Mike McDaniel deserves credit for the rally over the Ravens, but so does the guy who hired him

Mike McDaniel deserves credit for the rally over the Ravens, but so does the guy who hired him

BALTIMORE — After as frantic a game as the Dolphins have ever played, it’s easy to forget.

Easily forgotten is a goal-line stand led by linebacker Sam Eguavoen in the second quarter, denying Ravens’ Lamar Jackson a touchdown via video review after a score was initially called.

Easily forgotten is Eric Rowe battling Mark Andrews in the Pro Bowl to prevent him from getting a first down, forcing a crucial third-quarter three.

It’s easy to forget a fourth tackle on Jackson by Ellanton Roberts and Trey Flowers.

And it’s easy to forget about a guy who didn’t make a tackle, didn’t complete a pass and was largely invisible during Sunday’s 42-38 win over Baltimore.

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Dolphins coach Mike McDaniel watches the win over the Baltimore Ravens.

Dolphins coach Mike McDaniel watches the win over the Baltimore Ravens.

That would be Steven Ross. The team owner, remember?

He’s the guy who went out of his way to hire Mike McDaniel when there were plenty of hot head-coaching prospects he could have gone after. Any one of them might as well have the Dolphins 2-0 today, just as any number might have the Dolphins hovering around the mediocrity we’re used to.

If you’re going to berate Ross for some of the other moves he’s made over the years, you have to give him credit for them.

Let’s take a minute to absorb McDaniel’s handling of this team as it prepared to enter M&T Bank Stadium, a place they had never won and once left as a 49-point underdog.

The night before the game, McDaniel laid out his vision for what Sunday afternoon might look like. It wasn’t pretty. He basically told them they could be punched in the mouth. They could be left behind. And that none of that mattered.

What mattered was what they would do about it.

Does any of this sound familiar?

Comebacks like the Miami Dolphins vs. Baltimore Ravens are unheard of

It’s not that McDaniel is prescient, because if he was really good at these things, he would have predicted that Tua Tagovailoa would throw for 469 yards and the game-winning touchdown with 14 seconds left. It would have eclipsed the number of 711. Entering this game, NFL teams were 0-711 when trailing by 21 or more points in the fourth quarter.

The Dolphins made sure that streak didn’t extend to 712.

Seriously, McDaniel couldn’t have more money to prepare his players for whatever happens. Isn’t that the coach’s #1 job?

“It’s something we’ve all been waiting for,” McDaniel said of the tone of this slugfest.

McDaniel’s speech Saturday night was actually an extension of a theme he’s been cultivating.

“He’s been talking about it all week,” said receiver Jaylen Waddle, the receiver of the game-winning TD. “I think he preached adversity. He said, “He was going to come. They have a great team, great quarterback, great defense. Adversity was going to hit at some point in the game.’ He struck early.”

Like 13 seconds earlier. The Ravens took the kickoff 103 yards. At halftime they led 28-7.

“We needed halftime to regroup,” Waddle said, “and we came out with a different mindset.”

Tua Tagovailoa outscored most Dolphins QBs in the fourth quarter alone

Even McDaniel’s halftime speech stuck to the theme “that if we ever face these guys, we know you don’t want to put your head down,” Tagovailoa said. “We will always be in the game”

Will you always be in a game? When was the last time the Dolphins had the right to feel this way?

I will make it easy for you. Ever since Dan Marino retired.

Tagovailoa was 13 of 17 for 199 yards and four touchdowns on Sunday. Most Dolphins QBs after Marino couldn’t do that in Madden. Tagovailoa reported those numbers in the fourth quarter.

This is in no way saying that Tagovailoa is Marino. It just means that for one afternoon, he played like him. And you can’t put your name up there with Dolphins legends without starting somewhere. Sunday could turn out to be the best game of Tagovailoa’s career or a sign of things to come. This week, you’ll hear endless chatter leading up to the matchup against Buffalo from both sides of the Tua argument. The fact is that neither side knows, even now, what his career will be.

“That’s what you’re in sports for,” McDaniel said. “I think it was a moment he will never forget. That’s what I hope he can use to move forward.”

We don’t know what’s next in McDaniel’s head coaching career, except that his 2-0 start puts him alongside Jimmy Johnson as the only Dolphins coaches to start two-for-two. Not to mention, McDaniel beat out two Super Bowl-winning coaches, Bill Belichick and John Harbaugh, to get to this point.

We know that McDaniel’s guidance has given everyone at the facility permission to be themselves again. To feel good about their contributions. To work hard but also to work smarter (just watch his shorter but sharper practices). Play with the exuberance of youth but the poise of veterans. It’s a tricky balance, but one that this 39-year-old coach handles with grace.

The win wasn’t even an hour old when Raheem Mostert and cornerback Xavien Howard started talking for the Bills. Different coaches have different approaches to what the rest of us would consider a monster game, a statement game. McDaniel’s?

“The biggest message is don’t ignore the obvious,” he said. “The Buffalo Bills won the division and did an incredible job in all three phases, so what better way for the Miami Dolphins to be a new team that’s really invested and really eager to play football? What better opportunity than to play their best and see where you are? So I think you don’t hide from that. I think you embrace the fact that they’re a good football team and there’s one way to get into the category of good football teams: beat good football teams.”

The Dolphins are currently 2-0, undefeated in division and conference. Their comeback for the ages against the Ravens has team reporters scrambling to rewrite the record books.

A coach says I told you so.

So did an owner who believed in this little-known coach.

Hal Habib covers the Dolphins for The Post. Hwe support our journalism. Sign up today.

This article originally appeared in the Palm Beach Post: Credit Miami Dolphins owner Stephen Ross hires Mike McDaniel

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