0-2, 0-1 in the ACC. Miami has limped out of the gate losing two games that looked like they would win. What happened for our Canes to get to this point? Is it 1978 all over again? Is Lou Saban the head coach? Is Miami (Fla) still known as Suntan U, and not just The U?
Purposely I waited until now to ask a very important question:
Who is Miami right now in college football?
Saturday night my emotions got the best of me on social media. Like many other Canes fans, this repeated cycle of off-season hype, followed by in season disappointment has become tiresome. Why has a school known for 5 National Championships turned into a middle of the road ACC tem? Will this cycle ever be broken? Coker, Shannon, Golden and Richt have all been blamed at some point for failure, and with each new hire the excitement that “this coach” will finally be the one to get Miami back to national prominence permeated throughout the Canes Family. So far each one of them has fallen short of expectations for a myriad of different reasons.
Larry Coker gets a bad rap because he took a Porsche and crashed it after a few years of high speed racing, when in actuality Miami would be in a great spot if they had Coach Coker’s record at this time. 2005 was the beginning of the end and we all know how the story unraveled. 8-1 start, ranked 3rd, then a disheartening loss to Georgia Tech, followed by a blowout loss to LSU in the Peach Bowl. Coker was forced to fire many longtime Canes assistants including Don Soldinger and Art Kehoe, and his tenure was basically over at that point. 2006 was a disaster, which included the murder of Bryan Pata, and the end of Larry Coker in Miami.
Randy Shannon replaced his old boss in 2007, but fizzled to a 5-7 1st campaign. The excitement grew with a great recruiting class in 2008, and in 2009 the question of “is Miami back” grew after a 3-1 start all vs ranked teams. Miami would finish 9-4, and 2010 started with high expectations, but the season ended with Shannon fired. Shannon was undone by a cheap administration, and some questionable coaching hires, but Randy was much better than the regime that replaced him.
Al Golden and his merry men rode into town with a bunch of catch phrases, pillar, binders all wrapped in a white shirt and orange tie. His presentation was great, but the juice definitely wasn’t worth the squeeze. The peak of Golden’s tenure was a 7-0 start in 2013, which had Miami in the Top 10. That season would crumble like a deck of cards after being blown out by FSU 41-14. Golden would use every excuse in the book for his own failures, though keeping Mark D’Onofrio as his DC was the biggest point of contention amongst fans and critics alike.
Mark Richt was next in line to restore the Canes to past glory, and after 2 years it looked like CMR was well on his way to doing that. 9-4 followed by a 10-0 start had Miami fans dreaming of ring number 6. Unfortunately a 0-3 finish was followed by a lackluster 7-6 2018 and once again Miami was looking for a new coach. Mark Richt did some great things while in Coral Gables including getting an Indoor Practice Facility built, restoring a level of swagger with the old school look, and allowing the Turnover Chain to be part of the fabric of the program. Ultimately a mediocre offense and bad QB play would ruin CMR’s time in Miami.
So who is Miami right now?
Manny Diaz talked a great game during the offseason and so far the results have not equaled the hype. I have said that anything less than the ACC Coastal Championship would be a failure in year 1. That hasn’t changed despite the 0-2 start. Miami has the talent to win the remaining 10 games, but they have to clean up some of the lackluster play that has plagued them the first two games. Special Teams has been atrocious, and Coach Diaz has made a few head scratching decisions. I believe Manny Diaz is the right guy to turn this thing around, but what has to happen?
Since 2005 when Miami was ranked 3rd:
Miami has 2 Bowl Victories
Miami has one 10 win season
Miami is 7-7 vs North Carolina
Miami has 1 ACC Coastal Division Title
Miami only has 9 1st round Draft Picks
Miami has averaged 7.46 wins and 5.3 losses over that span
Some other disturbing trends:
Miami is 7-11 since beating Virginia in 2017
Of those 7 wins only 4 are vs Power 5 competition
Miami has scored over 30 points just twice vs Power 5 teams since the 10-0 start (47 vs UNC and 38 vs VT)
What truly is Miami’s identity?
The last 3 seasons, the Canes have been defined by a turnover causing, havoc causing defense, and a Turnover Chain that the team seemed to feed off. Miami was great at TFLs and playing in the opponents backfield. The Canes also limited big plays and had a defense that kept them in games. This year, all of those attributes have gone down some partly due to youth and partly due to less than stellar play out of a few guys. The Canes must get back to their defense getting after the opposition in these next 5 home games.
The offense has been a struggle for a few years in Coral Gables and so far the early returns have been better for Dan Enos’ first campaign as OC. Miami seems to have the right QB in Jarren WIlliams, but they must get better in the red zone and stop with the unforced errors.
Canes fans expect instant gratification, and trust me, I’m one of them. Unfortunately we must exude patience with Coach Diaz and staff if they are ever to get the Canes back near the top of the College Football world. Many people say this will never happen again, but I caution anyone that says that. Alabama averaged 6.7 wins and 5.3 losses in the decade prior to Nick Saban getting hired. I think Manny Diaz is taking the right step by holding recruits accountabe, holding players accountable, and holding his staff accountable. Right now, Miami is a middle of the road ACC team, and until they start winning the games they are supposed to this narrative won’t change. This 5 game homestand needs to be the start of that winning feeling once again.