George Santayana, a Spanish philosopher once said, “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” While that can be said for all kinds of people, it truly represents the past, as well as the future for the Miami Hurricanes. Not just remembering the past, but learning and improving from the past.
Yes, Miami has had a great month of January so far. From hiring Manny Diaz as head coach, filling out a fantastic coaching staff, gaining talented players via transfer or recruiting, it seems that the Canes are destined to once again gain prominence in the college football world.
At the end of the day however, they’re still 7-6. Just because new players and coaches are here, and a new attitude is now in place, the last game that Miami played came in the fashion of a 35-3 good ole fashion beatdown at Yankee Stadium. The #TNM is only so cool until that first loss. Coach Diaz pinpointed it perfectly during his introductory press conference as head coach, “Everyone in this building has to own 7-6, starting with me,” Diaz told reporters. “I’ll say that one more time: Everybody has to own 7-6.”
Put another way, the Hurricanes can’t forget what last year felt like. Reverting back to what Santayana said, Diaz’s team must understand that there are lessons to be learned from the dreadful 2018 year, but living in the past and learning from the past are two separate things.
The first and main thing, in my opinion, to be learned from the 2018 season, is that there is a huge difference between cockiness and swagger. You watch the 2017 Miami vs Notre Dame game, and the U’s swagger is right there in front you, as Trajan Bandy runs back a pick-six; or even this season when DeeJay Dallas is talking smack to the Toledo student section in pregame warm-ups. You know what makes that swagger? Backing it up with their play and winning.
Deejay Dallas vs everyone pic.twitter.com/K5N0J1qgw7— Barstool Miami (@BarstoolUMiami) September 15, 2018
You want to know what cockiness looks like? Jawing it up with LSU in pregame warm-ups, or receiving a personal foul on a critical third-down against Virginia in the fourth quarter. In both cases, Miami lost that game. The Hurricanes of the 80’s and 90’s wouldn’t nearly hold the glory they do if they didn’t back all their trash talking up with championships and wins.
Yes, the Hurricanes have incredible talent, but just because you’re loaded with stars at each position, doesn’t always result in victories. Take the USC team in 2012 for example, coming into the season ranked number one, and finishing 7-6. 2018 for Miami, preseason number eight in the nation, and because of pridefulness on both the coaching staff and the players (yes, it wasn’t just the coaches), the Canes had one of their worst seasons in the last 40 years.
While other issues arose in 2018 that may not be as broad as differentiating cocky and swag, there are still lessons to be learned.
One, and I'm not sure why this has been a problem for the past decade or so, but please, win on the road. Not entirely certain what happens to this team when they leave South Florida, but it’s as if their confidence doesn’t leave with them. Prime example, of the seven games Miami played away from Hard Rock Stadium in 2018, they lost five of them.
I like to use Alabama as an example in my articles, and I'll continue to do that here. Since Nick Saban’s dynasty started in 2008, his Crimson Tide have lost only five regular season away-games. To put that in perspective, Mark Richt’s Hurricanes lost seven road games in three seasons.
In 2019, Miami opens in Orlando against Florida, then goes on the road again to Chapel Hill for a trap game versus Mack Brown’s Tar Heels. Perfect time to learn the lesson.
Another is not waiting until the last second to fill recruit spots. Yes I know that there are many factors that go into this, but please, don't go into January with no quarterbacks in that years recruiting class.
Finally, and maybe this was just a Mark Richt’s Miami issue, but one game doesn’t define your season. After an opening week loss to LSU, the Canes rattled off five straight victories, only to lose four in-a-row following that. Whether it was the dashed hope of playing in the College Football Playoff after the Virginia loss, or just the lack of effort in general, you could tell that the confidence of the team was totally gone.
Both Travis Homer and Tyree St. Louis have spoken about a lack of effort. Jonathan Garvin talked about some players on defense feeling a “victim mentality.” This is...something.— Christy Chirinos (@ChristyChirinos) December 28, 2018
Case in point again is with Nick Saban and Alabama. In 2007, Saban’s first year with the Tide, Bama had a four-game losing streak after starting off 6-2, ultimately finishing 7-6. Since that season 11 years ago, Alabama has had zero consecutive losses in the regular season.
Great example for Miami was the 2000 Hurricanes team, when they didn't allow a week-two loss to Washington ruin their season. They got back on track and finished 11-1 that year and were conference champions.
One thing is clear, lessons must be learned. The difference between dynasties and so-so teams is learning and moving on from their mistakes. Manny Diaz has enough talent on his team to be competing for national championships, but whether or not Miami can fix their past issues will be the deciding factor.