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Why Coaching Is Not the Sole Reason For Miami’s Inconsistencies

Look into why Manny Diaz is not the only person to blame for the Hurricanes sub-par play this season

Miami Spring Game
Hurricanes Head Coach Manny Diaz addressing his team in the off season after a practice session.
Photo by Mark Brown/Getty Images

Players play, coaches coach.

It’s been that way since the beginning of time, and get this... it will never, ever change. The constant struggles that have plagued Miami Hurricanes football, have been endured since the tail end of the Larry Coker era. While those same struggles have been both frustrating and incomprehensibly difficult to understand for those associated with the program, this version of the Miami Hurricanes has reached an all-time low after suffering an inexplicable defeat at the hands of the cross town FIU Panthers two weeks ago, and the Duke Blue Devils for the second year in a row this past Saturday. FIU, a program that except for one night in all of its existence has been beneath Miami football and will continue to be despite winning their version of the College Football Playoff, won at the site of the old Orange Bowl. Duke, whom is nationally perceived as a “basketball school” and has only 5 wins on the year, beat Miami by double digits. The Miami Hurricanes do not belong here. At least not since the program came alive under the guidance of the legendary Howard Schnellenberger, who is responsible for putting the Miami Hurricanes on the map. How did we get here? Who is to blame?

NCAA Football: Miami at Florida International
FIU Golden Panthers head coach Butch Davis celebrates with his players after edging Miami for their first victory in the series at Marlins Park.
Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

The answer lies within the program and there is actually more than enough blame to go around...the answer is no fault of one man.

Who is to blame?

As a longtime fan and current student at the University of Miami, I like so many others that have a supreme love for the university, find it extraordinarily difficult to place the blame on the shoulders of one single person. Whether it be a coach, player, or administrator, there are too many moving parts that contribute to Miami football hitting rock bottom. It is simply and utterly asinine that fans are comfortable blaming ONE person, even if the head coach is responsible for all decisions regarding his team. The fact of the matter is that everything falls on the coach, but just because he has that title, does not mean that everything that transpires under his watch are because of his doing. The program arrived here with a collective effort and those who think otherwise are simply using elementary reasoning.

This mess that is the University of Miami football program, is the fault of both the players as much as it is the coaches (current and past). This problems took years to come to the forefront, but the current/incoming players can fix this faster than the coach would be able to.

Players - There are things that even the best coaches cannot account for, especially first year coaches even if they are in their fourth year at an institution. A broken culture can lead to a plethora of longstanding problems that can take entire seasons to break. Individuality creeps in which can lead to lack of focus on the field and bad practice habits as well. Straying from a successful template which has been proven to work, and was set forth by predecessors, all can make for negative results. That straying is what got UM football here, and that straying is the fault of the players due to selfish mindsets. When players simply do not care, as former Rimington Trophy recipient Brett Romberg explicitly laid out in episode 86 of his podcast with Bryant McKinnie, how can coaching be to blame for team performance on game day? It cannot.

Rose Bowl X
Brett Romberg set to snap the pigskin during Miami’s Rose Bowl game in Pasedena, California on January 3, 2002.

In this episode, Romberg and McKinnie explained how they were on campus to work with the offensive line but the two may as well have never showed up. In short, Bryant McKinnie said of the o-line I feel like they don’t know how to watch film. You probably read that and thought “Then the staff should teach them.” True, however that is another step and extra time that must be taken from an already limited time frame during the season in which coaches only have 20 hours to work with players. Twenty hours is what the NCAA allows, and that time should be used on things such as actual game prep, not fundamentals of learning how to watch film which should be happening in the off season and/or on the players own time. This is something that Manny walked into, not something he created by bad coaching. There’s more.

While explaining how Offensive Line Coach Butch Barry must repeat certain things to his group over and over, Brett Romberg stated There’s only so much a coach can tell you what to do and how to do it, if you don’t take the initiative and go ahead and do it on your own it’s like, what am I - I’m wasting my breath with you!Furthermore, both went on to call out current red-shirt sophomore Zalon’tae Hillery on how he wasn’t at all serious when it came to taking lessons from a Rimington Award winner and an Outland Trophy winner.

McKinnie saidWell remember there was a kid in there, I forget, number 75 whatever... he was in there clownin’ and jokin’ while we was ummthen Romberg immediately interjects withOh everything was a joke, everything was comical for him.I could easily end my point with that, but I will dig deeper. Hillery does not start for Miami and one would imagine that he would be soaking up as much knowledge as humanly possible, from two very accomplished former players, rather than joke and continue to ride pine. Instead, he displayed a lack of desire to better himself as a player, and showed impudent behavior by acting like a clown with not one, but two greats in his presence. If two Hurricane greats that played your position group on the best team college football has ever seen, cannot get your attention in an intimate setting, then what makes anyone think that Manny or any other coach on the roster can?

Miami Spring Game
Zalon’tae Hillery #75, former Hurricane Cleveland Reed #52, and Tommy Kennedy #72 take the field during a scrimmage this past April.
Photo by Mark Brown/Getty Images

That is blatant disrespect, it is worthy of severe punishment, and it is notwithstanding of a culture that is trying to be built here by Diaz. This is the kind of immaturity the staff is dealing with. Coaches are to blame for not having their team prepared to compete at the highest level possible, and they are developers of men not babysitters. What I can blame them for is their willingness to keep up with the nonsense because my immediate reaction would be to severely punish and/or cut ties with any that is not here to be a Miami Hurricane, especially if they pull what Hillery did. The fact that his type of behavior is tolerated, lends itself exactly to the type of culture that Manny is trying to get rid of. It’s somewhat hypocritical, but I’ll address that in the next section of the article.

One should not be so quick to blame the staff when the program has had four of them since the end of the Larry Coker regime, and neither has been able to fix this problem. When do the players that actually play, get the fingers pointed at as being a big problem? What makes it even more frustrating is that they ALL are extremely talented and are not playing to their potential, it isn’t as if Miami is signing 2 and 3 star caliber players. Entitlement is one hell of a drug.

The bottom line is that effort cannot be coached and coaches cannot make a player realize how important the upcoming game is. If players are here for their own selfish reasons, this is proof that coaches are fighting an uphill battle, and it’s nothing a scheme can fix. I’ve been asked “Then how does Alabama and Clemson deal with so many egos and talented/entitled players?” Shocked that was even asked, my response was to think of the things those schools can get away with that Miami cannot. As Hurricane Warning alum, and 3-time national champion Kelvin Harris so eloquently phrased it...

The very last word of his rant is exactly what this boils down to, and Romberg said the same exact thing. But I’m crazy, out of touch, or don’t know what I’m talking about for saying the talent on the field deserves as much if not more blame than the coaches. The players have to own it and care, as well as play up to their potential. Nick Saban, Dabo Swinney, Bill Belichick, you name it... there isn’t a coach on this planet that could have a team play to its potential if the players on it aren’t on one accord. That is a player fix... not a coaching one.

Coaching - A large part, heck even a substantial amount, but definitely not all of Miami’s woes stem from coaching. One would be ignorant to say otherwise. I would even go as far as saying that half of Miami’s on field problems are due to coaching issues. Aside from “X’s and O’s”, recruiting, helping to develop young men into the best version of themselves they can ultimately be on and off the field, and doing what you can to make sure that your players are focused on the task at hand, there isn’t much that a coach (or coaches) can control when they are not around their team. This includes players bonding outside of the locker room and hoping they come together as brothers off the field as well as on it. All this, speaks to a certain culture that must be present for any team to succeed. A culture that has been fractured for years here at the University of Miami, a culture that Manny Diaz inherited and immediately identified as having to be repaired upon being named Head Coach last December.

I recently tweeted about how allowing Jeff Thomas back on the team was a mistake, and I stand by that because to me it wreaked of hypocrisy by Manny Diaz.

To clarify, if Diaz’s goal is to shift the culture to what it was like when players came to Miami to play football and not just come here because it’s “The U”, then allowing Thomas back was his first mistake as coach. How can someone that got into altercations with coaches last year (in front of other players), was late for meetings, missed practices, then ultimately quit on the team, be invited back? I feel it set the wrong example and was a bad look for a supposed culture shift. I love Jeff Thomas the player, and don’t know him at all to speak on his personality. I also do not know of any details as to what went into him being allowed back because quite frankly, maybe it was a team vote/player decision (which still would be a mistake by Manny in my eyes), maybe he was put through strenuous work to prove that he was worthy of being back, or maybe it was both. If that is what transpired and there was a clear message sent to the team by Manny that Thomas’ behavior will no longer be tolerated, than I can see how he was welcomed back and I stand down. No problem.

In any event, that’s besides the point, the tweet was not about Jeff (I clearly stated how his presence this year didn’t cost Miami 6 losses nor did it account for 10 wins), it was about how I felt that the decision was Manny’s first error as a coach. Especially when Thomas was replaceable considering that the roster consisted of returning players like Michael Harley, Mark Pope, Dee Wiggins, Jeremiah Payton and Brian Hightower before he decided to transfer.

On field coaching mistakes are what coaches need to blamed for more than anything. I will not do any type of explaining on this next point, just press play and allow @Romancane to do the talking. This is maddening.

THAT is a coaching fault, 100%. To those that still want to blame Manny by saying he hired the offensive coordinator, well you probably are the same ones that praised the hire knowing Enos was about to be offered the play calling duties by Nick Saban at Alabama. Yes, the offensive needs tons of work schematically, however you do not abandon ship after working on a new system since the spring. Dan Enos’ system works, we have seen it. Although a real spread attack would likely favor Miami more, the Canes can still win with his offense after some tweaking is done and time is spent. Enos does not deserve to be fired, yet, and neither does Manny for hiring him. What needs to be realized is that coaching stability is crucial, and it is important in the development of players, a program, and a culture.

Another example of coaching needing to step up is the graphic below. I hate to say it but there seemed to be periods in which adjustments were not made, and if they were any it was too late in a game. Miami’s offense is statistically worse than the 2018 version when many called is predictable and “old school”.

I honestly can still defend coaching even after sharing that last graphic if I really wanted to. Miami’s offense did show improvement during the 3 game winning streak prior to losing to FIU. However before that, there just seemed to be instances in which play calling was limited due to the handcuffs that were placed on Enos because of the performance by the offensive line. Playing devil’s advocate here, but I said that to show that play calling and coaches seeming competent depends on how well your players are performing. They go hand in hand, coaches rely on players as much as players rely on coaches. It’s a symbiotic relationship and the relationship fails if one isn’t doing its part.

In closing and as previously mentioned, Brett Romberg even said it... “There’s only so much a coach can tell you what to do and how to do it.” Even that goes out the proverbial window, if players do not care and are just going through the motions, or are at Miami for ulterior motives. Those are the types of players that need to be weeded out, those are the types of players that are cancerous to a locker room, and those are the types of players that must shape up or ship out in a hurry before it is truly too late. This is still the University of Miami, this program is not dead, but it needs a serious and honest assessment of itself from top to bottom, from player to player, from coach to coach. This problem is a player issue as much as it is a coaching issue. Three former players were high lighted in this article to prove how those that only want to blame coaching, are wrong.

Don’t debate me, debate three different national champions.