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The Losing Mindset Must Leave The Miami Hurricanes

No longer can the Hurricanes have a losing mindset. The time to change and win is now.

Miami v Florida International Photo by Mark Brown/Getty Images

Several days ago, I was sitting on my couch, it was around 3 A.M. but of course I'm watching something football related. I ended up viewing a documentary about NFL Hall of Fame safety Ronnie Lott, a player who won four Super Bowls in the 1980’s with the San Francisco 49ers, being one of the cornerstones of that dynasty.

Lott has always been perhaps my favorite safety of all-time, sorry Ed Reed, but definitely he was one of my all-time favorite football players in history. He’s especially been fascinating to me because Lott wasn’t just a Hall of Fame defensive back, he was a warrior. He would often say, “I was never going to allow myself to be defeated.” He’s said himself, that he did not comprehend the act of losing.

That’s the kind of football player I want on my team, and he’s the kind of guy that will be leading my squad into battle. Lott used to always quote the great General Patton, “Americans will not tolerate a loser. Americans play to win all of the time.” Lott wouldn’t tolerate losing from his teammates, but most importantly, he wouldn’t tolerate it from himself, and that mindset made him a leader, which changed the 49ers culture and made them winners.

Now we turn to our Miami Hurricanes, who would’ve benefited from hearing that General Patton quote maybe a little more often, if at all, throughout the last decade-plus of misery they’ve encountered.

We can talk until we’re blue in the face as to why the Hurricanes have become a joke of a program. Locker room issues, bad coaches, bad coordinators, yada yada yada. To me, one of the biggest problems about this Miami program since 2006 and perhaps a little prior, is that losing has become acceptable with the Hurricanes. UM has become tolerant of losing seasons and being average.

Think about in 1990, week one, the defending national champion Hurricanes are upset by BYU. Even though they had captured a title the year prior, the fact that Miami lost to BYU was looked at as unacceptable, it was just one game. Michael Irvin said of the loss, “It was like letting a whole family down, of what the U is all about.” Back then, you didn’t lose as a Hurricane. You didn’t come to Miami to lose.

That was one game, to a ranked opponent, on the road, right after you won the championship the year before. That’s how losing was treated at the University of Miami, with anger, frustration, and with zero tolerance. You couldn’t lose if you were a Hurricane, you were expected to win, and not just win nine games a year, not just win the conference, you were expected to win the national championship. Anything else was a failed season.

Once the mid-2000’s hit, certain players left, certain coaches were fired and left, and a new mentality crept in, and that mentality screamed, “let’s win 8 or 9 games this year and that’ll be a successful season.” It’s carried through past coaches, past players, and it was very apparent that in 2019, the Hurricanes were all too fine with finishing 6-7, losing to FIU and Duke, being shutout against Louisiana Tech in a bowl game.

Simply put, that mindset, that mindset that makes a champion, Ronnie Lott had it, Michael Irvin had it, Ken Dorsey had it, Jimmy Johnson had it. The attitude that you will not lose, and losing is not even an option.

What’s happened with the more recent Hurricanes teams, they’re under the impression that they have enough talent, they can beat almost anybody. They can trot out there and win. That’s a loser mentality. That mindset is what creates 6-7 seasons, losing to FIU, going 13-13 the last two years.

On the other hand, those with the winner mindset, realize that their talent is only going to take them so far, and hardwork takes care of the rest. Ed Reed, the former two-star recruit, worked himself into the Hall of Fame. Jimmy Murphy was a walk-on, who earned himself a scholarship and became the most valuable member of Miami’s special teams in 2019. Murphy definitely wasn’t as talented as the other players, but he took that mindset and worked harder than better players. Not taking even a single play off.

If the Hurricanes team wants to see what a winning culture looks like, they don't have to go far. The Miami Heat, led by owner Pat Riley, have become famous around the NBA for what they call “Heat Culture,” which is hard work, focus, detailed, and all of that will eventually result in winning. There’s a reason why Riley and the Heat have won three NBA titles.

So now the Hurricanes program is at a crossroads; you’re either going to continue to accept losing and live in mediocrity, or you’re going to change the mindset of the entire football team and have optimism that the future will be different. This is when Miami needs leaders to step up, and have that mentality of not tolerating losing. And I'm not just talking about losing to FSU, but not losing a rep in practice, in a drill on Greentree, trying to be first in wind sprints. That daily need to win, will start resulting in W’s for the Hurricanes on Saturday.

Brevin Jordan, D’Eriq King, Gregory Rousseau, Gurvan Hall Jr., Al Blades Jr, these are the players that have to set the tone as leaders, that 6-7 isn’t going to be accepted anymore. And then once your star players start viewing Miami like that, it’ll catch on to the entire team.

When Michael Irvin was on the Cowboys, it was said he would run 20 routes after practice, go throw, and then go run 15 more. This wasn’t a practice squad guy either, this was future Hall of Famer Micheal Irvin. He understood what it took to win, and there’s no wonder Dallas went 1-15 in 1989, and then became Super Bowl champs in 1992, their first of three.

Yes, Miami hired flashy new offensive coordinator Rhett Lashlee, and they brought in King as well as talented DE Quincy Roche. Let me tell you something, that new OC won’t accomplish a darn thing if the mindset doesn’t change in Coral Gables. Mark Pope has to be dying to be the number one receiver for Miami, but Dee Wiggins wants it more, and then Jeremiah Payton wants it just as bad. N’Kosi Perry and Tate Martell must have that mindset, that D’Eriq King is going to have to give everything he’s got to win the starting quarterback job, that he can’t just walk in and have it.

That competition creates a competitive culture, a culture that now isn’t just focused on winning position battles, but winning games, winning 10 games in 2020 and capturing the ACC Coastal. The process begins in the offseason, specifically spring practice.

The Canes have to be able to walk into Hard Rock Stadium, knowing that the Tar Heels don't stand a chance on October 24th. Miami has to march into Michigan State in September, and the thought of losing is nowhere near their thought process. Coach Jimmy Johnson used to say about his legendary UM teams, “We had swagger, because we knew we were going to win.”

Expect to win. Believe you’re going to win. Train your hardest, be the most prepared. Have the mindset of a championship team. When the 1998 Hurricanes were practicing, you better believe that they wanted to win a title. Winners need to win, and they need to win big. As the next two or three years went on, losing wasn’t accepted, and it didn't happen.

This may sound like a locker room speech by me, but it’s the number one thing for Miami and its once proud program to fix. This is a program of winners. This is a program that should expect to be contenders every year.

Howard Schnellenberger came to UM in 1979, and delivered a promise that the Hurricanes would win a national championship under him as HC. Coach had that goal, had the vision that him and his team were going to reach it, and they did in 1983. Jimmy Johnson had that same mentality, that of a winner, of a champion, someone who had goals himself of Miami winning championships, and they did it in 1987.

Point is, it starts with the head coach. Manny Diaz better have similar goals, because UM has seen far too many subpar seasons that would be fine at schools like Utah State or Purdue, but not at Miami, not at a school that boasts five national championships and a rich history.

So as we sit here, six days until spring practice, 196 days until Temple comes to Hard Rock on September 5th, the Canes have to be envisioning something different, something better. I can see it, more wins, building blocks to making Miami great again, and I'm not even on the team. The players, they have to be completely moved on from 2019, moved on from the last 15 years. That loser stench that has stayed around Coral Gables for close to two decades, has to leave. The 2020 Hurricanes can start their own legacy, their own culture, all focused on winning. because that’s the only thing that matters, winning.