Mike McDaniel has proven he’s different, now he must prove he can take Dolphins to next level – The Denver Post


This is the time of year that we reach a decision on Dolphins rookie coach Mike McDaniel — crunch time — as Miami faces its final stretch of crucial games with so much at stake.

Everyone likes McDaniel. We enjoy his wise-cracking answers during press conferences. He’s funny. He’s refreshing. We enjoy his creative offense. It’s unique. We applaud his innovative ideas such as rearranging the locker room seating so that running backs now sit next to linebackers and defensive tackles instead of other running backs, cornerbacks sit next to guards instead of other cornerbacks, and so on. It’s a way of forcing players out of their comfort zone and into getting to know other teammates.

Yes, McDaniel, who wore Supreme x Nike Air Force Ones in the opener vs. New England, has been different.

But the Dolphins don’t need different, they need a coach who can take them to the next level and, ultimately, on a path toward a Super Bowl.

The next few weeks will determine whether McDaniel fits that mold.

That’s true for the entire coaching staff, not just McDaniel.

So far, McDaniel and his staff have answered the call.

But this is a playoffs-or-bust year.

From where the Dolphins are now, there are few legitimate excuses for missing the postseason.

The Dolphins are 8-4 heading into Sunday night’s game at the Los Angeles Chargers. They’re most likely headed to the playoffs for the first time since 2016.

McDaniel gets lots of credit for the team’s early success.

One of the biggest things that sets McDaniel and his coaching staff apart from previous Dolphins staffs is they’ve excelled at formulating a gameplan that fits their talent — as opposed to having a gameplan and forcing the talent to fit the gameplan.

It’s a huge difference. It’s kind of like the difference between hearing what someone is saying and understanding what they’re saying.

We’ll find out in the next few weeks whether this analysis of McDaniel and his staff holds.

Again, so far, so good.

Everyone likes how McDaniel came into the job and made building quarterback Tua Tagovailoa’s confidence the No. 1 objective.

The rebuilt Tagovailoa is now the No. 1 vote-getter for the Pro Bowl.

Tagovailoa gets the bulk of the credit for his improvement because it’s a player’s league, first and foremost. Tagovailoa did the work in the offseason, and he made that work translate to the regular season.

But McDaniel found a way to get into Tagovailoa’s head. That’s been a huge key. McDaniel didn’t just recognize Tagovailoa’s strengths, he came up with an offense that played to those strengths.

Yes, having wide receiver Tyreek Hill, who seems to be headed for the Hall of Fame, helps greatly. But McDaniel also had to find a way to play to Hill’s strengths.

The entire Dolphins coaching staff has found ways to make things work this year.

You start with the absence of cornerback Byron Jones after offseason Achilles surgery. Without Jones, they couldn’t play the same lockdown, blitzing style they employed in 2021. That left a big hole in the defense but they found a way to compensate starting with the season opener, when safety Jevon Holland secured an interception in the end zone, with cornerback Xavien Howard in coverage, that helped lead to a 20-7 victory over New England.

The process continued through injuries to right tackle Austin Jackson, left tackle Terron Armstead, Tagovailoa, cornerback Nik Needham, safety Brandon Jones, left guard Liam Eichenberg, and so on.

Again, the bulk of the credit goes to the players who stepped in as replacements.

But also credit the coaches who found ways to take advantage of their team’s strengths.

McDaniel and his staff have lots to figure out after last week’s 33-17 loss at San Francisco, a game in which the defense was shredded by a rookie seventh-round quarterback, Brock Purdy, and the offense was 0 of 7 on third downs, rushed for just 33 yards, and gave up three sacks.

The coaches have been effective at figuring such things out to this point.

Now, they’ve got to finish the job and get the Dolphins to the playoffs.



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