Two former 49ers assistants under Kyle Shanahan, Robert Saleh and Mike McDaniel, now find themselves coaching in the AFC East. Who’ll do better in 2022?
San Francisco 49ers head coach Kyle Shanahan’s coaching tree continued to grow this offseason.
A year after losing defensive coordinator Robert Saleh to the New York Jets, Shanahan watched his 2021 offensive coordinator, Mike McDaniel, jettison the Bay Area for the Miami Dolphins‘ head-coaching vacancy.
McDaniel and the Dolphins have made plenty of news stories in recent weeks, signing away a number of former Niners players, including running back Raheem Mostert and wide receiver Trent Sherfield, in NFL free agency. There was also Miami’s blockbuster trade and subsequent extension for former Kansas City Chiefs wide receiver Tyreek Hill, too.
Both the Jets and Dolphins were in on the Hill sweepstakes, helping fuel what should be a growing AFC East rivalry between the two former San Francisco assistants.
So, who will have the edge between McDaniel and Saleh in 2022?
Will 49ers watch Robert Saleh finally turn a page with Jets?
Saleh’s first year with Gang Green was nothing short of disastrous. A year removed from what should be considered a defensive masterpiece amid an injury-riddled 49ers defense in 2020, Saleh’s defense in New York gave up more yards than any other team (6,760) and more points, too (504).
Not surprisingly, the Jets went 4-13 and finished in last place within the division.
The maturation and improvement of second-year quarterback Zach Wilson will inherently be vital to Saleh’s success this year, and plucking former 49ers Pro Bowl left guard Laken Tomlinson will help keep Wilson protected.
Adding defensive backs Jordan Whitehead and D.J. Reed should help matters, too.
However, armed with five picks in the top 100 of the 2022 NFL Draft, including two in the top 10, has to give Saleh some additional cornerstone players to help forget the painful memories from last season.
Will Mike McDaniel bring 49ers’ offensive success to Dolphins?
There’s no questioning McDaniel inherited a vastly superior roster after taking over for his predecessor, former head coach Brian Flores, who nevertheless helped Miami engineer a 9-8 finish that included winning eight of its last nine games.
Sure, quarterback Tua Tagovailoa shouldn’t be considered vastly superior to Wilson, yet it’s key the offseason pickups of players like Hill, Sherfield, Mostert, former Arizona Cardinals running back Chase Edmonds and former Dallas Cowboys wideout Cedrick Wilson are going to emphasize the speed element McDaniel helped deploy during his time with the Niners.
And while the Jets beefed up their offensive line with Tomlinson, the Dolphins doubled down by adding former Cowboys guard Connor Williams and three-time Pro Bowl left tackle Terron Armstead, formerly of the New Orleans Saints, in NFL free agency.
Tagovailoa shouldn’t have any excuses now. But McDaniel may have the excuse of being a first-time head coach and only a one-year coordinator, which could lead to some notable inexperience gaffes in year one. And the Dolphins won’t be selecting in the draft until Round 3, ironically a pick they acquired from the 49ers.
Still, talent ultimately determines success on the field, and it’s hard to ignore the fact the Dolphins are much more stockpiled where it counts than New York.
If one had to guess, signs are surely pointing to McDaniel having a much more successful 2022 campaign than Saleh at this point.