- Miami Dolphins head coach Mike McDaniel used highlights of NBA icon Allen Iverson to help mentor his receivers when he worked for the Cleveland Browns
- The former Yale wideout wanted his players to try mimicking the 2000-01 NBA MVP’s shifty playstyle
- Former Browns receiver Andrew Hawkins reflected favorably on McDaniel’s decision to involve Iverson
Nearly a decade before he became the Miami Dolphins’ head coach, then-Cleveland Browns receivers coach Mike McDaniel had a question ahead of the 2014 season. How could the 31-year-old assistant coach help his position group improve their ability to cleanly get off the line of scrimmage.
McDaniel, a former walk-on receiver at Yale, found his answer in The Answer.
Mike McDaniel used Allen Iverson’s highlights to mentor his receivers on the Cleveland Browns
Outside of reigning All-Pro selection Josh Gordon, the 2014 Browns didn’t exactly have Murderer’s Row at wide receiver. Andrew Hawkins had flashed at times in his three years with the rival Cincinnati Bengals, and two-time Pro Bowler Miles Austin looked slow in 2013, his final season with the Dallas Cowboys. Travis Benjamin, a fourth-round pick in 2012, had only mustered 23 catches for 403 yards and two touchdowns in his first two seasons.
Conventional wisdom might suggest McDaniel, a former Houston Texans assistant, would show clips of perennial Pro Bowler Andre Johnson in film sessions. The 31-year-old could also turn to highlights featuring Washington receiver Pierre Garcon, who tallied an NFL-high 113 catches and a career-high 1,346 yards when McDaniel served as his receivers coach in 2013.
Instead, as Hawkins recently told The Athletic’s Matt Barrows, McDaniel settled on NBA legend Allen Iverson. Rather than show clips of the NFL’s top receivers, the young assistant believed his players would benefit from watching the 11-time All-Star’s crossover moves and athleticism.
Hawkins, who grew up in Johnstown, Pennsylvania, roughly four hours away from Philadelphia, was impressed.
“It was, ‘Think basketball at the line of scrimmage. Don’t think football.’ We would talk basketball. And he made it very simple for us, and he essentially drilled us and taught us two versions of a release. And, ‘Here’s when you use them, and if you do it, they will work every single time.’”Andrew Hawkins
The premise clearly worked for Hawkins, who set career-highs in catches (63) and receiving yards (824) in 15 starts for the Browns that year. Austin rebounded from a down season to quietly haul in 47 catches, 568 yards, and two scores.
McDaniel had the right idea, especially given Iverson’s football history
Considering he graduated from Yale, it feels safe to suggest McDaniel is intelligent. The well-respected offensive mind has also created the impression that nothing he does is by accident.
It makes sense then that McDaniel would suggest his players watch Iverson’s highlights, given the latter’s own football background. As a high school junior at Betal High School in Virginia, the future NBA legend totaled 2,204 offensive yards (1,423 passing and 781 rushing) and 29 touchdowns from scrimmage (14 passing, 15 rushing) in the fall of 1992. He also intercepted eight passes at defensive back and had five special teams touchdowns, including returning four for touchdowns.
The Associated Press named Iverson the Group AAA player of the year for his efforts. However, his legal issues prevented him from playing high school sports as a senior, and he devoted his attention to playing basketball at Georgetown.
Interestingly, Iverson and McDaniel each began calling home around roughly the same period. The Dolphins’ current head coach began his coaching career as a 22-year-old intern for the Denver Broncos in 2005, over a year before the Philadelphia 76ers traded Iverson to the Denver Nuggets. However, McDaniel spent 2006-08 on the Texans’ staff, far away from Iverson’s tenure in the Mile High City.
Whether he uses clips of Iverson or Ja Morant, McDaniel must help the Dolphins’ receiving corp blossom in 2022
Some studying and practice methods are foolproof. Others, including mixing energy drinks and coffee while writing an essay at 3 a.m., eventually lose their touch.
Even so, maybe McDaniels and the Dolphins could benefit from the strategy of using athletic NBA players’ highlights to improve offensively, and the star in question doesn’t even need to be Iverson. Perhaps Jaylen Waddle, whose 104 receptions in 2021 set an NFL rookie record, can improve his play after watching Ja Morant or Stephen Curry’s highlights.
Whatever strategy he employs, McDaniel needs to ensure the Dolphins’ receivers take the next step in 2022. Outside of Waddle, the cupboard is mostly bare, especially if the team parts ways with DeVante Parker, the inconsistent Louisville product. Miami is projected to lead the NFL in cap space this offseason and could also address the receiver position during the draft.
Unfortunately for the Dolphins, Iverson likely won’t be an option. The former NBA MVP turns 47 in June and hasn’t played professional sports since participating in the BIG3 in 2017.
Then again, would Iverson really be a less reliable receiver than Preston Williams? Think on that, Dolphins fans.