Dolphins coach Mike McDaniel preached a message of togetherness and unity Wednesday, a message that involved family and football.
McDaniel even got choked up a little bit when talking about the things that give him the most reason to be thankful.
His wife, Katie, and daughter, Ayla, topped the list.
“I do have an issue about being long winded,” McDaniel began Wednesday, the day before Thanksgiving. “I’m going to try to be as tight as possible. And also I don’t want to get too emotional up here today.
“But right when you said, ‘What are you most thankful for?’ immediately my wife and daughter. She’s two [years old] now, so I didn’t really know that aspect of concrete support, family and fulfillment.”
At this point, McDaniel became briefly emotional.
“And while I am able to fully invest in people in the organization and do my job, which is incredibly important to me, I have no chance without my wife.”
We’ve always known McDaniel is a different sort of NFL head coach. Wednesday was more evidence in that direction.
Not many NFL coaches are so moved talking about family, especially midseason.
Usually before home games he’ll greet his wife and daughter on the field before also greeting Dolphins fans.
During the 39-17 victory over Cleveland, McDaniel wore special “Salute to Service” shoes that also featured a painted picture of him and his daughter. He saw Ayla on the field before the game and pointed to her picture on the shoes and she recognized herself and said, “Ayla.”
“I almost just broke down crying before the game,” McDaniel said. “That was pretty cool.”
McDaniel isn’t the only one with reasons to be thankful.
Dolphins players also have a lot of reasons to be thankful, and they showed their appreciation for their community with their Thanksgiving dinner giveaways this week.
More than 9,000 turkey dinners were distributed by Dolphins players, coaches and staff, and more than half the roster participated.
Quarterback Teddy Bridgewater co-sponsored his first turkey giveaway Wednesday along with cornerback Xavien Howard, an event that also got assistance from defensive tackle Raekwon Davis, defensive back Jamal Perry and running back Jeff Wilson Jr.
They gave away more than 300 boxed meals to families of Bunche Park Youth Football League, where Bridgewater, who grew up in Miami and attended Northwestern High School, played as a youngster.
Bridgewater had done back to school giveaways and Christmas giveaways, but never a Thanksgiving giveaway even though he’s seen both sides of the event.
When he was playing for the Minnesota Vikings he had a teammate, offensive lineman Joe Berger, who was talking about a turkey giveaway he did as a member of the Dolphins along with offensive lineman Vernon Carey.
“I said, ‘Hey, I was one of those kids that got a turkey that day,’ ” Bridgewater remarked.
Outside linebacker Jaelan Phillips, who developed an interest in charity work while at the University of Miami, participated in a couple of turkey giveaways. He likes the way it makes him feel.
“It’s incredible,” Phillips said. “It’s one of the most important things we can do as NFL athletes is use our platforms to inspire change and help people who are in need, especially around the holidays when a lot of people need a little extra cheer. To be able to come down and do that is really a blessing.”
Likewise, McDaniel said, it’s a blessing he landed in Miami with such an appreciative fan base and the opportunity to work with general manager Chris Grier. He said working with Grier has been “a cool, deliberate and well-intentioned process.”
In another way of showing thanks, McDaniel acknowledged that no one has success alone.
“I think it’s idiotic for people in positions such as myself to be delusional enough to think that they’re bigger than they are,” he said. “It has stuff to do with you, but you are only as good as everyone that is involved in the process. … I’m so fulfilled and thankful.”
And in the end, McDaniel lived up to his reputation of being long-winded by giving a five-plus minute response to the question of “What are you most thankful for this year?”
“Didn’t I say I was going to be short?” McDaniel said at the end of his answer. “I feel like that was 10 minutes. But yeah, a lot to be thankful [for].”