Shanahan applauds McDaniel's ‘entertaining,' unique persona


When Gary Kubiak left the Denver Broncos coaching staff to become head coach of the Houston Texans in 2006, he brought a young entry-level assistant with him.

Then, he paired that eager coach, Mike McDaniel, with wide receivers coach Kyle Shanahan.

“I didn't know him at all,” Shanahan said of McDaniel. “Kubiak put him in my office, and that's how it started.”

Aside from a two-year period when McDaniel served as running backs coach on the late Dennis Green’s staff with the Sacramento Mountain Lions of the United Football League, McDaniel was with Shanahan every step of the way. They worked together in Houston, Washington, Cleveland, Atlanta and San Francisco.

McDaniel served as the 49ers offensive coordinator last season before he was hired as the Miami Dolphins head coach after the firing of Brian Flores.

McDaniel is among the front-runners for NFL Coach of the Year for his work. He has helped turn quarterback Tua Tagovailoa into one of the top players in the NFL, and the Dolphins are likely playoff-bound with an 8-3 record.

The Dolphins come to Levi’s Stadium on Sunday to face Shanahan’s 49ers, winners of four consecutive games.

McDaniel’s work during his NFL career was mostly done behind the scenes until last season, when he was required to meet with the media once a week during the season as a coordinator.

Until McDaniel faced the media regularly, some members of the organization were concerned with how he might present himself in the public eye.

After all, McDaniel has described himself as a “nerd” and “weird.” He simply does not look, act and talk like the stereotypical NFL coach.

“I never knew how he would do in those press conferences or how he'd come off,” Shanahan said. “(But) that's how he is all the time to us — even a little bit worse probably.

“And it's an acquired taste sometimes or sometimes it throws people off a little bit, but I thought he put it together real good and did it in a funny way and is always entertaining in those press conferences.” 

McDaniel drew laughter and rave reviews from the first time he stepped to the lectern to answer questions from a room full of media members. He produced the first words before he was asked any questions.

“I’m just excited to be here,” McDaniel said. “Equally excited for you to truly take in how physically imposing I am.”

There is nothing imposing about McDaniel, aside from his football acumen, intellect and work ethic.

He was known to forget to eat, sleep or shower during the season as he logged long hours to assist Shanahan with a game plan to tailor to the personnel their teams were facing on any week.

Shanahan said he could always count on McDaniel’s steel trap of a memory to have the answers for how they went about problem-solving in past, relevant situations.

“I'd always say he was our computer like 'What did I say on this last year at this time?' and Mike could always retain that stuff and was really good at it,” Shanahan said.

Shortly after being promoted to offensive coordinator, McDaniel was asked about rumors of his incredible memory.

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“That’s, uh, an interesting question,” McDaniel said, pausing for full comedic effect. “I’m sorry . . . What was the question?”

Nothing has changed with McDaniel after taking over as Dolphins head coach. There is plenty of off-beat humor mixed into his press conference and, even, his mic’d-up segments on the sideline showing interactions with Tagovailoa and others. 

Shanahan does not recall if he ever gave advice to McDaniel to just be himself. But if he did, that would have been exactly what he would have recommended.

“If you ever try to be someone you're not as head coach, whoever it is, media, coaches, players, fans, they're going to end up eating you alive,” Shanahan said. “You have to be yourself, and you can't keep up with acting.” 

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