MIAMI GARDENS — It’s one thing for a Dolphins player or football analyst to compliment the game-planning and game-calling of cospanch Mike McDspanniel.
It’s something entirely more significant when an opposing player does it.
“The way they attacked us was very detailed in what they were trying to do,” Browns star Myles Garrett said spanfter span recent loss to Mispanmi. “They had us out of position a lot of the time. It seemed like when we tried to switch things up, they were a step ahead.”
McDaniel is, in fact, a step ahead.
The last time the Dolphins played football, they smashed the Browns. They put up 39 points. They put up 491 yards of offense. They riddled Cleveland on the ground and through the air.
Garrett specifically credited McDaniel and the Dolphins coaching staff. He cited the difficulty of dealing with all the motions and shifts. He suggested Miami knew its adjustments before it adjusted.
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And Garrett said that instead of it seeming like the Dolphins had 15 pre-ed plays they felt really good about working early in the game, “it was like a first 60.”
Actually, it’s 24.
That’s how many plays the Dolphins really, really hone in on going into any particular contest, McDaniel explained Monday.
“I’ve never been one to be light on the amount of plays that you go into a game so that you can adjust to whatever unforeseen thing comes your way,” McDaniel said. “Sometimes you make it all the way through. Sometimes you skip around. But generally we’ll go into a game with a vision of how we will execute our offense.”
That’s 12 passes. And that’s 12 runs, not including third downs.
McDaniel, assistants put effort into selecting those 24 plays
It may not be easy for us to understand exactly how much time and effort goes into selecting those 24 plays. McDaniel and his assistants sometimes lock themselves in an office for hour after hour on Mondays and certainly Tuesdays, studying opponent film to identify potential weaknesses.
“I would say that’s one of Mike’s greatest strengths is understanding the defense, its rules, where they’re trying to do things and then we build a plan off of that,” offensive coordinator Frank Smith said. “I would say it starts off with a lump of clay and then turns into a piece of art by the end of the week.”
And what a work of art Miami’s offense has been in 2022.
This is an offensive renaissance in South Florida. This is a throwback to vintage Marino, Duper and Clayton days. And statistically, it really has been 28 years — think Marino, Irving Fryar and Don Shula — since the Dolphins have been this dangerous offensively.
It’s fun. It’s exciting. And yes, McDaniel deflects scheme praise to the talents of efforts of players such as Tua Tagovailoa, Terron Armstead, Tyreek Hill and Jaylen Waddle.
But make no mistake. It’s McDaniel who has made the greatest impact on the Dolphins’ 7-3 record and remarkable offensive rankings among NFL peers.
McDaniel is Miami’s decided schematic advantage. McDaniel is everything they said he was.
“He doesn’t get as much praise as I think he should,” Tua says.
As a first-time, full-time offensive play-caller in the NFL, McDaniel has improved throughout the season in several areas. He says he feels better about how he’s minimizing emotions in his decision-making.
McDaniel has been working throughout the season to improve the speed with which he calls in the plays. And he has been leaning on his staff for situation-specific advice, such as red zone, short-yardage and backed-up.
“There’s no shortcut to a game plan that’s really up to the standard of your players,” McDaniel said.
Take a look at the offensive numbers put up by Dolphins
Miami’s offensive success has been staggering. And it must be chronicled here:
- 6.44 yards per play, 2nd in the NFL, behind Kansas City.
- 391.5 yards per game, 3rd in the NFL, behind Kansas City and Buffalo.
- 25.2 points per game, 6th in the NFL, behind Kansas City, Buffalo, Cincinnati, Philadelphia and Seattle.
- 8.3 passing yards per play, 1st in the NFL
- 293.8 passing yards per game, 2nd in the NFL, behind Kansas City.
McDaniel has taken a scheme mastered by the likes of Mike and Kyle Shanahan and Gary Kubiak and tweaked and manipulated concepts to play to the strengths of Miami’s players.
Every team says their plan is opponent-specific but McDaniel will truly draw up plays in a given week to attack a specific opposing player or formation.
“You don’t just make stuff up,” McDaniel said. “You don’t just, say ‘Hey, what if we put this guy here?’ If your game plan is sound and tied together and complete — I tell staff all the time — there should be a why attached to every single thing that you’re doing. That’s every alignment, every motion and that’s kind of the way we approach it. You know the way the staff has really, really come together, an understanding that there is a why, a reason for every little nuance, every variable.”
You don’t just make stuff up. Last year, in particular, it unfortunately felt like Miami’s two-offensive-coordinator-plus-another-play-caller-system was a mess.
Too often last season, it felt like stuff was being made up.
When you see Hill and Waddle running wide open, it’s not only because of their elite speed. It’s because McDaniel’s scheme has put them in the best position to run wide open.
When you see Trent Sherfield or Mike Gesicki or even a fullback like Alec Ingold running wide open, it’s by design. After all, what would you do if Hill and Waddle ran deep verticals?
Yes, Miami has a lot of talent on offense.
Yes, Tagovailoa is orchestrating with aplomb and precision.
But McDaniel is, in fact, the man behind the aqua and orange curtain.
And we can’t all help but pay attention to the astounding results.
Texans at Dolphins
1 p.m., CBS