Mike McDaniel reflects on his journey to becoming Miami Dolphins head coach

Mike McDaniel is a refreshing innovation to the NFL head coach look. He is a schematic nerd, slightly awkward, a factory of quirk. He is both one of the league’s genius footballing minds, and so too one of its most personable managers of men.


With his first head coaching role he has moulded the Miami Dolphins into an offensive powerhouse and emerging contenders, a long-awaited top job having been built on years of learning behind the scenes inside some of the league’s most potent systems.


Mastering the Xs and Os of football was one thing, imparting that knowledge on an entire roster of players was another. So far, so good for a man whose team just put up 70 points and over 700 yards of offense against the Denver Broncos to stay unbeaten so far this season.



“I think that there’s a lot of commonalities in the human experience,” McDaniel told Sky Sports. “And I think being able to go on the NFL journey, from a coaching staff perspective, you experienced a lot of things personally, and then you witnessed a lot of things. And you can see how interconnected it is.


“What I was very fortunate to experience was having to be a coach at a young age at the NFL level, I was pretty young, I was 22 and 23 for my first two jobs.




“You already know, early on, that ‘hey, I don’t totally look the part’. And so I better be able to help a player. You turn the page and realise that if you can help them they don’t care what it looks like. And for me, that was huge.”



Tyreek Hill has set the NFL alight with 412 receiving yards and four touchdowns from three games so far in the 2023 season!

Before life with the Dolphins, McDaniel spent five years working with Kyle Shanahan at the San Francisco 49ers as an instrumental hand in one of the NFL’s most creative rushing attacks. Earlier on his career he had spent time under Mike Shanahan as a quality control coach, the job specification of which usually entails gruelling first-in-last-out hours of studying film, drawing up play designs, logging statistics and being prepared to relay all of the above to their staff on demand. They are the ultimate fly-on-the-wall, whose work is integral in helping an entire team function.



“There’s a long list of people you have to trick,” said McDaniel of his journey from quality control to a head coach job.


“Everybody has their own path. Being a quality control coach, relative to your experience in life and coaching, it’s a very important job. And it’s very difficult. And I think the biggest thing, the only thing that gives me a chance to, you know, have you sit here in this interview as a head coach, is making sure that you’re 100 per cent immersed into the job that you have.




“With anyone that does have that career path, you have to be surrounded with very, very special people that teach you the right way. So there’s a lot of personal work that you have to have, you have to be pretty fortunate.


“Mike Shanahan, a Hall of Famer, was the my first boss, that’s pretty fortunate. And then one of the most innovative football coaches in our generation, one of arguably the best offensive minds, Kyle Shanahan.”


McDaniel dedicated his time to being the unfiltered football geek, familiarising himself with every intricate wrinkle and concept and evolving them with his own touch of spice. He worked with some of the most esteemed offensive coaches in modern history in the process.


Even then, he accepts nothing could have quite prepared him for life at the head of the table.



After their emphatic win over the Denver Broncos, the Her Huddle team discuss whether they think the Miami Dolphins are the early-season favourites to win the Super Bowl.

“You think you know everything about the job, and I really did because I had so closely studied it,” he said.


“These people that I really, really had all the reason to want to learn from, experts in the field that were highly successful, I’ve been studying them every year in my career, and then I was able to work right alongside a head coach in Kyle Shanahan for five years. And then in it, it’s still different, you can’t really understand the magnitude of it until you’re doing it.


“For me personally, it didn’t totally register how many people I could totally reach. So that was very interesting. And then ultimately, the biggest thing that I learned was, there’s going to be curveballs left, right?


“Your job is to handle problems. Your job is to serve people. But it’s vitally important that you stay true to your core beliefs. And that was definitely reinforced. In my first year, and in year two, it is nice to know you have walked the journey as opposed to trying to navigate a new room with no lights on.”

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