Revisiting Joe Staley's 2021 comments on Mike McDaniel, Kyle Shanahan

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Joe Staley paints a funny picture of mad man Mike McDaniel in the lab.

The former 49ers left tackle spent three seasons with McDaniel, who pulled the strings behind the scenes for coach Kyle Shanahan for more than a decade before becoming Miami’s head coach. Now the Niners are 1-2, while McDaniel and the 3-0 Dolphins are one of just two unbeaten teams remaining in the league, along with the Philadelphia Eagles.

Rob Guerrera of Niners Nation recently resurfaced an enlightening interview he had with Staley last year on McDaniel’s immense impact on the San Francisco offense.

“He’s incredibly important,” Staley told Guerrera and co-host Levin T. Black. “He’s the Wizard of Oz for the run game. Not just the run game, but the offense. His genius comes into the construction of a lot of the plays and utilizing different people’s skillsets in different situations. He will come up with some crazy concepts and he locks himself up in his office. “

According to Staley, McDaniel looked like Charlie from “Always Sunny in Philadelphia” trying to track down Pepe Silvia in the mailroom.

“You go in there and he’s got 17 whiteboards that are all scribbles, scrabbles all over the place,” Staley said. “He’s got 19 different call sheets, it’s an absolute mess. He’s got 17 cases Red Bull that are empty next to him on his desk and he’s just coming up with a bunch of different concepts and building those up. He has been Kyle’s side since they started this whole journey together. He doesn’t get enough credit for his input. He’s really trusted from Kyle.”

Perhaps that’s why the coach couldn’t find time to shower between Sundays and Wedensdays during his time in Santa Clara, as he recently told reporters in Miami.

We’re only three games in, but for what it’s worth, the Niners rank 28th with 15.7 points per game, which is a shame given its stellar defense. McDaniel and the Dolphins? They rank eighth at 27.7 points per game, up from 20.1 ppg, which ranked 22nd last year.

You have to wonder how much Shanahan misses McDaniel.

Since his days as offensive coordinator for the Atlanta Falcons and even as far back as his assistant days with the Houston Texans and Washington Football Team, Shanahan’s reputation has been one of an offensive wunderkind, a bright mind who’s a step ahead of the curve. His last name doesn’t hurt, as his pops Mike Shanahan enjoyed a long and successful NFL head coaching career.

Aesthetically, the 49ers offense looked pretty at times, with its misdirections, pulling big men and creative use of playmakers. Even when McDaniel was part of the 49ers, the end results weren’t there for the franchise.

From 2017-21, the Niners’ offense only ranked in the top 10 for scoring once, during the 2019 Super Bowl season when it ranked second (29.9 points per game). Otherwise, the 49ers have ranked 13th (2021), 20th (2017), 21st (2018) and 21st (2020). Now it's only gotten worse.

“Kyle is an unbelievable play-caller and he knows how to piece – like, you get a 1,000-piece jigsaw puzzle and he can piece everything together really, really quickly and understand the overall concept,” Staley said. “Whereas Mike McDaniel’s the one who is back there making the picture. He’s the artist that’s constructing the jigsaw puzzle and gives it to Kyle and says, ‘You’re welcome.’ Kyle just kinda puts all together with the passing game coordinator. …

“It’s not downplaying Kyle’s ability to construct plays, he definitely does that as well. Kyle is the master play-caller, who holds the key to everything, but McDaniel is the guy that really, really understands and can dial in the run game.”

As they say, you often don’t know what you’re missing ‘til it’s gone. Given where we’re at with the sleepy San Francisco offense, the Jimmy G lip-reading social media fiasco, his comments in press conferences and Miami’s throttled start to the season, McDaniel’s absence shouldn’t be overlooked.

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