When Mike McDaniel makes his debut as an NFL head coach on Sunday, Mac Jones will be the opposing quarterback.
While McDaniel has not been involved in a game with Jones during his coaching career, the Miami Dolphins head coach was already acquainted with the New England Patriots quarterback before the scouting process for Sunday’s season-opening contest.
“He’s a really cool player,” McDaniel said on Wednesday.
MORE NFL: :
· JAMEIS WINSTON, MARCUS MARIOTA TOGETHER AGAIN
· TONY BROWN ELIGIBLE TO PLAY FOR COLTS AFTER ALL
· ANOTHER ROUND AGAINST TYREEK HILL FOR PATRIOTS’ JONATHAN JONES
Before joining Miami in January, McDaniel served as the San Francisco 49ers’ offensive coordinator. The 49ers held the third pick in the 2021 NFL Draft and were interested in quarterbacks.
“We were involved in the quarterback-evaluation process and just came away super-impressed with his ability to play the NFL game,” McDaniel said of Jones. “I think he’s a guy that, for whatever reason, people like to say subtle, disparaging stuff. I see a really, really good NFL quarterback that he’ll just continue to progress. He’s one of the guys that I feel very confident in how he plays the position. And even if he has any sort of hiccups, he’s one of the guys that you know is going to be a legitimate NFL player at that position, which is so hard to do. He commands the game.”
San Francisco did draft a quarterback at No. 3. But it was Trey Lance of North Dakota State. The Patriots chose the Alabama All-American at No. 15.
While Lance made two starts for the 49ers as a rookie, Jones started every game for New England, including a playoff contest, played in the Pro Bowl and made the NFL’s All-Rookie team for the 2021 season.
“He’s got a real cool charisma and command that I first saw when we were doing, I think, Zoom interviews at the time,” McDaniel said, “talking to him about his stellar collegiate receivers, which one of them we have. I really like his play and I think the best is right in front of him for his career and I look forward to watching it 15 out of the 17 games of the NFL season.”
RELATED: THE PHOTOGRAPH AND WORDS THAT MAC JONES USES FOR MOTIVATION
Jones completed 353-of-521 passes for 3,801 yards with 22 touchdowns and 13 interceptions in 17 regular-season games in 2021. He produced four of the eight highest single-game passing totals by a rookie in franchise history.
But Jones posted those results with Josh McDaniels as New England’s offensive coordinator. McDaniels called the plays in three Super Bowl victories for the Patriots, but he left in January to become the head coach of the Las Vegas Raiders, and the current New England coaching staff does not have anyone designated as the offensive coordinator.
“I think the uncertainty just has to clear itself up,” Jones said on Wednesday. “I think that’s just a mentality. I think it’s all about getting in the right spot, having confidence in one another. And we’ve done that. Sometimes it’s not going to be a perfect, clean picture right off the bat when something’s new a little bit. But I feel like we’ve made really good strides in practice and the games even, when you really watch the tape to see how close we are.
“We’re just excited to get out there and put it on tape and see what we can do and adjust and just play for each other. That’s all it comes down to. The X’s and O’s are the X’s and O’s. But if we play for each other, then good things can happen.”
The Dolphins and Patriots kick off the season at noon CDT Sunday at Hard Rock Stadium in Miami Gardens, Florida. The CBS television affiliates in Alabama are scheduled to broadcast the game.
RELATED: NFL WEEK 1: SCHEDULE, TV, ODDS
“I think sometimes Game 1, there’s a lot of emotional stuff,” Jones said. “You want to focus more on the details of the plays and everything like that and let the emotions come and go. That’s how emotions are — they come and go. Energy and all that will be there.
“At the end of the day, it’s just the beginning of something. You have to learn from it and grow regardless of the results, so we’re going to go out there and compete and see how it goes. That’s all you can ask for.”
FOR MORE OF AL.COM‘S COVERAGE OF THE NFL, GO TO OUR NFL PAGE
Mark Inabinett is a sports reporter for Alabama Media Group. Follow him on Twitter at @AMarkG1.