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Miami’s Bowl Loss Was Exactly What This Program Needed

A 6-7 season and being shutout in their bowl game was the reality check Miami needed

NCAA Football: Independence Bowl-Louisiana Tech vs Miami Justin Ford-USA TODAY Sports

2019 was supposed to be the year that the Miami Hurricanes got their program back on track to restoring The U. With energetic and passionate first year head coach Manny Diaz at the helm, offensive coordinator Dan Enos coming over from Alabama, everyone was convinced 2019 would turn things around. We even created a hashtag for “The New Miami,” what could possibly go wrong?

However, it wasn’t winning games in 2019 that set UM on the right track, it was how poorly the year went. In what was perhaps the most discouraging season in Miami history, a 6-7 campaign, highlighted by a loss to FIU, and a 14-0 defeat to Louisiana Tech in the Independence Bowl, it was exactly what this program needed.

On that horrific afternoon against the Bulldogs in late December, it became clear to coach Diaz that significant changes needed to be made, as he realized what fans like myself had known for years, that this program had fallen.....hard.

Trust me, I'm the biggest Hurricanes fan on the planet, but I'm the first to admit that we have a certain cockiness at Miami, a false sense of reality. Every year, we all assume that just because of the U on our helmet, we can walk out there and beat anybody. But sometimes, it takes the most humbling of seasons or individual losses to realize something needs to be done. For LSU, it was losing to Troy at home in 2017. For Alabama (pre Saban era) and USC (pre Pete Carroll era), it was years of futility and five-to-six loss seasons.

For Miami, it was losing to Louisiana Tech. UM has suffered through plenty of other miserable years prior to 2019, but last season was the reality check that finally got through to the entire program.

In past years, head coaches like Al Golden and Mark Richt failed to make necessary changes, resulting in continual underachieving seasons. With Golden, it was the inability to get rid of defensive coordinator Mark D’Onofrio.

And as for Richt, it was not firing his son, Jon, at the position of quarterback coach, or not being humble enough to give up play-calling duties. Need I say more?

If either of those coaches had made certain changes, who knows what this team might’ve accomplished.

For a first year head coach, it’s hard to let go of your assistants after just one year. Ed Orgeron did it after his first season as HC for LSU, firing OC Matt Canada following 2017. He replaced Canada with Steve Ensminger in 2018, added passing-game coordinator Joe Brady in 2019, and won a national championship.

Diaz followed in the footsteps of Orgeron, getting rid of Dan Enos, and unlike past Miami head coaches, who went with one pro-style offensive mind after the other, he went out and hired Rhett Lashlee, master of the spread-offense and up-tempo attack.

Last season, you could say Diaz didn’t do enough due-diligence when putting together his staff on offense. Dan Enos? Quarterbacks coach from Alabama? He coached Tua? Sounds great. But alas, he learned his lesson in 2020.

It wasn’t just Lashlee either, Diaz made two more hires on offense this year that I believe was a huge step in the right direction. Added to the offensive staff was o-line coach Garin Justice, and wide receivers coach Rob Likens, two guys who have play-calling and OC experience, as well as being familiar with the spread offense.

With the exception of Brad Kaaya and Stephen Morris, the quarterback position at Miami has been abysmal since 2003. Last year, the arrival of Tate Martell was supposed to be the answer to our prayers, though he wasn't. UM very well could’ve stuck with what they got for 2020 at QB with Martell or N’Kosi Perry, or even entertaining the thought of starting true freshman Tyler Van Dyke, but they didn’t. Diaz and Miami snagged D’Eriq King, a type of quarterback talent the Hurricanes have never had, and more importantly, a QB who is proven at the college level.

In 2019, Miami had arguably the worst offensive line in college football, literally unable to stop defenders from getting to the quarterback at times. Instead of rushing true freshman Zion Nelson into gaining weight and starting at left tackle like in 2019, Diaz and his staff landed Jarrid Williams, a proven tackle who Canes fans can be confident in.

The lack of a winning culture and championship mentality has been a problem at Miami for years, so Diaz made one of the biggest moves in program history, hiring Ed Reed as the football programs Chief of Staff. As an advisor to coach Diaz, the Hall of Famers presence alone, is something that has been needed in the Hecht Center for a long, long, LONG time. Reed was a national champion at Miami, he won a Super Bowl with the Ravens, he knows what a winning locker room is supposed to feel like.

Like I said before, sometimes you need to be knocked flat on your back, and take a good long look at the mirror, to realize something isn’t working. As hard as 2019 was to watch as a lifelong Miami fan, it had to happen, it was needed, and it was necessary. Now that we’ve made these moves, let’s go win.