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Don’t let Mike McDaniel’s looks fool you, Dolphins coach learned early he can lead NFL players


Looks can be deceiving.

When Mike McDaniel was named head coach of the Miami Dolphins last month, a casual fan that hadn’t followed the search in-depth could have seen an image of him for the first time and thought, “That’s our new coach?”

McDaniel doesn’t look like a typical football coach. He doesn’t possess an intimidating presence. It’s hard to imagine him getting in the face of a player that lined up incorrectly or clapping back at a 275-pound defensive end that didn’t appreciate one of his calls on the sideline and lets him know it.

Some might describe him as nerdy, dorky or quirky.

Many who don’t believe he can find success leading the Dolphins are using his unconventional appearance as the reason. Why would 53 rough and tough men — some of the strongest and most athletic in the world — pay attention to that guy?

It’s nothing McDaniel hasn’t heard before. He knew he had to shed this stereotype going back to his first paid job in the NFL. After interning with his hometown Denver Broncos out of college at Yale in 2005, McDaniel was hired in 2006 as an offensive assistant for the Houston Texans that dealt with wide receivers. McDaniel had to earn the respect of NFL and University of Miami receiving great Andre Johnson in his prime.

“I had to tackle that thing that I’m sure you guys have heard,” McDaniel said in an exclusive interview with the South Florida Sun Sentinel from a Dolphins suite at the scouting combine in Indianapolis.

“The whole idea of how I look and whether I can get the most out of players, I had to tackle that as a 22-year-old. I got to move that out of the way because here’s this All-Pro, arguably the best in the game, and I had to find ways to get him better.”

When McDaniel said Johnson’s name, he formed the “U” symbol with his hands, exhibiting an understanding as he comes to Miami of what the Hurricanes historically represent and how much elite NFL talent has come out of Coral Gables — with Johnson a prime example.

Every step of the way as McDaniel has climbed the coaching ladder, eventually serving as San Francisco 49ers offensive coordinator last season before landing the Dolphins’ head role, he has put the stigma of his looks behind him.

“That has been on the backburner, my rearview my entire career because it was then that I realized, ‘Oh, wow. This is a lot simpler than people make it out to be,’ ” McDaniel said. “Every player, this is their dream, that they’re building this up their entire lives.

“They have this short window of earning potential, and then, they’re identified by that window the rest of their lives. … If you, as a coach, can help him maximize that window with all that pressure — they know it’s finite — but you can be a vessel to them getting their hopes and dreams, I could wear a clown suit every day, and they wouldn’t care.”

McDaniel freely addresses the topic. He didn’t have to be asked about it — although his mention of it led to follow-up questions — and he only arrived at the talking point on one of the many tangents he’ll go on when he starts talking about his vision for the Dolphins.

While he felt he put that stereotype to bed early in his career, he still hears about it as he begins his new role by critics who want to pigeonhole him as someone who shouldn’t get past a coordinator title. McDaniel stays off social media, but he is aware of the perception from what Dolphins’ public relations team and even his wife relay to him off articles written and social media quips.

Where he doesn’t hear it is in the thoughts of his former players or coaches that have worked with him.

“The idea of passionately motivating people to do their job is some of the best parts of coaching that I enjoy the most, which is why, I guess, you hear so many players support me,” McDaniel said.

At the same time, McDaniel understands where the talk comes from.

“I look different and present different than the other 31 [NFL head coaches],” he said. “I can understand why people say it because I am my own package, and they haven’t seen it before.”

McDaniel, with his disregard for how people perceive his appearance, keeps his coaching philosophy simple.

“Can you get players better?” he said. “Players can feel it. When you have the ability and the desire and you invest in them.”

With that mindset, McDaniel has seamlessly handled some of his first new duties as a first-time head coach. He completed a coaching staff comprised of some hand-picked offensive assistants, a few holdovers from Brian Flores’ defensive staff and even three former Dolphins players coming back home to coach. He did it in less than two weeks.

Now, he goes through his first scouting combine as a head coach, developing an offseason personnel plan of how he will manage free agency in two weeks and what he can find in the draft in late April.

“You don’t make it bigger than it is in terms of, you are working with people,” McDaniel said. “You are the head coach, so you are responsible to serve a lot more people, but you don’t stray away from the core principles that got you there, which is attention to detail and commitment to your responsibilities.”

McDaniel feels prepared for it based on how he has mentally placed himself in head-coaching scenarios. That said, he still has to run into surprises as a first-time head coach.

But the biggest thing he has prepared himself for is how different events can derail preparations. A Mike Shanahan protégé, one thing McDaniel always came away impressed with from Shanahan was his unwavering sense of not allowing an alteration in plans throw him off.

“I’ve been prepared to expect the unexpected,” McDaniel said.


Article Source and Credit denverpost.com https://www.denverpost.com/2022/03/01/dont-let-mike-mcdaniels-looks-fool-you-dolphins-coach-learned-early-he-can-lead-nfl-players/ Buy Tickets for every event – Sports, Concerts, Festivals and more buytickets.com


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