For a program that has chronically underachieved for more than 15 years, it is difficult to categorize something as “rock bottom.” There are so many candidates:
- Closing out the Orange Bowl with a 48-0 loss.
- Getting destroyed by Cincinnati on National TV.
- Losing to Clemson 58-0.
- Dropping 7 straight to FSU.
Fans of a program with that list of “accomplishments” should not throw the term “rock bottom” around lightly. Particularly when that list is balanced out with a single ACC Coastal title.
And yet it is impossible to argue that the Canes didn’t bottom out on Saturday. Getting beat in an inner city game that should have been a walk in the park is bad enough. That FIU is actually bad this year, even in context, and didn’t play particularly well (they had 14 penalties for 126 yards), makes this even more galling. To quote Rocky IV, “What started as a joke has turned out to be a disaster.”
I fully acknowledge the danger of quoting Rocky IV because the next trick for Gimmick U might be to head off to the Siberian wilderness and chop wood. What else is left after Turnover Chains, Touchdown Rings, mock wrestling, catchy hashtags, and dancing when down 13 in the 3rd quarter?
— Tom Lang (@_TomLang) November 24, 2019
They could actually do football things like switch tempos, game plan, adjust to what the opponents are doing, play smart, use timeouts correctly, and prepare in bye weeks…but that would be conventional. This staff thinks outside the box. They announced the “The New Miami” with a lot of bluster. They knew what was wrong and they could fix it.
The head coach constantly references analytics. The offensive coordinator runs all sorts of misdirection and keeps trying to force plays to the short side of the field. The defensive coordinator repeatedly tries to force the issue when discretion is often advised. Why adjust to the opponent when you’re smarter than them?
The problem? It’s all fraudulent spin. I don’t need the head coach to reference analytics and his own genius when he sees his team down by 16 with 24 minutes left in the game and has no issue with 7 minutes and 10 seconds running off the clock to kick a FG.
The Canes lost the game while driving for a score. That’s the level of ineptitude they reached. They used 30% of the remaining clock to get 3 points. And did so with no urgency, calmly, oblivious to their own incompetence. Do you know how hard it is to have a scoring drive in the 3rd quarter that reduces your win probability by more than 13%?
What we’ve been served is a heaping pile of spin. The problem with spin is that eventually reality cannot be ignored. So, while Diaz might fancy himself an analytics guru, and know that seemingly counter-intuitive things like going for 2 after scoring a TD that cuts the lead from 14 to 8 in the 4th quarter makes statistical sense, the central issue is that he repeatedly finds himself down in the 4th quarter necessitating the execution of the “smart” strategy.
And that’s the problem with outside the box thinking. The box exists for a reason. You have to master the box, become an expert at the box, and then eventually look for inefficiencies within the box to violate the box and gain an advantage.
We experience this in our daily life. You have a daily commute which requires a left turn. And after a few weeks of waiting multiple lights to be able to make that left turn, you realize that it’s actually faster to go an extra block and make 3 right turns in this specific instance. So you do that, and shave some time off your commute. If everyone did that, it would no longer be faster, but you’re taking advantage of an inefficiency. You, of course, would never default to taking 3 right turns instead of a left at every intersection where you needed to go left. It was only after careful observation and analysis that you chose to make 3 right turns, in this specific instance.
This staff is making 3 right turns at every intersection, and talking about how smart they are while we collectively scream at them to make a left turn. Instead of actually being smart, they are doing things they think smart people do.
They did none of the work, instead showing up with the Miami Swagger, but without any of the substance. Swagger was earned in the past through hard work and results. Miami was great, and then celebrated their greatness. Conceited with results is swagger. Conceited while losing to FIU is ignominious.
FIU came to win this game. They crowded the middle to take away RPO passes. They flopped and faked injuries to take away rhythm and time. They threw short passes to negate the pass rush. They held ridiculously and dared the refs to call it. They used every trick in the book.
But they exploited a passive and unprepared Miami coaching staff. They were tipping their hand, daring the Canes to run over them in the first half, with knowledge that the Hurricanes would force the pass. They were faking injuries, telling the Canes to speed up the tempo, tipping their hand that they could not handle tempo, yet Miami played slow. The Canes coaches knew better.
Except they don’t. After the game, Manny Diaz compared these Canes to the current number one team in the nation. In 2017, LSU lost to Troy at home. Diaz is very familiar with that LSU team, having helped kick-start their Renaissance by not getting his defense ready to start the 2018 season in a blowout loss to LSU. But that analogy, much like everything that has happened since Diaz introduced us to The New Miami, does not hold up to any scrutiny.
2017 LSU went 9-3 (eventually losing the Citrus Bowl to Notre Dame). Their other losses were to Mississippi State and Alabama. They won multiple games against ranked teams that year. Troy was also a 10-win team in that regular season (and got to 11 in their bowl game). LSU losing to Troy that year was a case of a good team taking a solid team lightly and blowing a game because of it.
That’s not what the Miami-FIU game was. FIU came in with 5 wins, recently losing to FAU by 30. The Canes, meanwhile, have had ridiculously horrible performances against North Carolina, Central Michigan (in a win), Virginia Tech, Georgia Tech, and now FIU. They have come out of bye weeks being outscored 61-3 to start games by UNC, VT, and FIU. Miami is not a good team that played a bad game. The Canes are an awful team that played another bad game in a season of bad games and has systemic issues that are not analogous to anything that LSU was going through in 2017.
The only way forward with this staff is for the delusions of grandeur to stop. They are not smarter and more advanced. They started this tenure focusing on all the wrong things because they did not understand the enormity of the task in front of them, the importance of the work.
Many will want to clean house now:
If it were done when ’tis done, then ’twere well
It were done quickly
There is no indication that the administration is thinking that way. But what is necessary is a full reset, new staff or not. Stop focusing on style, and focus on substance. Focus on excellence, and not excuse making. Stop with empty platitudes and make real changes in everything related to the approach to building this program. The program is rotten from the inside, and not a few tweaks, or even a single coordinator change, away from achieving greatness.
The LSU team that Diaz so flippantly referenced to deflect attention from last night’s debacle? They won the Fiesta Bowl after the 2018 season. How does Miami get from “rock bottom” to winning a NY6 bowl next year? With problem recognition. The staff misidentified the issues with “Old Miami” and created issues where there were none. This was not a complete cultural and competency rebuild when they got here. But it is now. Anything less will result in the continued amplification of the gathering storm clouds threatening to inundate The New Miami and sink the yacht Diaz so confidently rode in on 7 months ago.
Photos by Tony Capobianco. Follow Vishnu at @VRP2003. Note: The t-shirt featured above is available for purchase here.