For about a year now, we were certain Miami had turned a page in it’s revitalization, the next step in a progressive plan to return The U to national championship contention. Now, adding number six ought to be the furthest thing from anyone’s mind. Mark Richt must answer a very real question before the season is over; is he worthy of being the head coach of the Miami Hurricanes?
Miami’s loss to UVA was the first moment I truly considered whether Richt is up to the task of guiding Miami through the rough patches of rebuilding a powerhouse. What has this team been plagued by this season? Bad QB play by Malik Rosier, N’Kosi Perry growing pains, offensive line woes and horrendous performances by the punters. Three of the four of these fall on Richt and even in the case of the punter, a case could be made that the head coach should’ve lit a fire under Zach Feagles earlier.
The rest of these issues, the reason why Miami is struggling through this season, fall completely on Richt. Miami’s defense, led by DC Manny Diaz, is one of the very best in the nation. They take the ball away, shut down the run and do a good job of limiting the pass. They still have issues with mobile QBs but that is perhaps the only weakness on this elite unit. Meanwhile, Richt’s unit, the one he calls plays for and his son coaches the most critical position, has been fledgling all year long.
We should’ve seen the warning signs against FSU. Miami won on the strength of its defense, bailing out the offense over and over, and Perry making some big-boy throws. But when Perry struggled early? Richt had no issue pulling the plug and putting Rosier in. Surprise, surprise, Rosier couldn’t hit the broadside of the barn for the rest of the game. The most frustrating part? Richt opened up the playbook when Rosier came in. I understand not wanting to overload your young QB with the full playbook (maybe 6-7 plays it would seem) but expecting Rosier to be able to complete passes that he has no business attempting showed the head coach’s ineptitude. Frankly, Richt is delusion if he thinks Perry, youth and warts and all, is a less superior option than Rosier. Rosier has proven he can’t play QB. He has good legs but he can’t throw the ball. End of story.
Richt’s play-calling has been a disaster since he came to Miami, unable to recapture the ability that he showcased at FSU and early at Georgia. Offensive possessions have become a literal meme. Run up the middle, run outside the tackles, short pass. Usually, the next play is a punt. Want to know how Miami is going to run it? It’s going to be between the tackles unless it’s offset pistol, then the Canes will go off-tackle to wherever the FB is lined up. 3rd and 4th & short? Obviously it’s going to Trayone Gray. The big plays to Jeff Thomas that lit up the season early? Richt has abandoned them with Perry at QB even though the young gunslinger has a bigger and more accurate arm than Rosier.
Miami’s offensive line hasn’t helped either Quarterback, but especially the young guy. Snap after snap the UVA defensive line was able to generate pressure on Perry and force errant throws. The protection for Rosier was no different. Richt simply hasn’t done a good enough job of recruiting players who can challenge the upperclassmen.
So where does Miami go? I think that guess is anyone’s to make. Playing at Boston College, at night, in a must-win atmosphere will help but certainly not solve the problem of what the Canes’ future is like. Will Richt put Perry back in when Rosier inevitably struggles? Who knows. Unfortunately, if there’s one thing we know about Mark Richt it’s that he rather make the conservative decision than the right decision.