The Miami Hurricanes’ once-vaunted defense is broken.
From missed tackles to blown coverages to freelancing to penalties to a lack of havoc and TFLs — yanno, the foundational elements of Miami’s defense — just about everything that hadn’t happened over the last few years is happening now.
And that’s a problem.
Miami’s defense — a top 5 unit in Manny Diaz’s tenure as DC — was thought to be the foundation for the program in Diaz’s first turn as a head coach. The plan was to pair the defense, which had been championship caliber, with an improving offense to take advantage of a weak 2019 schedule and push Miami back towards the top of the College Football World. Instead, the Canes have slid back in every statistical area on defense, and there is confusion where most thought there would be clarity.
Moreover, players who have been major positive contributors to Miami’s defense in the past are playing badly and selfishly and it’s affecting the integrity of the unit, and opposing teams have exploited these errors repeatedly through the first 5 games of the year.
In past weeks, Manny Diaz has hinted at issues being present on defense, and has kinda sorta been trying to send messages to the group. Last week, that message went from implied to overt. Start around 1:09 for full context, but the money quote here starts at 3:02 of the video below:
Despite this warning, and in spite of practices deemed some of the best of the year in the week preceding the loss to Virginia Tech, the nebulous “culture issues” went unchanged. Furthermore, according to Diaz, these same issues were a major part of why Miami ended up falling behind by 4 TDs and eventually losing the game.
So Diaz hinted at things needing to be changed. Then Diaz overtly said the players needed to fix it or he’d do it. Based upon game performance, things have not changed. The players did not heed his words and they did not fix the issues facing the team. If anything, the issues actually got worse rather than better. Now we’re at the point where Diaz will have to fix it himself.
As I said in the subtitle for this piece, we’re about to see if Manny Diaz the fixer is Bob Vila or Tim “The Toolman” Taylor.
Bob Vila was the standard for the home handyman for years. Both in real life and on the sitcom Home Improvement, Vila had the skills to identify and fix any problem your home could have. Leaky faucet? Bob would fix it. Squeaky door hinge? Bob would fix it. Kitchen needing a gut renovation for improved form and function? You guessed it: Bob would fix it. He’s kind of a savant in that area.
Tim Taylor (played by Tim Allen) had the self-selected moniker of “The Toolman” and he was a tool, man. Taylor would routinely botch even the simplest home renovation or repair tasks, leaving his trusty sidekick Al Borland (played by Richard Karn) to do the ACTUAL fixing. Taylor was all talk, all show, and little substance when it came time to actually do work.
You see where I’m going with this, right?
Turning from fiction back to reality, Diaz’s job is not only to identify the issues facing Miami’s once-vaunted defense, it’s to fix them. Immediately.
Diaz has repeatedly stated that “players we (Miami) have relied on for years” are not doing their jobs. After watching the first 5 games of the year, it is easy to see he’s referencing linebackers Michael Pinckney and Shaquille Quarterman. When Diaz said at his Monday presser “players need to do their job and not try to make plays on their own”, he was referring to Miami’s 2 senior LBs who were out of place on all 3 TDs by Virginia Tech’s TE, as well as several other plays. That can’t happen.
Are there other players who have made mistakes outside of Pinckney and Quarterman? Of course. Nobody is perfect. But when your leaders, guys you openly begged to come back as seniors and lead the team with their stellar play (as had been proven for 3 seasons) are the ones causing the majority of the problems, that’s, well, A PROBLEM!!!!!
While it may sound like hyperbole, I think it is fair to say that Diaz’s ability, or inability, to fix what he’s called Miami’s “cultural issues” on defense will make or break this season. The issues have had a negative impact on the field already, and are a major contributing factor to Miami’s current 2-3 (0-2 ACC) record. And if they’re not fixed, that will continue.
If the Mr. Fix It spirit of Bob Vila is exhibited by Manny Diaz, then the Miami’s defense will get back to basics, do their jobs, and return to being the fierce, fast, physical, violent group we’ve known them to be over the past 3 years.
If Diaz’s work more closely resembles Tim “The Toolman” Taylor, however, then I fear that Miami’s defense will continue to have major issues all year, and the Canes could realistically miss a bowl game this year. Which would then probably have a negative impact on retaining players on the roster as well as the 2020 recruiting class.
So, show us what you’ve got Manny. It’s only your dream job on the line.