Could Mike McDaniel be on the hot seat for the Dolphins in Stephen Ross' eyes?

AFC Wild Card Playoffs - Miami Dolphins v Buffalo Bills
AFC Wild Card Playoffs - Miami Dolphins v Buffalo Bills / Bryan M. Bennett/GettyImages

The Miami Dolphins have absolutely loaded up and put all their chips in for the upcoming NFL season. From trading for an All-Pro cornerback, ab All-Pro receiver, and a premier pass rusher to the various signings of talent like DeShon Elliott, David Long, Robby Chosen, and excercising the fifth-year option for QB Tua Tagovailoa, the Dolphins are going for broke in 2023. The front office even brought in legendary defensive coordinator Vic Fangio to lead the defense.

But what if the team still fails to make a deep postseason run in 2023? At what point does owner Stephen Ross look at what the front office has brought in and wonder how much the head coach is contributing to the issue?

Is it even realistic to consider the Dolphins moving on from head coach Mike McDaniel after two seasons?

Mike Mcdaniel, Tom Garfinkel, Stephen M. Ross, Chris Grier"n
Miami Dolphins Introduce Mike McDaniel / Joel Auerbach/GettyImages

Well, yes.

Spanning back just after Don Shula retired in 1995 after a 25-year career in which the Miami icon coached 392 games, no Miami Dolphins head coach has lasted more than five years in his tenure. After Shula, Jimmy Johnson only coached four years. Then, Dave Wannstedt coached five. Jim Bates only coached one season in 2004. Coaching mastermind Nick Saban took over and only coached two seasons before being replaced by Cam Cameron, who coached one single season.

Nick Saban
Miami Dolphins vs Oakland Raiders - November 27, 2005 / Robert B. Stanton/GettyImages

Tony Sparano took over in 2008, coaching four seasons until he was replaced. Since Sparano was let go in 2011, only Joe Philbin has survived a tenure of over three years. Adam Gase and Brian Flores each only lasted three seasons in Miami, and even current Detroit Lions head coach Dan Campbell was only given one year as coach.

The point is that Stephen Ross does not have a history of patience for his head coaches. In 2022, the Dolphins started off the season as the hottest team in the league and rookie head coach Mike McDaniel looked like the next young genius head coach from the Kyle Shanahan tree. Injuries started to pile up and the Dolphins had no answer and McDaniel finished his first year at a mediocre 9-8 record, losing in the first round of the playoffs.

Why would Mike McDaniel be on the hot seat?

Tua Tagovailoa
Miami Dolphins v Cincinnati Bengals / Dylan Buell/GettyImages

Are injuries a head coach's fault? Not at all. But when an entire team suffers such a mid-season collapse due to one or two key injuries -- especially with healthy talent like Tyreek Hill, Jaylen Waddle, Bradley Chubb and Xavien Howard -- it could be an indictment on the coaching staff. With that being said, this Dolphins team, at times led by rookie quarterback Skylar Thompson, still willed their way to the postseason, where they hung step-for-step, almost upsetting the Buffalo Bills in the wildcard round. But is that enough to garner the trust and job security from the front office?

It doesn't help that there were some head-scratching decisions and strategies employed by McDaniel and his staff. It is expected for a rookie head coach to make some mistakes here and there, but there were more than a few times a decision led fans dumbfounded. Perhaps hiring someone like Vic Fangio to come in and offer his expertise in making decisions can alleviate this issue in 2023, but McDaniel does still need to make some strides in determining when to be aggressive or to play it safe.

Warren Sharp outlines part of Mike McDaniel's issue here in this graph. On early downs, Tua is able to quickly get rid of the ball on a high percentage short route, the Dolphins generally play well on offense. But when McDaniel calls for deeper, long-timing routes, the offense sees a notable drop-off, especially when it comes to third downs.

After spending his first season as a head coach calling the offensive plays, it may be benificial to McDaniel to relegate the play-calling to his offensive coordinator Frank Smith or even passing game coordinator Darrell Bevell, who has much playoff play-calling experience from his days in Seattle. Either way, delegating one member of his staff to calling plays can possibly alleviate some of the crucial mistakes Mike McDaniel made in his rookie season.

Is McDaniel really on the hot seat?

Jalen Ramsey, Xavien Howard, Mike McDaniel
Miami Dolphins Offseason Workout / Megan Briggs/GettyImages

Personally, I don't think McDaniel is in really any danger of losing his job in 2023.

However, if he wants to break the mold of the past thirty or so years and become a long-tenured coach with the job security of a Bill Belichick, Pete Carroll or Don Shula, changes need to be made. From improved play-calling and decision-making to rallying the team in spite of injuries to the instilling of a culture conducive to winning in both the regular season and the postseason, Mike McDaniel has to surround himself with the right personnel -- both players and coaches -- and trust his guys.

Mike McDaniel can absolutely be the next Kyle Shanahan, and he's shown glimpses of it. The young head coach has flashes of brilliance and genuinely seems to connect with his players and the Miami community. In terms of player personnel, he has all the tools. McDaniel just needs to use them the right way and we may be inducting him into the Dolphins ring of honor in 20 years.