Mike McDaniel’s Challenging Road To Becoming An NFL Head Coach

July 25, 2022

Mike McDaniel had a long road to become the head coach of the Miami Dolphins.

The pathway to a head coaching position is normally extensive and grueling. Miami Dolphins head coach Mike McDaniel‘s path is no exception. Born in 1983, McDaniel grew up in Colorado and became a wide receiver for Yale University, which in itself is no small feat. It is evident the intelligence has always been there but that alone often doesn’t lead to coaching success.

The Road To Mike McDaniel’s Head Coaching Journey

Being brought into a system with the Broncos and Mike Shanahan‘s system was the best thing McDaniel could have asked for. Shanahan’s coaching staff has created some of the best head coaches and offensive coordinators of this generation with his offensive minded system. McDaniel joined them in 2005 at the age of 22 as an intern. In 2006 Gary Kubiak was snagged by the Houston Texans as a head coach and he brought McDaniel along to be an offensive assistant. This was the official start to McDaniel’s bumpy but promising coaching career.

McDaniel was with the Texans for three years and was a part of their first winning season with the Texans. He worked under three other different future head coaches in Troy Calhoun, Mike Sherman, and Kyle Shanahan. This was clearly a huge learning experience for him. In 2009 he joined the short lived UFL league working under former Vikings and Cardinals head coach Dennis Green.

Two years later he was reunited with Mike Shanahan in Washington. This has been widely regarded as one of the greatest coaching staffs ever put together with the combination of Kyle Shanahan, Sean McVay, Matt LaFleur, and Mike McDaniel. He was eventually promoted to wide receiver coach in 2013 but was not retained by head coach Jay Gruden. The rocky road continued onward to Cleveland as a wide receiver coach for a single year under Mike Pettine. McDaniel’s next chapter came in Atlanta in 2016.

The Atlanta Falcons hired McDaniel as an offensive assistant under head coach Dan Quinn for two years. That Falcons team was seen to have vastly overachieved in 2016 after going 8-8 in 2015, making it to the super bowl and nearly winning it until the infamous 28-3 collapse in Super bowl LI against the New England Patriots. In 2017 the rocky road seemed to have stopped for McDaniel as he was picked up once again by his former Shanahan coaching tree in the form of Kyle Shanahan.

Beginning as a run game coordinator for the San Francisco 49ers he coached his way back to the big game in Super Bowl LIV. Two years later he was promoted to offensive coordinator following the departure of Mike LaFleur. This was the first time we got to see what the Yale graduate’s innovation truly had to offer when he created a superstar out of the gadget player Deebo Samuel, being used out of the back field and as a wide receiver. Samuel ended the 2021 season with the most rushing yards among all 49ers receivers.

The Miami Dolphins have suffered without a top ten offense since 1995 when Dan Marino was the quarterback and Don Shula was the head coach. It was clear with the departure of Brian Flores and the issues he had with the 2020 fifth overall pick Tua Tagovailoa that the Dolphins would want someone both offensive minded and willing to work with their young quarterback.

The Dolphins had plenty of options, which included former Bills head coach Brian Daboll, former super bowl winning coach Doug Pederson, Kellen Moore, and of course Mike McDaniel. Out of all those coaches, it was obvious who would have the biggest impact for the Dolphins. McDaniel was the choice and he immediately told Tagovailoa that he was their guy. With Jaylen Waddle possibly having a Deebo type role and the future addition of one of the greatest wide receivers in the NFL in Tyreek Hill, the idea of having a top ten offense is obviously on the mind of the front office.

McDaniel’s ingenuity on full display here

The fan base is more excited than it has been in my lifetime. You’re seeing people who have been skeptical for decades finally saying they believe in this Dolphins team. With the run first mentality of Coach McDaniel, with the hopes of him fixing the offensive line, and being able to utilize the elite RPO play style of Tagovailoa, it’s easy to see why the hype is through the roof. I for one can’t wait till September to see everything this team has to offer come together.