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MIAMI – The Miami Dolphins’ latest coach rental may have a familiar feel to fans.
They have seen their franchise hire eight coaches since the turn of the century, and only one had previous NFL head coaching experience. And of the seven first-time head coaches, five had backgrounds on the offensive.
That list now includes San Francisco 49ers offensive coordinator Mike McDaniel, who agreed to Sunday’s terms to become the Dolphins’ head coach. McDaniel, who identifies as multiracial, joins Pittsburgh Steelers’ Mike Tomlin, Washington Commanders’ Ron Rivera and New York Jets’ Robert Saleh among the league’s minority head coaches.
McDaniel inherits a situation that only one of his predecessors did – a winning team.
Under former coach Brian Flores, the Dolphins went 19-14 over the past two seasons, their best two-year stretch since 2002. This list, although not a final product by any means, has good bones on the defensive side of the ball and a budding star on offense in receiver Jaylen Waddle.
McDaniel, 38, is tasked with reviving a misdemeanor that has not ended in the top 10 in total yards since 1998 – the longest drought in the NFL.
What makes him more equipped to do that than the coaches based on the offensive that came before him – Cam Cameron (2007), Tony Sparano (2008-11), Joe Philbin (2012-15) and Adam Gase (2016-18) ))? To begin with, his place on one of the most innovative coaching trees in the NFL along with head coaches Kyle Shanahan (49ers), Sean McVay (Rams) and Matt LaFleur (Packers). The quartet worked on the same staff in Washington from 2011 to 2013, when McDaniel served as offensive assistant and wide receiver coach.
Waddle is a building block on McDaniel’s attack. The problem is that he may be the only one, depending on the development of quarterback Tua Tagovailoa. Armed with about $ 66 million in cap space this offseason according to the Roster Management System, McDaniel can work with general manager Chris Grier to find players who fit his offensive and start implementing his system.
A source tells ESPN that McDaniel shared playcalling tasks with Shanahan towards the end of the 49ers’ race for the NFC title game, and he is known as a creative play designer. One game in particular, against Green Bay during the NFC Division Round, caught attention as he sent All-Pro left tackle Trent Williams into motion.
This is the type of creativity that dolphins need while getting their list up to level.
Then there is the question of how best to build around Tagovailoa, who is entering a make-or-break third season in 2022. He finished second in the NFL in completion rate in 2021, but has not solidly established himself as the franchise’s quarterback in future. After firing Flores on Jan. 10, Dolphins owner Stephen Ross said he believes in Tagovailoa and hoped the team’s next coach would work with him. It remains to be seen what McDaniel has planned for the fifth overall election in 2020.
– NFL (@NFL) January 23, 2022
On the other side of the ball, Miami reportedly wants to keep its defensive staff largely intact after leading the league in expected defensive points added over the last nine weeks of the season. The defense is not perfect; The team must make a decision on defensive Emmanuel Ogbah, an unlimited free agent who has led the team in guys each of the last two seasons. Miami must also add depth to the linebacker and either replace Pro Bowl cornerback Xavien Howard or restructure his contract.
But McDaniel’s primary focus will be on building a competent offensive line to compete in the AFC East, which produced two playoff teams in a busy conference last season.
He comes with risk, this is the first time he has been head coach at any level. He needs to spend the next six months building relationships in the Dolphins building and convincing his players that the organization got it right – that he is not yet another offensive whiz that does not hold.
For clear or not, his time has come.