. That mark leads the league.
A large part of this run game has been the usage of Deebo Samuel. The 26-year-old receiver has lined up all over the field, gaining over 1700 total yards. San Francisco has been able to revolutionize the run-game, and their use of Samuel is another step in the evolution.
Their motion of Samuel into the backfield allows them to run a variety of plays against light boxes. Thus, their offensive system is truly a guessing game as to what’s coming next.
Through this system, they have been able to relieve much of the burden on the quarterback position. With what many would consider to be average QB play, the 49ers have now made the NFC Championship Game two out of the last three years. Jimmy Garoppolo has been able to take what the defense has given him and thrive in the play-action, stemming from the threat of the run game.
The fit with Tua
This would bode well for the Dolphins, who have a young quarterback in Tua Tagovailoa who has his limitations, but has found success on play-action passes. The McDaniel scheme has made a living off maximizing quarterbacks, and it could do the same with Tua.
The young quarterback has had some of the worst offensive line play in the league over his first two seasons. Dedicating assets to fixing it, while also implementing a proven run scheme, would give him the time and easier reads he needs.
The other side of that, however, is the potential forcing of Tua onto a new head coach. While many within the Dolphins organization believe in Tua’s potential, a lack of production in that scheme could provide a litmus test on whether he is the quarterback of the future. Much like the Rams did with Jared Goff, Miami could evaluate Tua while building a team around him, then upgrade if needed.
Much like the aforementioned Samuel, the 49ers scheme, which is largely game-planned by McDaniel, is predicated on maximizing weapons. Putting receivers and running backs in positions to succeed is the main goal, which led to Samuel’s movement across formations.
Miami, on the other hand, struggled to use their weapons properly under Brian Flores. While Jaylen Waddle was drafted as a deep threat, he rarely was used in that role. Rather, Miami used him underneath, in a similar role to Jarvis Landry when he was here.
Other weapons, such as DeVante Parker and Mike Gesicki were also inconsistent, as it seemed they weren’t comfortable in the offense.
Unlike the offenses of the Dolphins’ past, McDaniel’s 49ers unit has made their living on maximizing their talent. Players such as Brandon Aiyuk, Elijah Mitchell, and the aforementioned Samuel have found major roles in the system.
The idea of Miami maximizing their talent while innovating in their scheme is promising, and only further intrigues me on the idea of bringing McDaniel to the Dolphins.
Attention to Detail
While following Kyle Shanahan for most of his career, McDaniel has picked up on the little things he does well. One of those is hammering in the important intricacies of the game, especially on offense.
It’s clear that Mike McDaniel is a guy who cares deeply about the ins and outs of scheme, and it shows up in his media availability. Much like many of the young, bright head coaches, he points out the minute details that differentiates good teams from great teams.
McDaniel often speaks about what defenses have shown on film the week prior, and how his players can exploit that. Meanwhile, his ability to display what his players can improve on, especially effort plays, shows the accountability fans desire.
It was clear that there was a disconnect between Brian Flores and specific players, but McDaniel displays a desire to improve with his players every day.
The Bottom Line about Mike McDaniel
The Miami Dolphins are likely to move in a new direction with their next head coach, and Mike McDaniel is exactly that. This defense has shown the ability to produce at a high level, but the offense has lagged behind. Bringing in someone who has shown a concentrated effort to implementing an innovative scheme can help fix that.
There are flaws with McDaniel, as there are with all of the other coaches on the market. Concerns may lie in his ability to build a staff or his preferred scheme on defense, but, the positives are promising. Coaches such as McVay, Lafleur, Stefanski, and Shanahan all came off the coaching tree, and it looks like McDaniel may be up next. The track record of success is there, and it’s hard to overlook.
If Miami chooses to go with McDaniel, it will show a commitment to fixing a unit that has struggled since the turn of the century, and a sign of hope Dolphins fans desperately need.