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How Mike McDaniel’s clock management may have cost Miami Dolphins a big upset win

Miami Dolphins' Mike McDaniel
Mark Konezny-USA TODAY Sports

First-year Miami Dolphins head coach Mike McDaniel had been under fire as the 2022 regular season ended after his team lost five of its final six games.

There were even rumors that the Dolphins could fire McDaniel if they missed out on the playoffs. But an ugly Week 18 win over the hapless New York Jets helped avoid that possibility.

Instead, Miami clinched a playoff appearance with third-string quarterback Skylar Thompson under center. Its reward was a road game against the Buffalo Bills in the AFC Wild Card Playoffs in which Miami was two-touchdown underdogs.

After falling down 17-0 in the first quarter, the Fins made this a game. They tied it up at 17 before finding themselves down 34-31 late in the fourth quarter. That’s when McDaniel’s in-game coaching came into question.

McDaniel struggled with clock management as Miami was attempting to either tie the game or take the lead. That included an astonishing delay of game penalty on fourth-and-1 from Miami’s 48-yard line with 2:28 remaining in the fourth quarter.

https://twitter.com/MattFitz_gerald/status/1614747914093432834?s=20&t=NvIppT1TPdm61ZlOv4lu7Q

Mike McDaniel failed to get that play call to a rookie seventh-round pick in a more timely manner. Like clockwork, Miami would fail on its fourth-and-6 opportunity when a Thompson pass to tight end Mike Gesicki fell incomplete to pretty much end the game.

Related: Power ranking NFL Playoff coaches, including Mike McDaniel

Well-warranted criticism for Miami Dolphins head coach Mike McDaniel

miami dolphins head coach mike mcdaniel
Mark Konezny-USA TODAY Sports

To be fair, Miami has been dealing with a lot recent adversity. That included star quarterback Tua Tagovailoa suffering a third concussion of the season in a Week 16 game against the Green Bay Packers. Backup Teddy Bridgewater also missed the Wild Card round due to a broken pinky finger.

Typically, relying on a young quarterback is not ideal. Given that Thompson had just two career starts under his belt, that’s magnified further.

Despite all of this, Miami went tit-for-tat with one of the top Super Bowl contenders in the NFL on road and in hostile conditions. But it is hard to get past the late-game clock management issues from McDaniel.

McDaniel had noted multiple times during the season that he’s been trying to improve his speed as it relates to getting the play call in to the quarterback. The first-year head coach also cited crowd noise in Buffalo for the issues ahead of that fourth-and-1 play.

After the game, McDaniel also noted that he “heard” from upstairs that Miami had gotten a first down on the previous play. Whether that’s true is somewhat irrelevant in that a delay of game on first down wouldn’t have been great in its own right. That’s part of the criticism in that this was an issue throughout the regular season.

Reactions to McDaniel’s in-game coaching struggles on social media were not kind, either.