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MIAMI GARDENS — New coach Mike McDaniel and the Miami Dolphins have sidestepped some minor hiccups because that’s how it is in the NFL — something is always on the verge of breaking, be it bodies, relationships, contracts or maybe team rules.
So when McDaniel arrived at his office Thursday morning to the news a few players had some sort of potentially contagious stomach virus, and then that number increased, the Dolphins coach needed to act.
He met with Dolphins general manager Chris Grier.
He got advice from people he trusts.
And he made the decision to cancel a dual practice with the Philadelphia Eagles so as to not let the bug spread and potentially cause the cancelation of the teams’ preseason finale Saturday night.
Through it all McDaniel was — this may sound weird — excited.
“When bad things happen, that’s your moment to shine in life … I’m excited in a way,” he told OutKick this week. “…You can really go in the wrong direction in those moments if the leadership isn’t right and you don’t believe in them.
“I can relate to previous coaches I’ve had and times are tough but, man, they relay a strong message and they feel confident. Wow, relief. Now, let’s go to work. That is the most magical thing you can do as a coach is all of a sudden set a vision. And that’s where I know my life experiences and who I am as a person, I really can’t wait for that test.”
Mike McDaniel Welcomes Difficult Tests
The canceled practice wasn’t that test. It was more of a pop quiz. And by any account, McDaniel aced it, even if it wasn’t a significant trial.
“I anticipate the exact same thing occurring for the things that are inevitable,” McDaniel said, awaiting that bigger test which lurks perhaps in the regular season. “I’m going to lose a player to season-ending injury. Maybe he’s a key cog. We’re going to have somebody that I rely on a day-to-day basis lose a family member.
“There’s going to be many people who say that I suck when we lose. And when we win, they’ll probably give me too much credit. These are facts to me of how things go. I get it all, it doesn’t bother me.
“It’s an opportunity. This is where I know internally I’ve been thinking about this too long. I know this to be my calling. I know I can contribute in this way. I can help facilitate people being better and use responsibility and power appropriately. I know it.
“And so you wait for those moments and wait for your time to shine no matter the difficult situation. We’re talking about the game of football but it’s very similar to life.”
McDaniel calls the surprises and problems “curveballs” and, interestingly, he’s been looking for a few to swat.
“That’s what I’ve tried to do personally in readying myself for this job is, ‘OK, I’m waiting for it, where’s the curveball going to come from?’ ” he said. “I’ve witnessed it firsthand for so many years, where people I’ve worked closely with, I know that there’s always something. Like, where is it? When things are going good it’s like, ‘Wait a minute, this is a trick. It’s a set up.'”
What To Do In Case of Failure
The Miami Dolphins are the only team in NFL history to have a perfect season. They were undefeated start to finish in 1972 so this is the 50-year anniversary of that feat.
But the chances of Miami reaching the same milestone this season are slim. So what happens when perhaps McDaniel has to face a locker room after a two- or three-game skid? What then?
“I’ve thought about that a lot because, to me, that’s when you really earn your stripes as a head coach,” he said. “I think a lot of people could be a head coach during a winning streak. But when do people need leaders? They need it when there’s adversity and turmoil.
“So, I think it’s much like on a daily basis you’re trying to set people’s vision. I think that’s the coolest and most exciting opportunity for me, from an ironic standpoint. Because that’s where you can really separate yourself as a head coach.
“Nobody wants to stand in front of the podium after something happens and we lose a game, maybe I do something that is obvious I blew something that lost the game that buries a weight on my shoulders. Nobody wants to do that. But if you’re trying to be great, yes, you do want to do it. I look forward to it in a way.”
Mike McDaniel Plots A Course To The Hall Of Fame
Let there be zero doubt McDaniel wants to be great. That’s not good.
He’s told his players as much.
“I’ve told the team it’s my expectation of myself that I want to be a Hall of Fame NFL head coach and that my expectation to each one of them is that I’m the best coach they’ve ever had,” McDaniel said. “I did that fully knowing they’ve all had really good coaches, so I’m not making light of that. But for me to even have a chance to be what I want to be to them, I have to be willing to put it all out there. So, yeah, that’s my expectation.”
This isn’t a new philosophy for a coach who burst on the scene only this offseason after years of toiling as an assistant. McDaniel has been envisioning his induction into Canton since he was interviewing for an internship with coach Mike Shanahan and the Denver Broncos in 2005.
“I went and met with him, and I had a resume,” McDaniel said. “And the first line, the objective of the resume was, I don’t remember the exact quote, but it was to be the head coach of an NFL organization and bring the organization multiple championships on the way to becoming a Hall of Fame head coach.
“I was putting it out there. That’s kind of my philosophy on my whole life. Part of the way to maximize talent and maximize yourself is be willing to make yourself vulnerable enough to ambition, fearlessly staring at the percentages of failure — just understanding that in the game of life and in a lot of things, you can win by just fearlessly going after it.
“So from the moment I decided to get into coaching it was immediately to be a Hall of Fame NFL head coach. And then letting it be, what it be, but knowing that a lot of people don’t allow themselves to dream big because of the fear of failure.”
Sound crazy? Maybe. McDaniel says it’s all part of giving himself something he may need during his first Dolphins season. And what is that, exactly?
“An edge,” he says.
Follow on Twitter: @ArmandoSalguero