Miami Dolphins Head Coach: Why Mike McDaniel is the Right Choice

mike mcdaniel
Photo by Michael Zagaris/San Francisco 49ers/Getty Images

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.

Mike McDaniel comes from an elite coaching tree.

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.

Mike McDaniel shows an emphasis on blocking

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.

Deebo Samuel scores a rushing touchdown.

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.

Tua throws a play action TD to Waddle.

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.

Weapons

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.

Jaylen Waddle was often compared to Jarvis Landry.

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.

Brandon Aiyuk scores a TD.

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.

Mike McDaniel emphasizes the importance of WR blocking.

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.

DeVante Parker Changes the Game for Tua Tagovailoa

Going into Sunday’s matchup in Hard Rock Stadium between the Dolphins and the Jets, young standout receiver Jaylen Waddle is in the COVID-19 protocols and is expected to be inactive.

Waddle has been the number one receiver as of late, having backtoback games of at least 90 yards, racking up 18 catches on 21 targets. It’s clear Waddle is second-year QB Tua Tagovailoa’s favorite receiver, and their chemistry has only grown of late. This makes his potential absence that much more devastating for a divisional matchup and the potential to get to .500.

Although, the return of DeVante Parker showed that Waddle isn’t the only one who brings an element out of Tua.

2020 Struggles

As has been covered time and time again, Tua Tagovailoa’s rookie season was divisive, to say the least. Many questioned his arm strength, injuries, and ability to outplay journeyman Ryan Fitzpatrick.

These concerns primarily stemmed from Tua’s tendency, or lack thereof, to push the ball down the field. In key moments, he consistently took the underneath routes, and it largely worked. He was 6-3 as the starter and was able to keep control with an elite defense on the other side.

Tua Tagovailoa throws his first career TD.

However, in several key moments, his aggressiveness didn’t ramp up in the way many hoped for. Whether it was the playcalling, which was underneath under Chan Gailey, or other factors, many expected more from the former Alabama QB. Thus, Tagovailoa was benched twice in key situations for the aforementioned Fitzpatrick, further bringing down his reputation.

Similar Start

Following the promotion of George Godsey and Eric Studesville to co-coordinators, many expected a largely different offense in 2021. However, through the first few games, it appeared that the game plan was similar.

Miami, under both Tua and backup Jacoby Brissett, kept a majority of passes short, utilizing a heavy RPO system. Although the RPO was to be expected, many still wanted to see more shots down the field.

A variety of reasons could be attributed to this, including an injury to deep-threat Will Fuller, who broke several bones in his hand, but it was clear that something needed to change.

Will Fuller broke “a lot” of bones in his finger.

It appeared, after seventh-year receiver DeVante Parker came back against the Giants, however, that the deep element was finally becoming a staple in Miami’s offense.

The Back-Shoulder Fade

With DeVante Parker’s return against the New York Giants, it was clear that something was different. Specifically, Tua and Miami were taking more shots up the side of the field, particularly on fade routes.

On two separate occasions, Tua let the ball go before Parker turned around, showing a trust we believed only to be there with Waddle.

The first example of this is shown below. As soon as Tua sees that the defensive back’s eyes are off the ball, he lofts it into the place where only Parker can make a play. The veteran, who is widely regarded as an elite jump-ball receiver, high points the ball and gets two feet down.

DeVante Parker catches a fade route from Tua Tagovailoa.

That play in specific is the one that Miami hasn’t had in their time with Tua Tagovailoa. The RPO offense has and will continue to be their base, but mixing in deep plays like this keeps defenses honest, and is what can make such an efficient quarterback such as Tua hard to stop.

The second play, shown in the tweet below, also demonstrates the same thing. With the corner’s back turned and pressure coming, Tua lofts it up and gets it to Parker. It’s clear defenses, don’t see this coming, and it’s added a new element to Miami’s offense.

The trust between Tua and Parker is on display once again here.

The Bottom Line

The deep fade routes are a specialty of DeVante Parker, and are honestly something few else can match. With the threat of the ball going outside, teams are less likely to crowd the middle of the field. This gives Tua room to work in the area of the field he operates best in.

With DeVante Parker, the Miami Dolphins are simply a better team. His ability to stretch the field is unmatched by the majority of the league. His production on the field speaks for itself, and along with helping the run game and being an elite player, he significantly helps your young quarterback.

Although missing Jaylen Waddle is a big deal, it will interesting to see how Tua Tagovailoa performs with DeVante Parker.

NFL Trade Deadline: Dolphins on the Move?

Dolphins Trade Deadline
Credit: Phin Phanatic

As Tuesday’s trade deadline rapidly approaches, the Miami Dolphins may be looking to move players. Two players whose names have come up as tradable pieces are Albert Wilson and Devante Parker. Miami, whose season is likely over, might be looking to move high salaries or under performers and gain draft capital for the coming years.

Albert Wilson

Albert Wilson might have been the Dolphins best player during camp. Wilson and 2nd-year QB Tua Tagovailoa were showing significant chemistry and were connecting all over the field. 

Wilson was expected to be a big contributor in the offense and have a lot of playing time. Unfortunately, he hasn’t seen the field much and has struggled to be productive when he step on the field.

This season, Wilson has just 7 catches for 45 yards. He is averaging 3.75 yards per target. In week 3, Wilson played 55% of the Dolphins offensive snaps. He hasn’t been close to that number again and played just 4% of snaps last week. Mack Hollins and Preston Williams (when healthy) are seeing more snaps than the Training Camp MVP. The Dolphins clearly don’t have a plan to use Wilson this year and should look to trade him for a position of need (OL, LB) or future draft picks.

Wilson is set to hit free agency after this season, so the Dolphins moving him before the trade deadline and collecting assets instead of letting him walk for free may be the best option. Trading Wilson will also save the Dolphins $3.8 million against the cap and they’ll take on just $1.3 million in dead money.

Devante Parker

Parker’s career has been plagued by injury since he was drafted by Miami in 2015. In 2019, Parker was healthy for all 16 games and put up 1,202 yards and 9 touchdowns. It seemed like a breakout year and his career was reaching the tipping point. In 2020 though, he missed 2 games due to a hamstring injury, which has been an issue for the majority of his career. He still put up respectable numbers with 793 yards and 4 touchdowns. 

Through the first 4 games of this season, Parker was a key part of the offense with 17 catches for 242 yards and 1 touchdown. Unfortunately, he has missed the last 3 games and is in danger of missing his fourth straight this Sunday in Buffalo.

Parker’s inability to stay healthy may be the driving force to trade him. According to reports, the Dolphins have discussed trading Parker. 

There have also been talks about Parker not being fully committed to football. Nagging injuries can take a toll on a player, and it wouldn’t be shocking if Parker is growing increasingly frustrated.

A trade would give Parker a fresh start to his career which is something he probably needs.

For Miami, a Parker trade would clear cap space for the 2022 season. The Dolphins are projected to have the most cap space in 2022. However, only 19 players from the current roster are under contract for next season. The cap availability is going to diminish rapidly and they need money to re-sign big money players like Mike Gesicki and Emmanuel Ogbah.

Miami may try to trade for an offensive line piece, collect assets for next year, or both at once. Regardless, the Dolphins wide receiver room needs to be monitored with just 4 days until the trade deadline. 

Follow Rishi Desai on Twitter

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Week 8 Game Preview: Dolphins @ Buffalo

Sep 19, 2021; Miami Gardens, Florida, USA. Mandatory Credit: Sam Navarro-USA TODAY Sports
  • Date: Sunday October 31
  • Time: 13:00 ET (17:00 UK Time)
  • Venue: Highmark Stadium, Buffalo, NY
  • TV: CBS and NFL Gamepass International
  • Records: Dolphins (1-6), Buffalo (4-2)

After nearly a month away from writing due to the pressure of starting my new career, I am finally back with this weeks preview. In my last preview prior to the Colts game, it seemed like the cracks were getting bigger and now on the back of consecutive last second losses against poor teams, everything has come crashing down. The Dolphins organisation is a shambles.

Widely considered a playoff contender prior to the season, they are now the worst team in the NFL. I am not even sure the Dolphins beat the Texans Week 9, but lets not spoil next weeks preview… There is very little fight within this team and the days of complementary football are now a distant memory. Nevertheless, it is my job to put all of this discontent that has been brewing over the last month to one side, and tell you how Miami can win this game. Should be easy right?

Reflections on Week 6 & Week 7

As last weeks game was drawing to an end, the main thought that raced through my mind was “surely not again”. Having been in London for the Jags game, wanting the ground to swallow me up as 60,000 fans went crazy with the final kick of the game, the Dolphins wanted to provide that same feeling to all fans back at Hard Rock against the Falcons. The Dolphins were the most supported team in London, yet it seemed that the fans of every other team were very much anti-Dolphins.

While the Dolphins have not played well enough across 4 quarters to deserve to win the game, they certainly did not deserve to lose. This is no exaggeration, but the Dolphins are literally 2mm from winning the last two games. Had things gone differently, they would have been out of sight. 2mm from being 1-6 to 3-4, or maybe even 4-3, if the DPI was called on Fuller against the Raiders. The 2021 Miami Dolphins have not done themselves any favors in their performances, but my god they have been incredibly unlucky.

The one positive over the past two weeks is the performance of Tua Tagovailoa. Since his return Tua has a 102.7 passer rating, 620 passing yards for a completion percentage of 74.7% leading to 6 TDs. 3 interceptions unfortunately continue to leave a mark over what have been positive performances. What is more impressive, is that Tua’s best performances during his tenure with the Dolphins have been when his starting receivers are out of the game.

People regularly question whether Tua is a QB who can win game for the team. In the past two weeks he has gone 20/24 with 3 TDs and 1 INT in the 4th quarter. In the 3 games that Tua has played this season, the team has always been in a winning position when he has left the field for the final time. Yet, a dark cloud filled with Deshaun Watson rumors continue to linger over the franchise.

Expectations Heading into the Game:

Over the past three weeks Miami have given up 1,066 yards passing and 337 rushing yards. The decline of the defense has been a key element of the Dolphins’ decline this season. Next up Josh Allen…

That being said in Week 2, despite being blown out 35-0, the Dolphins defense held Allen to 179 yards. This is the lowest allowed by the Dolphins all season and the least gained by Buffalo. It did not make a difference in that game, and in all honesty I cannot see it being any different this week either.

Buffalo have the number one defense in the league, allowing the fewest points per game and the fewest yards per game. In contrast, Miami rank 31st in points allowed (29.6) and 29th in points scored (18.1). It seems somewhat fitting that this game is being played on Halloween, as it has been a nightmare matchup for the Dolphins in recent years.

Keys to Success:

  1. No Mistakes What the past 5 weeks have taught us is that the NFL is a game of fine margins. The slightest of mistakes on one play can prove to be so costly. Tua has been very impressive. Despite a few mistakes being sprinkled into his performances he has for the most part bounced back on subsequent drives. Against an elite team like Buffalo mistakes will be critical.
  2. Control Time of Possession– The defense has been poor in recent weeks. Keeping Allen off the field will be essential in keeping the score down and within reach for Tua and the offense to attempt to stay in the game. This will require the offensive line to actually keep Tua upright this time.
  3. Defensive Return to Week 2– Miami’s defense played well against the Bills last time around. The scoreline was not reflective of their performance but the offense’s. The offense has since improved (couldn’t get any worse) while the defense has regressed. If Miami are to stand any chance in this game the defense HAS to improve.

Injury Report

With Deiter still on IR and Mancz being questionable, it seems that Austin Reiter will continue to be the Dolphins center. We did not hear much of Reiter in his first game for Miami which is always a good thing on the offensive line. Parker seems like he could feature amidst several trade rumors. Biggest loss could be Jerome Baker who is questionable with a knee injury. The injury is nothing major, but it is clear that he is dealing with considerable discomfort. One positive is Byron Jones and Xavien Howard are now back in full practice.

Conclusion:

It has been a testing season for us Dolphins fans and likely to continue. Buffalo are coming off a bye week and well rested. As fans we need a bye week just to give ourselves some relief, but we will have to wait until Week 14 for that. Brace yourselves. The observant readers will notice that the ATB writers score predictions are missing from this weeks’ preview and for good reason. However, stranger things have happened in the NFL. Maybe, just maybe on Halloween, the Dolphins will treat us all, and the defense returns and makes Allen see ghosts. Fins up!

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5 Key Plays from Tua Tagovailoa vs. Falcons

Tough.

The Dolphins are now 1-6 on the year, falling 30-28 to the Atlanta Falcons on a game winning field goal. The Dolphins are now 1-6 on the year.

What you’ll find was hidden in another Miami loss to a sub .500 team is a really good performance from 2nd year quarterback Tua Tagovailoa, who has been in the headlines for a variety of reasons, including potential trades for Deshaun Watson.

In the meantime, Tua is the QB, and we can only base projections off of the roster right now. Tua made great plays, especially in the 4th quarter. He helped the Dolphins come back from down 13 to take the lead with under 4 minutes left.

The story of this game is one of elite traits, signs of development fighting adversity, and mistakes to improve on, and these five plays tell that story.

Pocket Presence

Going into the season, Miami’s offensive line was a major question mark. The Dolphins were starting second year players to start the year and the growing pains were noticeable.

Miami was forced to shuffle around their line in an attempt to find something that sticks. In doing so, they weren’t able to find much improvement.

Through 7 weeks, the Dolphins rank dead last in Pass Block Win Rate, per ESPN, with a whopping 47 percent. For reference, the Cleveland Browns are first with 73%.

Even with the adverse circumstances up front, Tua has been elite in the pocket, ranking near the bottom in sack rate. On several plays throughout the game, Tagovailoa was able to evade pressure and create positive yardage, including this scramble on 2nd and 8.

Tua Tagovailoa puts Deion Jones on skates.

With pressure coming off the edges, Tua makes a quick move, reminiscent of last year’s game vs. Arizona, gets past Deion Jones, and gets the first down.

Although he isn’t a “running QB”, Tagovailoa has shown on several occasions that he is willing to take off if that play breaks down.

“Keyhole” Accuracy

Entering the 2020 draft, Tagovailoa’s key trait was accuracy. At Alabama, he led a fast paced RPO offense, centered around hitting receivers in stride and letting them create yards after the catch.

Since Miami selected Tua #5 overall last year, the accuracy has stayed a point of emphasis, especially when he finds his rhythm.

It was much of the same against Atlanta, as Tua made several tight window throws, especially late in the game, that showed off his most impressive trait.

In the 4th quarter, when Miami was in desperate need of a touchdown drive, Tua started out with an outstanding touch throw.

Tua Tagovailoa threads the needle to Durham Smythe.

Tight end Durham Smythe runs a wheel concept, in which the receiver runs out towards the boundary, then up the field, and Tagovailoa is able to anticipate him reaching a soft spot in the coverage. Upon seeing this, Tua was able to float a pass in a perfect spot for Smythe to make a play on the ball, which he did, for a gain of 18.

Tagovailoa has continued to show that his accuracy is up to the challenge when Miami needs him most.

Fighting Adversity

Earlier this week, Mack Hollins let the world know what he thought of his young QB.

Mack Hollins calls Tua “that dude”

Hollins has a point, as we were able to see Tua’s ability to fight adversity to put Miami in a position to win the game. Some of which included his own mistakes

On the same drive as the throw to Smythe, Tagovailoa made a crucial run on third down, showing that he is willing to put his body on the line for the sake of the team.

Tua Tagovailoa lays the BOOM for a first down.

Sensing pressure coming from the edges, Tua stepped out of the pocket, and lowered his shoulder in order to pick up a crucial first down. Many were looking to see the “dog” in Tua, and we got a glimpse of it last week.

Just Keep Fighting

The next play is less of a show of Tua’s out of structure talent, but more his ability to execute clever plays perfectly if they’re run more.

On his last throw of the game, Miami ran a fake end around, getting the defensive line to commit to Jaylen Waddle’s speed and explosiveness.

After selling the fake to perfection, Tagovailoa rolls out, being able to place a ball in between 2 defenders in the back of the end zone for a lead-taking TD.

Tua Tagovailoa fakes the end around for a TD to Hollins.

Miami hasn’t used much creativity in their playcalling for Tua, and with less to lose, I hope we can see more plays like this.

Area of Improvement

Through his first 3 full games of the season, Tagovailoa’s growth has been noticeable. Unlike his rookie year, he has been much more willing to take chances in the intermediate game.

Even with his growth, there has been a consistent issue in his game: the inability to let plays die.

At several points throughout the games, Tua has made plays outside of structure, which he struggled with in 2020.

Although, there have been times when this has come back to bite him, and this game was no different.

Tua throws an INT.

Although many argue that Waddle is to blame for Tua’s second INT, interior pressure (which he has struggled with), was bearing down, and in the midst of being sacked, Tua let a ball go a bit high.

Another view of Tua’s INT.

While some believe Waddle could have made a play, the ball should never have been thrown.

Nonetheless, Tua must learn to play another down if he is to take the next step Miami hopes he will make.

The Bottom Line

In a year where Miami probably won’t make the playoffs, development is very important. Tua Tagovailoa is a prime example of that. Whether he’s in Miami’s long term plans or not, his and the Dolphins’ futures are somewhat reliant on his performance.

Although he wasn’t perfect, Tua showed that he has made great strides since his rookie year. Possessing some great accuracy, pocket presence, and ability to work in and out of structure, it is clear that Tagovailoa had one of the best games of his young career.

It will be exciting to see what he can do against Buffalo and other difficult teams down the stretch.

Follow Tyler DeSena on Twitter

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