Miami Dolphins Head Coach Mike McDaniel might not look like your typical, cookie-cutter NFL coach, and that doesn’t really matter.
McDaniel is considered one of the most innovative coaches in modern day professional football, and though he and the Dolphins make the sport look easy, it wasn’t always like that for McDaniel.
The path that led to McDaniel being one of the greatest offensive minds in football was not straight, and had plenty of trials and tribulations along the way. Though it might seem now that he has everything together and carries himself with a joyful attitude, getting to that point actually took a tremendous amount of self reflection and improvement from McDaniel.
For many years, the bright football mind battled with the darkness of alcoholism and depression, and his addiction almost pushed him out of football altogether. When McDaniel was a 25-year-old assistant coach with the Falcons in 2008, he nearly threw away his entire football coaching career. He was often late for morning meetings in Atlanta, and was fired because of it.
That’s why he now leaves his home in Fort Lauderdale at two in the morning to get to the Miami Dolphins practice facility every day.
But before he started to figure things out, and arriving to work before the sun came up every day, he was out of the NFL for 865 days. That number is now very important to McDaniel, as CBS reported below:
“He keeps a note card above his desk at the Dolphins practice facility with a handwritten number on it. The number is 865, and that is the number of days that Mike McDaniel spent on the outside of the NFL looking in after he was fired by the Texans in 2008 for showing up late to a team meeting.
It was in the height of his alcoholism. He struggled with alcohol abuse for a number of years, all the way up until 2016 when he was with the Atlanta Falcons. He had his last drink on January 4th of 2016 (and) he entered rehab.”
That stop in rehab was a difficult moment in his life, but also marked a critical turning point. From that point on, he never took another drink of alcohol, and remains sober to this day.
And that life lesson he was taught when being fired from the Texans in 2008 has definitely stuck with him, and has given McDaniel a whole new perspective and appreciation for coaching the game of football.
After making it back into the NFL as an assistant and making stops as a coach for the Washington Commanders, Cleveland Browns, Atlanta Falcons, and San Francisco 49ers, he finally was given the opportunity he’s always dreamed of and was named the Head Coach of the Miami Dolphins in 2022.
McDaniel told NFL on CBS:
“I’m so proud that I turned that embarrassment and that humiliation into a triumph and one of the greatest stories of my life.”
Now every time he drives into work (very early in the morning), he’s driven to be the best form of himself he can be, which he can confidently say he has found now that he’s left alcohol behind. And the fact that he’s got one of the most fun and exciting NFL offenses the league has ever seen certainly supports that he’s thriving in his “second chance.”
Some of called the Dolphins the new “Greatest Show on Turf,” though I think with the team being located in Miami, the “Greatest Show on Surf” makes a little more sense.
You can view a clip breaking down the powerful story of Mike McDaniel below: