Mike McDaniel is certainly a new flavor of NFL coach. The Brooklyn hipster-adjacent boss of Miami has the Dolphins swimming in the right direction this year at 8-3. Miami sits atop the AFC East, and a good share of that success is thanks to the potent offensive attack put together by McDaniel.
Away from the field, McDaniel has made a name for himself for being 1-of-1 in the NFL thanks to his personality and unique ability to connect with players. That second point is especially poignant: Exhibit 1A: Quarterback Tua Tagovailoa.While the third-year passer was viewed by some to be damaged goods and an irredeemable project for the coaching staff replacing Brian Flores’, McDaniel took on the task and instantly noted that Tagovailoa needed a bit of rebuilding to do.
A recent report from CBS said Tagovailoa asked himself a very simple question during the 2021 season: “Do I suck?” Tagovailoa was doubting his ability to play in the NFL in the midst of a pretty mediocre 2021 season, playing in 13 games and throwing for 16 TDs to 10 interceptions and 2,653 yards.
“Do I suck?”It’s a question that Tua Tagovailoa consistently asked himself last season.
— NFL on CBS 🏈 (@NFLonCBS) November 28, 2022
With Deshaun Watson trade rumors circulating in Miami all throughout 2021 and the questions surrounding the viability of Tagovailoa as a franchise passer, it’s easy to get more than a little rattled as a young player. McDaniel realized this, and helped rebuild Tagovailoa’s confidence by showing him a 700-play highlight tape.
McDaniel spoke on how he knew Tagovailoa was shaken, and what he needed to do to restore his self-confidence:
Mike McDaniel on his early interactions with Tua, how he realized just how much damage was done to Tua’s psyche and how he worked to restore his confidence. We really are blessed. #FinsUp pic.twitter.com/jEUrmY3akj
— I Ain’t Him (@Phincane) November 27, 2022
This was just using intuition, that getting beat up and having your existence be completely tainted by people saying that you aren’t X, Y or Z, and then on top of that, from my vantage point, I felt like he was put behind the 8-ball in a way with the — basically his strengths, he couldn’t play to. And so if you’re not able to play to your strengths and your position that one of the reasons you’ve gotten there is you’re an unbelievable point guard, I felt, how could he, with all the things going on. It’s a lot of loud noise that you try to ignore, but people are human. It was intuition, and it started seeing him every practice once he started getting a little bit more confidence each and every day. You could see his personality evolve and that’s when I learned kind of how deep it was, because I’m learning his personality – the first day I meet him is who I know him as, and then you fast forward a month and a half, and he’s a different guy. Then retroactively, like wow, that was real. It’s not like he admitted it, either, to me at the time, live speed. This is something that I think he — all he did was just come to work, buy in, listen, and then do what he could control instead of worrying about any of it. He chopped wood, got with Coach Bevell and Chandler Henley, and they’ve not done anything but tried to work on technique, fundamentals, and how to play the position at an elite level, and they’ve done an outstanding job with that, and henceforth we were 8-0 with him. Or I guess he didn’t finish the game, but you guys get it. He wins a lot.
Winning has been the common thread for the Dolphins this year, and McDaniel’s faith in his passer has certainly paid off (as has the offseason acquisitions and midseason reinforcements, of course). Tagovailoa is just 90 yards away from setting a career high in passing yards despite missing time this year, and has thrown 19 touchdowns to just three interceptions.
Tagovailoa is, obviously, thankful for having McDaniel give him that belief.
— NFL on CBS 🏈 (@NFLonCBS) November 27, 2022
“I think anyone here can attest to someone believing in them, and how that changes how they see themself, but also things around them, so — perspective,” Tagovailoa said after the Dolphins’ win in Week 12.
And their relationship isn’t just lip service. It’s present even on the sidelines.
— Joe Schad (@schadjoe) November 30, 2022
Mike McDaniel and Tua Tagovailoa are actually best friends pic.twitter.com/f9aEKoXnsq
— King of Phinland🐬👑 (@KingOfPhinland) November 30, 2022
Whatever happens, Tagovailoa should be thankful that McDaniel has his back — and helped bring him back from the brink.