A prevailing thought in all sports is that a team takes on the personality of its coach.
That certainly seems to be the case with the 2022 Miami Dolphins through their offseason and organized team activities.
There’s a noticeable difference in the vibes around Dolphins players in new coach Mike McDaniel’s early practices than under his more disciplined predecessor, Brian Flores. Players are looser. They have fun in training. They’re not stuck in press conferences.
That doesn’t mean it’s better or worse from a football perspective. Many can argue that Flores, the way he did it, made the most of the Dolphins roster he had over the past two seasons, leading them to back-to-back winning seasons and one game less than a playoff berth every year.
McDaniel’s unique coaching style, which will be paired with a more comprehensive roster, is yet to prove itself. But, if successful in a highly competitive AFC, McDaniel could one day become a pioneer who demonstrates that this approach could work in NFL circles.
It was obvious McDaniel wanted to infuse his players with ease as a first-time head coach when he relayed a simple message to new star receiver Tyreek Hillwhich the Dolphins acquired in a blockbuster trade from the Kansas City Chiefs, when he landed in Miami: “Just be you.”
This week, Hill had to get back to being a little too himself in an interview, turning an answer to a passing question from quarterback Tua Tagovailoa into a sexual innuendo before backing off the sentiment and sticking it out. at praise for his new quarterback’s passing accuracy.
Tagovailoa itself looks refreshed. As he enters a season under pressure for his career where he needs to make progress in Year 3 with everything he needs around him seemingly in place, he said earlier in the offseason that he does not see the situation as a pressure but rather as an opportunity.
He also praised the support he feels from McDaniel, while indicating that he didn’t have many good memories of working with Flores over the previous two seasons.
“I think the support, for all of us, means a lot,” Tagovailoa said. “Being able to have the support of the head coach, the chef, that should tell you a lot.”
McDaniel’s player-friendly approach started from his first paid job as an offensive assistant for the Houston Texans where he was looking to earn the respect of former Miami Hurricanes great Andre Johnson. He did this by proving to Johnson that he was there to help. And McDaniel does this by offering his innovative football spirit.
“He’s a super genius,” said receiver/returner River Cracraft, who once played under McDaniel with the San Francisco 49ers. “That’s all you need to know. He is smarter than everyone, without offending everyone. The guy knows what he’s doing and he’s going to prove it this year.
Players who experienced the before and after of Flores’ transition to McDaniel noticed the difference in coaching style.
“We’re all feeling the energy here, and it feels like a different vibe this year for sure,” cornerback Nik Needham said. “You never know what happens, but we just want it to continue. I love what he’s doing here, that’s for sure. He’s a great coach. »
There was mutual respect between the players and their new coach from the start.
“We came in, we all bought,” defensive lineman Christian Wilkins said. “We gave him a chance. He gave us a chance to show what we got. It felt natural from day one.
McDaniel, 39, is young for a head coach but still considerably older than most players on the Dolphins roster — most.
“It’s the first time I’ve had a head coach of my generation, and I feel like one of my coaching buddies, which is pretty cool,” said punter Thomas Morstead, 36, who signed with the Dolphins this offseason. “It’s cool to see people like him who come from a unique background having opportunities to do what they do, provide value and help build a team.”
The Dolphins, who have had two weeks of organized team activities, move to a mandatory two-day minicamp on Wednesday and Thursday, before a final week of OTAs to follow. Towards the end of July, training camp will begin before the 2022 season.