Canes in Crisis as Season Reaches an Inflection Point

Note: For more awesome photos from Saturday’s Virginia Tech game, check out Tony Capobianco’s photo gallery.

The New Miami has crashed down to earth with a resounding thud.

Gone are the hopes of a quick rebuild, replaced with the somber realization that the Canes are as far away from “back” as they’ve ever been, complete with the knowledge that the Canes may have made a colossal mistake in the coaching hire by opting not to conduct a full search, instead choosing the now familiar path of immediately pivoting to a defensive coordinator off the previous staff who had no head coaching experience. Minus the lack of coaching search, it mirrors a failed approach the Canes used in 2007 to replace Larry Coker with Randy Shannon.

Now Manny Diaz will be more involved in calling the defense. And if you’re having déjà vu, that’s because Randy Shannon famously did the same thing in 2007 as the defense got torched by North Carolina and a huge comeback attempt fell just short. We’ve been here before.

Is it time to abandon ship? Be patient because we have no choice? It helps to start with examining how we got here.

System-wide Failure

Manny Diaz joined the Joe Rose Show for his weekly appearance and got right to the point. The team can’t do anything fundamentally right: Block, Tackle, Read Plays, Kick. And they throw in a boatload of penalties to boot.

That there is problem recognition is a step in the right direction. That the list is so long is scary.

As we try to get down to the heart of the matter, we’ll find that the Canes need to focus on getting back to basics. When David Eversole wrote earlier this week that the Hurricanes Need to Stop With the Gimmicks, Start With the Winning, he wasn’t blaming the chains and rings for the losses, but merely pointing out the error of the “New Miami.”

We know that the Canes generally show up with more raw talent than their opponent. So it is very easy to reduce problems, and therefore fixes, to attitude and effort. The “New Miami” branding was about just that…this year’s team would play hard and “finish.”

Well an interesting thing happened on the way to a 2-3 record…and that thing was football. Becoming a good team takes a lot more than hard work. It takes collaboration, cohesion, competence…it takes time. Which is why it was so easy to buy into the “New Miami” with the promise of a quick fix, a magic elixir, an easy button.

We don’t know if the Diaz hire was a mistake or not, but we do know, and he has learned, that the offseason focus on attitude and “culture” was misguided. At the highest levels of FBS football, the margins are slim, and talent gaps can be easily bridged by fundamental soundness, clean play, and a level of strategic intelligence…three things that have been completely lacking.

Hay Liga

What about the short-term? There are 2 phrases from Spanish soccer that spring to mind: (1) “Hay Liga” which literally translates to “There is league” but really means there is a race for first place and (2) “sentencia” which is a phrase they use to convey that the race is over.

Miami’s goals have been completely reset. The ACC Coastal was a realistic goal, but at 0-2 with 2 Coastal losses, it’s hard to see a way back. The goal is now for Miami to be involved in an “Hay Liga” conversation in November. It’ll take some help from the rest of the Coastal, but that’s where they’re at. As for the Virginia game…well, Virginia can win that game and “sentencia” the league for Miami. Realistically, Diaz will likely be faced with a team that is fighting for bowl eligibility with little else to motivate them at the business end of the season.

It is extremely early in Diaz’s tenure, and as he continues to learn and hopefully grow, things should get better. But we’re in for a long trip and significant pain. Diaz’s moves on defense, such as they were, are the first step in a course correction after initially starting down the wrong path. But is this the right path? No one really knows. Time will tell, and in 20-20 hindsight, we’ll either see what’s happening now as clear signs that this thing was doomed from the start or signs that he was building the program. There is ample evidence to support either stance but results ultimately dictate everything.

Friday is another game, and another opportunity. This could work, and that’s reason enough. Let’s hope Diaz produces the right results.

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