As the saying goes, it’s all about who you know.
Mike McDaniel had a number of jobs in the NFL, never for longer than two seasons, before sticking with the 49ers as run game coordinator and offensive coordinator, and eventually landing with the Dolphins as their head coach.
But McDaniel’s stint with Kyle Shanahan and the 49ers wasn’t the first time that the Yale graduate crossed paths with the coach — in fact, their NFL fates have been pretty intertwined since McDaniel cut his teeth in the NFL starting in 2005. McDaniel and Shanahan have been on the same staff at FIVE different stops in the league.
MORE: Who is Mike McDaniel? More on Dolphins’ coach background
That said, McDaniel’s experience at offensive coordinator is limited to a single year. That year was, apparently, good enough that he ended up as the coach of the Dolphins.
Here’s how he rose the ranks to Dolphins head coach:
Mike McDaniel coaching timeline
2005, Denver Broncos (coaching intern): McDaniel cuts his teeth in the NFL, hired as a coaching intern with Mike Shanahan’s Broncos. He spends the year there before moving on to work underneath Shanahan protege, Gary Kubiak, in Houston.
2006-08, Houston Texans (offensive assistant): Following Kubiak to Houston, McDaniel crosses paths with Kyle Shanahan for the first time on the same staff in the NFL. Shanahan previously worked for the Buccaneers between 2004 and 2005, and gets a job as the wide receivers coach for the Texans.
2009-10, California Redwoods/Sacramento Mountain Lions (running backs coach): McDaniel moved on from the Texans for something of a step up in the defunct United Football League, working under the late Dennis Green with the California Redwoods (later the Sacramento Mountain Lions).
2011-13, Washington (offensive assistant, wide receivers coach): Once again, McDaniel found himself back in the NFL on a Mike Shanahan-coached squad — and he also found himself on an All-Star staff that featured Kyle Shanahan, Sean McVay and Matt LaFleur. He would climb the ladder to wide receivers coach in 2013.
2014, Cleveland Browns (wide receivers coach): Keeping the same title he had in his last year in Washington, McDaniel follows Kyle Shanahan to Cleveland, working underneath head coach Mike Pettine. Shanahan, McDaniel and Co. would last a year in Cleveland before moving on.
2015-16, Atlanta Falcons (offensive assistant): It wouldn’t take Kyle Shanahan long to find a new job — nor would it take long for McDaniel to find one, either. Shanahan would get the OC job with the Falcons a few weeks after his resignation from the Browns, with McDaniel earning a role as offensive assistant. After two years at the helm of the offense (including the Falcons’ infamous appearance in Super Bowl 51), Shanahan would get the head coaching gig with the 49ers. And — you guessed it — following him to San Francisco was McDaniel.
2017-2021, San Francisco 49ers (run game coordinator/offensive coordinator): The 49ers would do something slightly weird with the OC position — with Shanahan calling plays, McDaniel and fellow Mike, LaFleur (brother of Packers head coach Matt) would split duties. McDaniel would operate as the run game coordinator, while LaFleur would hold the passing game coordinator title. That would change his last year in the Bay Area: LaFleur’s departure would lead to McDaniel’s elevation to offensive coordinator in 2021.
2022-Present, Miami Dolphins (head coach): McDaniel is making his mark early in his tenure. He’s transformed Tua Tagovailoa’s career and has led his team to an 8-3 record and a playoff contender.