Dolphins head coach Mike McDaniel spent 2017-2021 working for the 49ers and even longer alongside Kyle Shanahan at his previous stops in Atlanta, Cleveland, and Washington.
But now McDaniel will coach against Shanahan and San Francisco when Miami travels to the Bay Area for Sunday’s matchup between two first-place teams.
When asked about going against his former employer, McDaniel insisted that this upcoming matchup is not about him.
“I will do everything in my power to make it another game, because I think that should be the objective of any head coach is that you make it about the players,” McDaniel said in his Monday press conference. “I really stray away from making anything about me. I just don’t believe in it. I have a very high opinion of the 49ers franchise and players, coaches, staff members. I have a lot of love for anybody that I worked with, especially for that extended period of time. So those relationships and people will always matter to me.
“But in terms of this week, it will be odd for a second, for sure, to be in a different locker room, or pulling up on the bus in a weird area, or being on a different sideline for a second, I’m assuming — just odd as in abnormal. But after that, my obligation is to serve each and every player and coach and try to get the best out of them. Nowhere in that equation has anything to do with my past history and travels, so that’s why I don’t — when I say it’s not about me, I really, really mean it.”
As for facing Shanahan, McDaniel said — much like he did when the Dolphins played Bill Belichick and the Patriots — that he’s not going to be doing an Oklahoma drill against the 49ers’ head coach.
“I don’t really look across the sidelines that much at opposing coaches. So I don’t think, on the field, I will feel anything different than any other game in regard to him,” McDaniel said. “I owe a lot to him in general. I will be forever grateful, and I think he’s always been one of the best, if not the best, offensive coaches and head coaches that I’ve ever had experience being around.
“It’s a tough test, and that’s the bigger deal — No. 1 defense in the league, an offense that does a great job getting yards, getting it to all their unbelievable talented skill position players and a special teams [unit] that has definitely — Ray-Ray McCloud is an issue that you have to handle. So that’s the bigger thing is that we’ve been progressing week by week, and in the NFL, if you’re aspiring to do big things, you have to play big time football in December and January against big time teams. So that’s something that I think our team will be excited for, and I know the 49ers will be excited to play football like they always are each and every week.”
The Dolphins enter the game No. 3 in yards and No. 6 in points scored, having put up at least 30 points in their last four games. The 49ers are No. 1 in yards allowed and points allowed, surrendering 16 points or fewer in their last four games.
Something has got to give and based on the relationships between the coaching staffs, Sunday should be a fascinating chess match.