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Lessons Manny Diaz Could Learn From These Four Coaches

What could Manny Diaz learn from these coaching legends?

Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images

The game of football hasn’t just seen its fair share of incredible players, but also some of the brightest minds that sports has ever seen. Football coaches are a different breed of people, just gritty guys who are in the office at three in the morning and may not even leave that whole day, cough cough Jon Gruden. I have a soft spot for football coaches, they’re just awesome, for lack of a better word.

Through their wins and losses, championships and failures, some of these coaches have taught some incredible lessons for anyone to learn and practice, but especially, Miami’s head coach Manny Diaz.

No doubt, Diaz’s first year as HC for the Hurricanes was brutal. After having such a hyped off-season, and then to falter to 6-7, losing games to FIU and Louisiana Tech along the way, locker room problems, Diaz went through hell in 2019.

So what could Diaz learn from some of the best coaches ever to walk the gridiron?

The first lesson for Diaz is from the late and great Bill Walsh. Arguably the most important thing for any coach to learn, in any sport, is making sure you’re creating your culture. When Walsh arrived in San Francisco prior to 1979, the 49ers had just gone 2-14, and were the laughing stock of the NFL.

Walsh knew it needed to change, and that change didn’t come directly from better blocking and improved pass coverage, but it all started by changing the culture within the 49ers. He needed to build a team that was focused on winning. Soon, he acquired players like Joe Montana and Ronnie Lott, with Jerry Rice joining a few years later. These players shared Walsh’s vision and they knew what it took to win. Four Super Bowls in the 1980’s was the result of that.

Manny Diaz, and I've stressed this thousands of times, he needs to develop his own culture, and I think he’s trying to do just that, and I eventually do think he’ll work out at Miami. That’s not to say that 2019 was acceptable in any way.

Miami has just one 10-win season since 2003, obviously the problems in Coral Gables go deeper than poor quarterback play and missed assignments. Diaz needs his players and coaches, to trust in this new culture, and have everyone buy in.

The second one comes the legendary Bear Bryant, the iconic figure who coached the Alabama Crimson Tide for 25 years, winning six national championships. The lesson to learn from Bryant is to not be afraid of change.

In 1971, after two disappointing six-win seasons with Alabama, many expected for Bear to be on his way out of Tuscaloosa. However, Bryant realized his offense needed something fresh, so he installed the wishbone attack. The Tide would go on to win eight more conference titles and three national titles in the next decade under Bryant.

Diaz is already learning this after his first year. He fired dreadful offensive coordinator, Dan Enos, and went and hired Rhett Lashlee from SMU. Lashlee is known for his air-raid/power-spread system, an offense that previous Miami coaches failed to bring to Coral Gables.

One of my favorite coaches in football history is Bill Belichick, who has guided the New England Patriots into the greatest dynasty the NFL has ever seen. I want to highlight two tips from Bill, but first, a lesson that he’s always preached is preparation. If you go watch films on the Patriots, they will go into each game with a brand new strategy, and they will practice hours upon hours on situational football. In New England’s locker room, there’s a sign that reads, “Every battle is won before it is fought.”

There’s a reason why the Patriots have been the most successful franchise in all of sports since 2000, with six championships and nine Super Bowl appearances, both of which are NFL records. The reason is because Belichick has his team prepared, no matter who they’re playing. Doesn’t matter if it’s week 16 against the 2-12 Dolphins, or in the AFC Championship game with Peyton Manning and the Colts on the other side.

When it comes to coach Diaz and the Hurricanes, preparation wasn’t their strongest area. In 2019, Miami went 0-4 off of bye weeks or before the bowl game. It’s not being prepared but only when FSU or UF is next on the schedule. It’s having that same level of preparedness when you go play FIU, when you go to Chapel Hill to take on the Tar Heels.

The second lesson from coach Belichick, really comes from one of his former assistants, Nick Saban, but both use this phrase enough I can use both as examples. “Trust the process/Do Your Job.” It’s something we’ve heard a lot of in sports, but it’s not the 76ers that I think of first when I hear it, I think of those who actually won, Saban and Belichick.

For New England, a season isn’t over based on one loss in September. The 2003 Patriots started the year with a 31-0 loss to the Bills in week one. That season ended with Belichick’s team hoisting the Lombardi Trophy. It’s not about how you start, it’s about how you finish.

Over in Bama country and Nick Saban, his first year with the program in 2007 was a train wreck. The Crimson Tide finished 7-6 that season, with a home loss to UL-Monroe, while also dropping their annual game with rival Auburn. Still, Saban had planted a picture to the players and everyone on the team, what the program will look like if they keep with it.

13 seasons later, and Saban has captured six national championships with Alabama. In 2012, a late season home loss to Texas A&M didn’t mean the end of the year. Another home loss in 2015, this time to Ole Miss, that didn’t change the direction of the Tide either. In both of those seasons, Saban and his team rebounded, and went on to win a national title.

How doesn’t this apply to the Hurricanes and coach Manny Diaz? Last year, when Miami started 0-2, the world was falling apart. When they were 6-5 and lost to FIU, the world was falling apart. The Canes could’ve dusted themselves off and finished 8-5, but they were so caught up in the FIU loss, that the effect lasted the final two games as well.

The main point however, is that 2019 is not what coach Diaz came here to do. He came back to Miami to restore this once proud program, and while 6-7 is unacceptable, 2020 will prove more for Manny’s vision.