With the 2023 NFL season approaching, the South Florida Today News reviews 10 storylines to keep an eye on in a 10-part series ahead of the first day of Miami Dolphins training camp set for July 26th.
When we last saw Dolphins coach Mike McDaniel in action, he appeared to be suffering from a classic case of rookie sickness. It was a 34–31 playoff loss for the Dolphins at Buffalo, and the communication error was costly.
Unfortunately, this was the trend of the season.
“Throughout the season we had some operational problems,” Terron Armstead said after the loss.
“He showed his face again. This will most likely be one of our biggest moments of the offseason.”
We will learn about this process at the training camp, joint training and pre-season games that begin at the end of July.
But one of the conditions needed for the Dolphins to achieve what they want this season, which is at least win a playoff game, is to improve McDaniel as a coach.
For starters, in the first two months of the season, McDaniel will have to face a brutal line-up of rival coaches. It can be argued that at the end of last season he was coached several times, starting with losses to the San Francisco Chargers and the Los Angeles Chargers.
But overall, one of the biggest keys to the Dolphins winning the Super Bowl in the next couple of years is that McDaniel has been very successful.
There are many areas for improvement. Communication/chain of command. Clock management. Using calls. Reducing penalties, especially pre-snap penalties. McDaniel, who was both rookie and head coach last season, led a team that tied for third in the league in penalties (111) and fifth in penalty yards (881).
There’s also better play-call. One of the hallmarks of McDaniel’s innovative offense is the many pre-cut moves that confuse the defense. It worked well.
However, McDaniel’s offense, with quarterback Tua Tagovailoa playing the best of his career, came to a halt in December, starting with losses to the 49ers (33-17) and Chargers (23-17).
San Francisco and Los Angeles made defensive adjustments, and the Dolphins were unable to counter these adjustments.
To his credit, McDaniel admits he needs to be better in many areas.
You remember the costly penalty delay for the Dolphins’ Bills loss playoff game due to a communication failure. McDaniel thought it was first and 10th off the Dolphins’ 48-yard line with 2:28 left. He had the first staff on the field. It was actually the fourth and first, so they had to change lineups before there were timeouts. They were flagged, eventually colliding with fourth and sixth after a penalty, and then rookie quarterback Skylar Thompson made an incomplete pass to Mike Gesicki’s tight end. Game over.
“We had so many penalties before the snap, I think we were leading the league in offense,” McDaniel said. “Obviously there is a lot of work to be done and we are all happy to fix it. Clock management is just another layer of things I’ve already started working on – call faster.”
McDaniel also mentioned that some of his work is related to the riots. If the Dolphins don’t start quickly, McDaniel could face riots in September. Forget quarterback matches, look at coach matches.
McDaniel, if there was such a thing as a coach betting line, could have been an underdog in every one of the first nine games.
The first matchup, Dolphins vs. Chargers, is a rematch by Coach McDaniel against Chargers Brandon Staley. It was Staley’s defense that held McDaniel’s offense to a single touchdown last year (wide receiver Tyreke Hill hit on a 57-yard fumble).
Then it’s the Dolphins in New England, which means McDaniel vs. Bill Belichick, who is considered by most to be the greatest coach of all time. McDaniel went 1-1 against the Patriots last season but lost on the road in December.
After that comes the Dolphins vs. Denver, which means McDaniel vs. Sean Payton, the Super Bowl winner.
Then it’s the Dolphins in Buffalo, which means McDaniel vs. Sean McDermott, who is 2-1 against McDaniel, including two wins in the Dolphins’ last five games last season.
After that comes the Dolphins against the New York Giants, which means McDaniel against Brian Daball, last season’s Coach of the Year.
There’s a break of sorts with Carolina’s Frank Reich ahead of the trio of Philadelphia’s Nick Sirianni, Belichick and Andy Reid of Kansas City (in Germany).
McDaniel has put together a coaching staff that should make life a little easier for him. Defensive coordinator Vic Fangio and quarterbacks coach Darrell Bevell are highly respected in the league.
But in the end, it’s up to McDaniel to get better and make things run more smoothly.
Let’s see if McDaniel can smooth out the wrinkles that formed in the last few weeks of the 2022 season, with the Dolphins losing six of their last seven games, such a bumpy ride.
Miami Dolphins coach Mike McDaniel watches a practice at the Dolphins’ mini-camp in Miami Gardens on June 6, 2023. (Joe Cavaretta / South Florida Today News)