I was suckered in. I’ll admit it.
But I thought somewhere in the recesses of this team, somewhere in the bowels of the program, that there was the beating heart of the University of Miami.
And then Saturday happened.
The Canes didn’t show up at all. That’s twice in four games.
If anything, this serves two illustrative purposes: (1) the next coach has a monumental task restoring the Miami attitude to this program; (2) Al Golden saddled this program with a collection of some of the worst assistant coaches imaginable.
The Lowering Standard
I’ll let Cane great Leon Searcy fire the opening salvo:
Miami of Florida formerly known as the U. Can't mention this team with the greatness before them so MOF gave up 58 and 59 in one season.
— Leon Searcy (@leonsearcy72) November 15, 2015
It’s not that the Canes never got blown out in the past. The year before they embarked on a 34-game win streak, they lost to Virginia Tech 43-10. What differentiates this era from the good and bad of the past is not that the team got blown out, but that there has been no reaction to the blowouts.
Golden’s tenure is not unique in terms of blowouts. It can happen to any coach. But it is unique.
Remember how, in 2011, the Canes kept losing close games (indicated on the chart by six losses, none by double-digits) and we felt that they were close to being good? How Golden broke down during the post-Virginia Tech press conference opining on how the players were close to “getting it,” whatever that meant? Neither does anyone else.
As bad as the 2010 season was, where Miami came into the season ranked, got blown out by FSU, and started a tradition of losing to awful Virginia teams, we didn’t see this routinized quitting. Ironically, the game that very justifiably got Randy Shannon fired also gave us some hope. Even in that game, the Canes trailed 10-0 in the third quarter, and had no reason to fight back. Yet fight back they did, forcing overtime. Miami had blown an easy-to-win game, and the coach paid the price. But the attitude was still intact, and even after they laid down in the Sun Bowl, there was no real reason to believe the team’s spine was irrevocably broken. This was a team that had gotten blown out by FSU, blown the ACC Coastal, and still fought through overtime of a meaningless game. The results were awful, the double-digit losses semi-regular (four, including the Sun Bowl), but you still felt that they players recognized that losing was unacceptable.
And Golden actually benefited from that. That 2011 team — through scandal, media scrutiny, multiple suspensions, and several heartbreaking losses — kept fighting. It was one of the things that gained Golden so much popularity early on. The team didn’t quit.
Then they started quitting and quitting and quitting.
To make matters worse, there was zero accountability. Goals were repeatedly lowered, excuses made. Results took a backseat to process, with the goal of the process never defined.
That is how the culture became corrupted. It was a classic case of the snowball effect. The cloud was the beginning of a series of excuses.
The program descended into a farce, where after a 6-7 season despite having seven players drafted, the staff focused on “unity” rather than tangible fixes. This attitude permeated the entire team.
Beating that culture of excuse-making and mediocrity out of the program, from top to bottom, will be the new coach’s job from Day 1. It is one of the reasons hiring someone with ties to the program is becoming increasingly popular. That, at the very least, we’ll have some standards again.
Because what we witnessed on Saturday was the antithesis of Miami football. When are we going to get back to this? (NSFW language)
What was also evident Saturday was just how much of an intellectual deficit the staff is operating at. We were long since past the point of making that determination on Mark D’Onofrio, but top to bottom this staff is suspect.
I know there are some Miami alums on the staff — any new coach should and will be allowed to retain anyone he sees fit (I would encourage him to retain a few of these coaches) — but it is absolutely shocking we let someone as unaccomplished as Golden fail catastrophically for five years while installing this many underperforming assistant coaches without any oversight to the point that we landed in this position.
10 years from now, we’ll look back and wonder what was going on, why we turned so anti-Miami, both in terms of attitude and approach. Why we allowed Golden that much leeway, to destroy our identity, simply because he spoke articulately, even as the actual words he was articulating amounted to nonsense.
Yes, the Canes have always been about winning, winning big, and winning national championships. But they’ve also been about aggression, offensively and defensively. There was flash and panache that infuriated America. That is the blaring headline associated with the University of Miami: Brash and Cocky.
But underneath it all was an engine of hard work and pure power. The Canes wouldn’t just win, they’d physically beat up the opponent. Dominate all three phases of the game.
There is something extra awful about slowly watching the program deteriorate over the last five years.
How did we go from this in 2010 against Clemson to what we are today? And, that’s what I mean by it not being just about the result. That 2010 team was bad and went 7-6. If this 2015 team wins another game, they’ll match the 2010 team. But they are so much more difficult to watch.
This Golden era managed to somehow combine horrible results with abject unwatchability.
Did anyone enjoy watching Miami beat Virginia and Virginia Tech? It was like a root canal. Necessary, happy with the result, but you wish you didn’t have to go through it.
And it’s also why — regardless of who the new coach is — there needs to be a strong focus on the assistants and how the systems they run will align with the Miami athlete. The new coach needs a plan to unleash The U again. The results need to be there, but to be successful at Miami, you have to maximize the athleticism. Do that, and the results will come.
Because we’ve all seen enough sideways passes, shotgun goal line runs, and defensive ends trying to cover receivers to last us a lifetime.
I’m not getting bogged down on names, reputation, and certainly not on “this guy knows South Florida.” Jimmy Johnson, perhaps the poster child for what it means to be Miami, was once an outsider. We need a coach that understands Miami and embraces the strengths of the program. That demands excellence. That pushes our talent to the maximum. Ultimately, the specific coach, the specific assistants he hires… those are all about process. I’m tired of the process.
As former SMU Head Coach Ron Meyer was famous for saying, “don’t tell me about the labor, just show me the baby.”
When the 2016 season opens, I want to see a team playing Miami football. That is something that not only can happen overnight, but needs to happen overnight.
Follow Vishnu on Twitter (@VRP2003)