Hype over the 2022 Miami Dolphins season has been exceptionally high since the team added Mike McDaniel as their new head coach. This hype may lead to higher expectations than are probably warranted.
The brutal truth is that McDaniel has never been a head coach before. That isn’t a big issue as no coach has been a head coach before until they actually have. There is a first time for everyone. This is McDaniel’s first time.
When we look at McDaniel, we see an innovative coach who has had success with other coaches coming off a popular Shanahan tree. We see the success in Los Angeles, and Arizona, and San Francisco, and even in Cincinnati. Naturally, we expect McDaniel to deliver the same.
McDaniel is saying all the right things, or at least saying what the fans want to latch on to. Players respect him, they want to play for him, he connects with them on a level most coaches don’t. That is refreshing but it doesn’t equal winning.
I won’t rehash the Dolphins history with first time head coaches. I will say there have been five since Nick Saban. That doesn’t mean that McDaniel will fail like his predecessors. What I will say is that the transition is a lot different.
First time head coaches find their jobs entail more than just coaching on the field. Now they have to deal with the travel, the nutritional end, they have to worry about testing, conditioning, agents, families, off field issues, practice scheduling, and an entire team of personalities rather than just a singular unit. Assistants help with some but from all.
I once asked Tony Sparano and asked Joe Philbin the same thing later, “what is the biggest change from being an assistant to a head coach?” they both responded almost identically. Both said they didn’t realize how much time was spent on things that were not literally coaching on the field.
It is one of those issues that doesn’t go away. Every HC has to experience it and McDaniel will as well.
Fans see the moves that the Dolphins have made and naturally, that is incredibly exciting. We assume that McDaniel will implement a system that will highlight their talents, because he says that he will. We believe what he will say because he is saying what we want to hear.
I support McDaniel. I like his quirky nature and when I hear former players talk about his coaching, I find it refreshing because we haven’t heard that about Flores, Gase, or Philbin. It is good to know the Dolphins have a head coach they want to play for.
Still, I’m not ready to join the hype train just yet. I have seen this rodeo before and I know how easily it is to get bucked. The Dolphins have been close for several years. They made the playoffs under Gase so the next year was supposed to be “the year”. It wasn’t. Same with Flores after three seasons, we thought this was it. It wasn’t. So why is McDaniel any different?
In reality, he isn’t different at all, or at the very least, a little. He will have ups and downs. He will call plays that make no sense, he will challenge a call on the field that shouldn’t be called, there will be adjustments that will and won’t work or will or won’t be made.
He will run a two minute drill that gains two yards, and fans will question his decisions as much as he will question his own. That is the natural progression for any head coach. This is the progression that McDaniel will see this year.
Should the Dolphins fanbase be expecting a playoff birth in 2022? Probably not but many still do. There is a lot that needs to happen both in Miami and outside of Miami for that to happen. Some will be controlled by McDaniel. Some by the players. Some will be controlled by others. How well McDaniel responds will be the question that is in most need of being answered.
A losing streak, even two games, will be telling. Will he adjust or will he continue to let his systems grow?
With the 2022 season a few months away and OTAs now starting and running between now and late June, the Dolphins are going to find out what Mike McDaniel is all about. High expectations may or may not be warranted and I am more cautiously optimistic at this point and while I have expectations, they are tempered. Are we expecting too much from Mike McDaniel. For me, that would be a yes but we each have to decide that on our own.
While I can’t say that I am expecting a lot from him, I am exciting to see what direction this regime takes. What this coach can do. That to me is the most exciting part about all of this.