Mike McDaniel is a rookie head coach and rookie head coaches make a lot of mistakes. The Miami Dolphins are suffering because of it.
McDaniel is that quirky guy, a nerd even, that everyone loves. His press conferences are lively and spirited and tend to be the opposite of every other coach in the NFL. Fans adore him, his face is on t-shirts, and he has already been penciled in by the fan base as the best HC since Don Shula. In fact, some have gone so far as to say he is the next Don Shula.
The truth is far from it. Mike McDaniel is a rookie head coach with an ego that all coaches have and it’s that ego that is hurting the Dolphins right now.
Yes, Tua Tagovailoa is playing incredibly inconsistent but the finger can’t be pointed at him entirely any more than pointing one at Josh Boyer and his defensive game plans. No matter who you want to point at, Mike McDaniel, as the head coach has to shoulder the blame.
On Sunday, we got to see McDaniel pull a quick one on Aaron Rodgers and then laugh on the sideline for getting the time out to thwart a quick snap. But it was Rodgers who was laughing in the end.
On Sunday, just like the week before and the week before that, we say McDaniel abandon the run. The run “guru” quits running the ball? Why? You have to wonder if Tyreek Hill is part of that problem. His numbers have dropped over the weeks and he has almost no chance at making it to 2K yards let alone finish the season atop the WR yardage ranking. Is McDaniel trying to feed him the ball? It’s not working if he is.
Miami had great success running the ball in the first half on Sunday and ran the ball well against the Bills and Chargers but in all three cases, McDaniel turned from the run game and focused on passing the ball and Tua couldn’t make it work.
The Dolphins had 77 rushing yards in the first half on Sunday against the Packers and finished the game with 82 total. Against the Bills, Miami ran for 188 yards and against the Chargers, 92. Most of those yards came in the first half.
McDaniel’s offense should take advantage of teams moving up to stop the run but instead, he strays away from it too frequently and teams are not committing to stopping it but instead remain focused on stopping Jaylen Waddle and Tyreek Hill the best they can and McDaniel tends to continue to feed them the ball even when defenses take them out of the play.
Part of this is on Tua Tagovailoa as well. His inconsistency is very evident, especially in the 2nd half. McDaniel needs to figure out the problem and start getting him in better positions.
One thing we are not seeing enough of is the in-game changes to the offense. Adjustments are key to any game and Mike McDaniel isn’t making the right ones if he is making them at all. The Dolphins are getting beat in the 2nd half and it isn’t pretty.
On Sunday night I spoke with a friend who brought up the same ego that killed Adam Gase’s coaching career. Should McDaniel be calling his own plays in his rookie season as a coach? That was something Gase did as well. It was a valid observation and as we are seeing the results are starting to look similar.
McDaniel’s offense isn’t the explosive offense it was earlier in the season and I personally am remembering how the Dolphins Wild Cat offense was eventually figured out and stopped. Defenses are figuring out how to beat McDaniel’s offense. They may give up a big touchdown to Hill or to Waddle but more and more often we are seeing drives stall and Thomas Morstead punting.
Miami needs to do better. Mike McDaniel needs to do better. McDaniel needs to stop trying to outsmart everyone and just call his game. He doesn’t need to be gimmicky or tricky. If it’s 3rd and 1, run the ball and don’t try and push it down the field. Just get the first down and continue the drive. Miami is one of the worst teams on third down this year and that isn’t going to win football games.
On Sunday, Miami converted 2-7 3rd down plays. On the season, Miami has converted 37.3% ranking 22nd in the league. It has to be better.
McDaniel gets a pass because he is a rookie head coach but if the Dolphins can’t consistently score points and win against good football teams, when it counts, the love affair with “Miami Mike” is going to go away pretty quickly. His quirky nature is endearing when the team is winning, will it still be perceived that way if they are not?