Who is Mike McDaniel? Miami Dolphins meet with 49ers OC for head coach opening

Dolphins head coach candidate and 49ers OC Mike McDaniel doesn't look like your typical NFL head coach candidate. Who cares? He's brilliant.

San Francisco 49ers offensive coordinator Mike McDaniel has long been Kyle Shanahan’s trusted lieutenant. But McDaniel, like most every coach, has hopes of one day running his own team. That one day could conceivably be as soon as Sunday. McDaniel, 38, interviewed for the Dolphins’ head coach opening Wednesday and is a wholly intriguing, unique option.

Update: The Dolphins have hired Mike McDaniel to be their next head coach.

Get to know NFL head coach candidate Mike McDaniel

What a busy week for McDaniel. Along with preparing for his NFL first head coach interview, he is prepping for the Green Bay Packers, the Niners’ opponent in the Divisional Round of the playoffs.

Asked last week about the challenges of juggling both his career and getting San Francisco ready for the Wild Card round, McDaniel responded: “There is no juggling. It’s about the Dallas Cowboys and the 49ers offense going down there and performing and the 49ers team, doing whatever it takes to try and get a W against a very good football team. And that’s it.”

McDaniel’s football background

McDaniel is as unique as they come in the NFL. He’s a Yale-educated former Broncos ball boy who got his first big NFL break from then-Denver coach Mike Shanahan, who brought McDaniel on as an intern in 2005. McDaniel followed Gary Kubiak to Houston, but struggles with alcohol derailed his career.

He admittedly partied too often and would occasionally sleep through his alarm. That problem led to his eventual termination and a two-year stint in football purgatory: the now-defunct United Football League.

Mike Shanahan — who was then hired to coach the club now known as the Washington Football Team — threw McDaniel’s career a lifeline in 2011, bringing him back to the NFL as an offensive assistant and then later as a wide receivers coach.

After a one-year stint with the Browns, he and Shanahan’s son Kyle — McDaniel’s long-time friend — joined the Falcons staff. That’s where McDaniel gave up drinking in 2016. His career took off with sobriety. McDaniel followed Kyle Shanahan to San Francisco, where he was first the run game coordinator and then promoted to offensive coordinator in 2021.

How McDaniel performed in 2021

Shanahan calls the plays, but McDaniel might be the true genius behind the Niners’ unstoppable run attack. San Francisco ranked seventh in rushing yards in 2021 (127.4), and the Niners were sixth in offensive EPA per play.

McDaniel probably deserves a promotion, if for no other reason for the work he’s done with Deebo Samuel, who had 1,770 yards from scrimmage and 14 touchdowns this year.

What they’re saying about McDaniel

“He’s an acquired taste, and you guys are getting it. Mike’s a good dude, he’s really good at what he does, and he’s himself. He’s one of the smartest coaches I’ve been around, and he’s been huge to our team and huge for me throughout my entire career.” — 49ers head coach Kyle Shanahan

Adam Beasley is the National NFL Analyst and Insider for Pro Football Network. You can read all of Adam’s work here and give him a follow on Twitter @AdamHBeasley.