Here’s the latest installment of our Miami Dolphins Q&A, where South Florida Sun Sentinel writers David Furones and Chris Perkins answer questions from readers.
Q: From what you have seen at practice and in the locker room, is Mike McDaniel going to be OK or is the moment too large for him? I know most of the fan base wants to anoint him, but I’m skeptical of Ross’ ability to hire coaches since he hasn’t hired a good one yet. — Harry on Twitter
A: It’s second nature at this point for Miami Dolphins fans to be skeptical of coaching hires since Steve Ross took over ownership of the franchise.
Joe Philbin, Adam Gase, Brian Flores. None of them finished a fourth season at the helm. What makes Mike McDaniel any different?
I get it. It’s all optimism from a successful offseason and hype leading up to the season at this point. He hasn’t won or lost a game. Everything any opinion is based on relies on his press conferences and the way he has run practices, and his jovial tone and demeanor could lend to bias in his favor from media that enjoys interviewing him and fans that enjoy listening to him.
Looking beyond the potential for said bias, I’m willing to give him the benefit of the doubt to start.
McDaniel is meticulous. While he is a first-time head coach, he doesn’t feel that way because so often in his decade and a half as an assistant coach in the NFL he has mentally positioned himself into different situations and scenarios. He has prepared himself for challenges that will inevitably arise.
Although much of the offseason has been about excitement — adding the likes of wide receiver Tyreek Hill, left tackle Terron Armstead and others — there have been times where he had to take a stance. Wide receiver Preston Williams complained about where he stood with the team. McDaniel handled it. He also has gotten tight end Mike Gesicki to buy in to a new role in his offense on a franchise-tag year, although Gesicki is a team-oriented player that doesn’t cause trouble, regardless.
One of the bigger questions surrounding McDaniel to start his tenure was whether he can command the respect of a locker room. McDaniel learned how to deal with players and their egos early on. As a young wide receivers coach for the Houston Texans in 2006, with just a year as a Denver Broncos intern separating him from college at Yale, he had to earn the respect of Andre Johnson in his prime. He did that by proving to the All-Pro that he’s there to help him, earning his trust and putting him in the best position to be successful.
McDaniel plays to that strength and doesn’t try to be some disciplinarian old school-style coach.
Previous coaches have been able to win immediately in Miami. Gase and Tony Sparano got the Dolphins into the playoffs in their first seasons. It’s the lack of consistency to follow that led to their demise. Flores proved he can lead a football team. He got fired despite back-to-back winning seasons with less talent than the team has now, but his downfall was his people skills. McDaniel has that part of it down, and the coaching staff he’s built appears to be better than anything Flores put together.
McDaniel enters into a good situation, which makes it easier for him given the talent on the roster, but with that, also comes pressure and expectations. Failure to meet those expectations could turn the perception around him quickly.
At the end of the day, it still comes down to winning on the field.
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