Dolphins coach Mike McDaniel earned a reputation for having a quiet calm and cool before he even coached a regular-season game — starting his career against of all teams the Patriots and of all coaches Bill Belichick.
McDaniel spoke to PFT by phone after his career-launching win. He said he was relaxed in advance of the game. He explained that it was the least nervous he’d been before a game in years.
He kept his wits about him in the biggest moments of the game. Perhaps the biggest came when Miami faced fourth and seven from the New England 42, with 24 seconds to go until halftime.
“Danny Crossman, our special teams coordinator said, ‘I don’t really like kicking a field goal here,'” McDaniel said. “He was like, ’I think it’s right on the fringe of Jason [Sanders’s] range,’ and there was enough time for them to flip and score. Then it became. Could we try to draw them offside or do we go for it? There’s a couple plays that I was prepared for it, and it’s what we call a gotta-have-it situation where you kind of prepare for what you think defenses would be and whether or not you like your players executing the plan.”
Once McDaniel processed the information, he made the choice to go for it.
“Once we decided on that, it was a pretty easy decision,” McDaniel said. “I think it’s important not to get caught up, and as I’ve witnessed Kyle Shanahan do, you know, an unbelievable job. He’s at his best when he’s just cold and calculated, so I try to kind of capture that.”
McDaniel said he was confident after watching the defensive backs react to motion from Cedrick Wilson that the play would result in a first down. And then it went for a touchdown. McDaniel explained that they preach YAC, yards after catch. And Jaylen Waddle made the catch and took it to the end zone.
“I gave him a hard time about in the offseason that he couldn’t even average 10 yards a catch,” McDaniel said of Waddle. (He averaged 9.8 yards per reception as a rookie.) “He’s been really working on that. You can see on that play, he caught the ball and then his mindset was to score. . . . I was really pumped that these good players didn’t make me look stupid.”
They made him look very smart. He made himself look very smart. And he got to 1-0 by beating one of the greatest coaches of all time.