Mike McDaniel, a Yale history major who didn’t follow the traditional path to becoming an NFL head coach, has achieved great success as one of the league’s youngest coaches – and with remarkable fearlessness.
McDaniel began his NFL career as an assistant with Kyle Shanahan on the Denver Broncos, Houston Texans, San Francisco 49ers and Washington Redskins; his focus on offence has carried over into his time with the Dolphins.
He’s a mastermind
Mike McDaniel parents stands out among offensive strategy experts in an NFL where teams’ success can be measured by their sack total and yards per game. He’s a knowledgeable savant who makes informed decisions based on data and logic. McDaniel truly understands his craft – an impressive feat in today’s competitive landscape.
He’s an approachable leader who values his players. He takes time to get to know both his players and their families, showing that he cares about them as individuals.
Coaches sometimes become overly focused on the numbers, but for McDaniel they’re only part of the puzzle.
McDaniel began his coaching career as a coaching intern for Mike Shanahan in Denver before being promoted to assistant with Gary Kubiak in Houston. His longstanding association with Shanahan provided him with an early taste of what it would be like to climb the ranks in the NFL.
As a result, he felt prepared to take on greater challenges and succeed at the next level. For fifteen years, he served as assistant coach for teams such as the Denver Broncos, Houston Texans, Washington Redskins, Cleveland Browns, Atlanta Falcons and San Francisco 49ers.
He’s a savant
Mike McDaniel’s unique abilities lie in his keen insight into plays. He can observe details others miss, like missed opportunities, possibilities, yesterdays and tomorrows – all with ease.
His skillset enabled him to succeed as an assistant coach in Washington, Cleveland, Atlanta and San Francisco. As offensive coordinator, he mentored Deebo Samuel, Raheem Mostert and Elijah Mitchell on their path towards NFL success.
He’s an expert at cultivating the right culture for his players. He’s surrounded himself with people who understand the significance of commitment and hard work.
His mother Donna was a farmer from eastern Colorado and when she passed away in a car accident during McDaniel’s senior year of high school, it forever altered his course in life. When he accepted the head coaching job with the Dolphins in 2022, he immediately called his mother to inform her of the news.
He never wavered in his belief in himself and his ability to make a difference, even when faced with hardship. He believed in his team’s potential and, ultimately, success.
McDaniel doesn’t put on a show of arrogance or superior intellect. He may be an accomplished thinker, but not one who requires constant recognition.
McDaniel often found himself the last one to answer a question when working as an assistant coach for Mike Shanahan, and in some cases didn’t answer at all.
He wasn’t always a morning person, either, and struggled with alcohol issues in Cleveland and Atlanta. Ultimately, however, he sought help and managed to kick the habit for good.
His humility has been an integral factor in his success. He surrounds himself with people who understand that success doesn’t come easily and helps keep him grounded.
McDaniel, as the Dolphins’ head coach, carries a heavy burden. Not only must he keep players healthy and motivated; but also, when their team is on the field, McDaniel must give of his best effort.
In his first season, he navigated the team through its share of highs and lows. But he also was able to garner some major contributions from a quarterback who had never before played in the NFL.
He’s a risk taker
He’s achieved so much success because of his willingness to take risks. This includes making informed decisions with his running game and going for it on fourth down – two moves which have given him a new identity as a “new-age” coach.
McDaniel understands the power of risk. A gamble can mean the difference between winning and losing a game, whether it’s an onside kick or snap from slant on fourth down; he knows there’s no time to waste.
He strongly believes in the principle of “adversity as opportunity.” Although success doesn’t always come easily, those willing to take that first step will reap great rewards if they are willing to try.
Since his hiring by Stephen Ross in March 2019, the Dolphins have had the chance to prove themselves worthy. But they have yet to build on their 8-3 start and now face the possibility of missing the playoffs for the first time in five years.