Mike McDaniel, former 49ers offensive coordinator and current Miami Dolphins coach, knows there’s a lot riding on his team’s game against San Francisco on Sunday at Levi’s Stadium.
But not because he feels the need to prove himself against his former team.
It won’t be “weird” to go up against 49ers coach Kyle Shanahan, McDaniel told reporters Wednesday, because he’s too focused on ending San Francisco’s win streak and extending his own.
“No [it won’t be weird], absolutely not,” McDaniel said, noting the working and personal relationships he has within the 49ers’ building. “... But that’s neither here nor there. The players, the people in the [Dolphins’] building and the coaching staff, everyone is depending on me to do my job … I directly affect a lot of people in that regard.
“... But wow, I think it’s incredibly insulting to so many different avenues, people in the building, the organization, the fans, if I'm worried about, 'Wow, this is where I used to stand or there's games here.' “
The Dolphins enter Sunday’s matchup riding a five-game win streak, while the 49ers have won their last four contests entering Week 13. McDaniel made it clear his focus will be on the great football fans can expect on the field that day.
“They have a very good team, coached very well, and they play really hard,” McDaniel continued. “And what a wonderful opportunity for us to go on the road and play a team that you have to earn everything you get.
“… So, this is just great football between two teams that haven't lost in a minute, and generally when you haven't lost in a minute, you don't want to feel that feeling, so there's a lot of incentive on both sides to make sure that they end up on top. And isn't that why we do football?”
While McDaniel has plenty of old friends on the 49ers’ sideline, there’s one relationship he believes -- or knows, rather -- got him to where he is today.
“I don’t know. I’m hard to get rid of,” McDaniel joked of how his friendship with Shanahan grew over the years. “I think I recognized him as an ambitious coach that got into it to help players. I recognized in him early that he really could help players grow and live out their dreams.
“He knew more than anybody that I'd been around about football, so you try to be a resource and you try not to miss opportunities, especially ones right in front of your face.”
McDaniel worked alongside Shanahan for nine seasons with four NFL teams before joining the 49ers’ coaching staff in 2017 as run game coordinator. He was promoted to OC in 2021 and left this past offseason to coach the Dolphins.
Now, with an 8-3 record atop the AFC East, McDaniel credits much of his success as a coach to Shanahan.
“So maybe he felt bad for me, or maybe he recognized that I was listening,” McDaniel said. “Either way, it was a great working relationship that I’m very much grateful, indebted and really don’t know where I’d be without it.”