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Rough Transition: How Many Rookie HCs Struggle

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Manny Diaz is taking his lumps as Miami’s newest head coach - how concerned should we be?

Florida v Miami

The grass is always greener. That seems to be the sentiment among many Miami fans following the program’s first 0-2 start since 1978. It’s hard to blame them; Miami has been flat-out bad for almost two decades now; they boast a sub .500 record in the middling ACC since joining it. Fans want improvement, quickly, and for the Canes to stop playing down to the level of teams with inferior talent. But it isn’t always that easy, especially when an attitude adjustment is needed.

Coach Manny Diaz has talked about needing to remake Miami; The New Miami, as he branded it. The overwhelming sense of feeling sorry for yourself that has plagued the program for years, of not being to get off the mat when taking a gut punch, needed to go. And I believe CMD when he says that they are working on getting that out of the players here. Miami has responded well after blows in their games against UF and UNC. They just haven’t finished.

Plenty of coaches who find themselves in a head coach role for the first time struggle early, learning how different it is from being a coordinator or position coach. CMD needs to command the entire team, not just the defense, and even handed over play calling duties to DC Blake Baker.

But plenty of successful coaches struggled early on in their careers. When Nick Saban joined Michigan State in 1995, they lost big to no. 2 Nebraska, 50-10. When he joined LSU in 2000, his 2-0 start was quickly marred by a 34-17 loss to no. 24 Auburn and then a 13-10 defeat at the hands of UAB.

In 2009, Dabo Swinney had his first full season as the head coach of Clemson. The Tigers struggled to 2-3 out the gate, beating Middle Tennessee and handling Boston College but losing 3 close games early in the year. No. 13 Georgia Tech beat them 30-27, no. 14 TCU won 14-10 and Maryland held them off 24-20. Swinney’s team couldn’t finish games early in the season, but then ripped off six straight wins, including their memorable 30-27 overtime victory over no. 10 Miami. They advanced to the ACC title game, fighting back against Georgia Tech and leading 34-33 with just over 6 minutes left. But they couldn’t seal the deal, going down 39-34 and losing the ACC Championship in Dabo’s first year. Still, in defeat, Swinney had laid the foundation for the powerhouse Clemson is today.

For every Saban and Swinney, there are 10 other head coaches who failed badly and were fired early in their tenure. But there needs to be patience, especially for a team like Miami. Big-name programs who fall into disrepair need large-scale rebuild jobs. That’s what Diaz is attempting to do. The offense looks better, not perfect, but better than previous iterations. The defense has struggled, thanks mostly to a secondary that is replacing four(!) starters. The youth at safety and corner has obviously hurt Miami’s ability to stop the pass early on.

So before Miami fans grab their torches and pitchforks, remember the words of Aaron Rodgers; R-E-L-A-X. Show patience with a new regime and an extremely young team. Just about the only position groups that have a semblance of continuity are RB, TE and LB. Even WR has a lot of young guys looking to assert themselves in significant ways. The young guys need to grow and get better. Manny Diaz is still figuring out this whole head coach thing. And being 0-1 in conference play does not kill a season. As long as CMD has this team playing their best ball when they face Virginia, Virginia Tech and Florida State, they’ll be just fine. Manny doesn’t need to be a miracle worker in year one; he just needs to lay the foundation for The New Miami.