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It’s 1:04 p.m. on Wednesday, and Mike McDaniel has taken his usual post behind the lectern in the press conference room of the Miami Dolphins’ practice facility.
The second-year head coach is wearing beige joggers — the type one would see on a weekend run to Publix or in a local gym — pulled above his calves, almost like capri pants.
His shoes are of particular interest, too.
The beige Bottega Veneta low-top sneakers are perfectly coordinated with the rest of the outfit and straight out of a stroll down Miami’s Design District — footwear not normally associated with a football coach during midweek preparation.
An hour later, McDaniel is on the team’s outside practice field, and he has traded his prescription glasses for a pair of Dita Midnight Special sunglasses. On his feet now are more traditional Adidas runners with an orange trim that matches the team’s colors.
In Miami Gardens, McDaniel has crafted the most cutting-edge offense in the NFL, with an assortment of motions before the snap of the ball and track speed that has the Dolphins ranking second in points per game.
And in one of the country’s most glamorous cities, the 40-year-old McDaniel’s style captures its ethos.
“If you’re the head coach of the Miami Dolphins, you’ve got to look the part,” inside linebacker Jerome Baker said with a smile.
At this point of his young head coaching career, McDaniel has grown accustomed to going viral on social media — and he says it’s never his intention.
It happened when the Dolphins were in Frankfurt, Germany, and his introductory joke — “I know what you guys are thinking ... I’m bigger in person,” the 5-foot-9 McDaniel said — landed a bit flat with the local media.
— NFL (@NFL) November 1, 2023
And it happened again during Miami’s road game against its divisional rival New York Jets last week.
As McDaniel walked through the tunnel at MetLife Stadium to head into the team’s locker room, he was dressed precisely for the chilly weather: a brown sherpa jacket with the collar turned up, along with white headphones and shades. As he paced the sideline during the NFL’s first Black Friday game, he wore a pair of Off-White Air Force 1’s. The shoes, part of a collaboration between Nike and the late fashion designer Virgil Abloh, are often purchased for thousands of dollars on sneaker resale sites.
While New England Patriots head coach Bill Belichick is known for his gray, cutoff hoodies, McDaniel’s chic, high-fashion look mixed with athletic wear has become as much a part of the coach’s brand as his offensive ingenuity. And his authenticity — from the way he talks to the way he dresses — has drawn the admiration of his players.
His personality is as unique as any coach in the NFL — and maybe in sports. His news conferences are filled with one-liners and self-deprecating remarks, and he isn’t afraid to crack a joke — even during a tense moment on game days.
For running back Jeff Wilson Jr., McDaniel’s style was one of the first things he noticed.
“It probably wasn’t as crisp and nice as it is now, but even back, Mike always had his little drip,” said Wilson, who has had a relationship with McDaniel dating to his time with the San Francisco 49ers.
Throughout sports, the pregame walk-in tunnel and postgame podium have often doubled as a runway for players who want to show off their individuality. Tailored suits, streetwear, personal fashion brands, you name it.
Across the Dolphins’ facility, what McDaniel has on his feet is always a surprise. Yeezys, the collaboration between rapper Kanye West and Adidas, is a personal favorite but McDaniel’s collection is vast. One day it could be Alexander McQueen. Another it’s Christian Louboutin.
During the latest episode of HBO’s “Hard Knocks,” which gives an in-depth look at the team, McDaniel wore a pair of Gucci beige run sneakers — priced at $980 — as he addressed the team in a meeting.
“I guess the hot weather got to him,” said running back Raheem Mostert, who has also known McDaniel since their time in San Francisco. “Miami Mike.”
Mike McDaniel response to being taunted for using the heater. pic.twitter.com/3ZogdwjfPK
— Stan of Mike McDaddy/Wilkins/Tua (Honky Hater) (@Tranracialangel) November 25, 2023
In October, McDaniel lost focus as he answered a reporter’s question — but he had an understandable excuse.
“Sorry, I got distracted. I just love me a crisp, clean pair of shoes,” McDaniel said.
“[He’s] fresh,” cornerback Jalen Ramsey said. “Everything. He got the shoes. He loves shoes. All of that.”
And at times, McDaniel’s style has come with a personal touch. Last season, he wore a pair of custom Jordans with a picture of himself and his daughter during his introductory news conference emblazoned on the side.
McDaniel’s game day attire has become so synonymous with the head coach that it was a favorite for many Halloween costumes, from the gray hoodie and joggers to the Rose Gold Breitling watch, Aviator glasses and well-groomed haircut, which he gets on Fridays in the locker room from the team barber.
“He’s got his own style and swag and it’s kind of cool to see,” Baker said.
There’s still at least a bit of a debate on where his collection ranks among the team. When wide receiver Jaylen Waddle was recently asked if his coach had a better shoe game than him, Waddle vehemently shook his head.
“No. Not even close,” he said. “Not even close. I’m talking about I’m in a whole different universe than him in shoes. He does have some nice stuff but no. No.”
But for a coach who’s been able to tap into skill sets successfully and foster genuine relationships, McDaniel’s style is just another way he connects with his players.
“Just to have that dialogue and be that cool as a coach, everybody isn’t like that,” Wilson said. “I’m pretty sure you aren’t going up to Bill Belichick and talk[ing] to him about Off-Whites. That’s just the difference. That’s how we rock over here.”