It has been said and that a team takes on the identity of its head coach. A great example is Bill Belichick. Commonly seen as the pinnacle of success within the realm of football, Belichick is a very hard to read person. He gives you next to nothing in press conference. He seems dry, bland and extremely unassuming. His attire matches that as well, so simple and plain one might assume he’s, at worst, homeless, or at best, a run down public defender. Yet, as we all know, he is a mastermind, understanding steps ahead of opponents, seasons, and now with the departure of Tom Brady, eras. Just as their coach, Belichick’s defenses rarely feature flashy players or mega stars, but regularly cause headaches for offenses, masking plays and intentions. The same can be said for the offense. Regularly recreated yet consistent, year to year scouting reports could only focus on Tom Brady with the rest being shrouded in uncertainty, whether by design or not.
So who is Manny Diaz, and how is this team taking on his persona?
Manny Diaz, on the surface, is a confident, strong willed, ball of energy. His interviews can often carry a tone that can be taken as brash or engaging. When he has an idea, whether it was trying to re-brand Miami as TNM, or social media campaigns to build a fervor among the fan base, he sticks to his guns until proven right, wrong or foolish. However, to his benefit, there is a growing sentiment, mostly through what we have witness, that Coach Diaz will do just about anything to win in Miami.
As defensive coordinator for the Canes from 2016-2018, it was his blind relentlessness that demanded be coached into his players, to be representative of the defense he ran.
All or Nothing.
Every player was to play like they were on fire, and sell out on every play. Many times that paid off, and resulted in a Defensive Havoc Rate that ranked 19th, 12th and 1st in 2016, 2017 and 2018 respectively. For those wondering, Havoc Rate is a team’s total tackles for loss, passes defensed, and forced fumbles divided by total plays.
But for each season that the defense caused more havoc to opposing offenses, fans and onlookers locked in on a the side effect of blind relentlessness, BLINDNESS. Too often the defense would be gashed for big plays because the defense picked the wrong hole to attack or fell too hard for a fake and left the flat wide open.
It was this approach that burned Diaz harshly in his first year as head coach for the Miami Hurricanes. After relieving Mark Richt’s offensive staff as whole, Diaz had an idea to bring in an Offensive Coordinator that gave his defense fits often enough that he imagined him to be much more than he was, Dan Enos. Though the logic can be understood in hiring someone who often bested you, one can’t ignore his blindness to the fact that Enos hadn’t legitimately coached a full offense in years. It was that stubbornness to go off course that disguised Enos’ difficulty to reach the players or put them in positions to succeed. That same weakness lead to very questionable position coach hires.
While he went full speed ahead on the field, his plan off the field was the same. Creating more buzz than there had been since Richt’s hiring. But what was missed here was the fact that, if he couldn’t back it up, the pitch forks would come out, and boy did they ever.
Fast forward to January 2020. We begin to see another trait we saw more than enough from Diaz the DC to recognize, adjustments. As made apparent in the defensive rankings improvement each year, or Miami’s penchant to give up less points after half than before it, Diaz’s ability to pivot his focus in the better direction is showing.
Its almost a full on opposite approach this year than last, top to bottom. His social media presence has gone from influencer to the parent that just uses it to keep up with the grandkids. The quarterback situation went from players with little experience to one with plenty under his belt in D’Eriq King. Assistant coaches who were either journeymen or ill experienced for college have turned into former offensive coordinators with verifiable recruiting and development chops. Most importantly, the change at the top of the offense is a polar opposite to his replacement, while being a clone of his new head coach.
Rhett Lashlee couldn’t be more opposite to Dan Enos. Miami goes from old and busted to new hotness. From pro to spread. From cranky old man to a young man jacked up on mountain dew.
This is EERILY similar to Diaz’s entry to Miami. Diaz brought a return to speed on defense. He brought back aggressiveness and accountability to a defense lacking it. And he brought a system that works with what South Florida has to offer. Like Diaz Lashlee wants to be relentless on offense. Like Diaz, hes bringing back innovation that local kids will love once they see it in play. Like Diaz, he brought in disciples of the spread that can be mini OCs to speed up preparation. Both men require their half of the ball to play at 100 miles per hour until the whistle blows, and to practice even harder.
The best similarity to Diaz is what he can do for the locker room, unlike Enos. He’s much more approachable. He seems to actually enjoy being around his players. He is very big on accountability while refreshingly needing his players to love the game and express it to the fullest.
With similarities come good and bad. Will there be blinders to certain parts of the field or certain types of plays? Will the desire for the big play result in too many 3rd and longs? It remains to be seen, but the attitude and competitiveness that Diaz covets on his teams will be well represented on offense with Lashlee in play.
This All could be something special, or ultimately Nothing new. As proven, Diaz has a penchant to get an idea, put his head down and run with it until he runs into a wall. Is it possible that last year was the nothing? 6-7 sure feels like it. If there truly is no in between for this team, then lets hope we get it ALL back in 2020.