No one knows how good Manny Diaz will be as the head coach of the Miami Hurricanes, but it is widely acknowledged in the college football coaching industry that Diaz was ready to get a high-profile head coaching job. He deserved a shot. Now he has it.
Diaz patiently waited for his time. He paid his dues at Texas and Mississippi State and Miami and other places, then jumped at the chance to coach at Temple, when it seemed that Mark Richt would stay on for the 2019 season.
We all know what happened next.
Never having officially moved to Philadelphia, Diaz was back in a weekend blur to take over the Canes.
This was an unconventional path to the Miami head coaching job, but Diaz was — on the merits and under the specific circumstances — a perfectly reasonable and logical choice to become the next face of the program.
Let’s be very clear about this: Logical moves don’t necessarily work out. When a move doesn’t work out, that doesn’t automatically mean it was foolish or deficient.
Jim Harbaugh hasn’t worked out at Michigan. No one would say that was a dumb move.
Danny Ainge and the Boston Celtics made so many moves to create a championship roster… and then, for whatever reason, the coach and players simply didn’t mesh well this past season, despite outmaneuvering the Philadelphia 76ers in the draft and getting Jayson Tatum instead of Markelle Fultz. Good moves did not lead to a good outcome It happens.
Diaz was — and is — a good move by Miami. Now it’s up to Diaz to make a good move become a fruitful and productive move.
This is where the discussion shifts to Dan Enos, as the 2019 season opener against the Florida Gators approaches.
Unproven head coaches have to get a lot of decisions right, few more centrally than the coordinators they pick, especially the “weakside” coordinator.
Diaz, as a veteran defensive coordinator, knows how to coach and oversee a defense, which reduces the significance of having Blake Baker and Ephraim Banda as co-defensive coordinators. Those positions aren’t insignificant, but they aren’t as vital to the staff and the fortunes of the program since Diaz can always offer a course correction if needed.
When one refers to a “weakside” coordinator, one is referring to the side of the ball which is NOT the head coach’s fundamental point of expertise. For Diaz, this is the offense.
Diaz will count on Enos to cultivate a quarterback and guide an offense Diaz might be responsible for shaping the culture of the program and hitting targets on the recruiting trail, but Enos is in many ways the man who will make the Canes sink or swim in the next few years.
Realize the world Enos is entering in the ACC Coastal this year. Virginia Tech defensive coordinator Bud Foster — a legend of the sport — will coach his final season in Blacksburg after a third of a century with the program Virginia — picked by some to win the ACC Coastal this year — is led by Bronco Mendenhall, one of the better defensive minds in the sport.
New Georgia Tech head coach Geoff Collins figures to develop a formidable defense on The Flats in Atlanta. New North Carolina defensive coordinator Jay Bateman turned Army into an 11-win program and could be the reason the Tar Heels thrive in the course of time under Mack Brown, who is returning to Chapel Hill for a second tour of duty after a very successful first run in the 1990s.
The defensive minds in the 2019 ACC Coastal are waiting to smother Miami.
Dan Enos will match wits with those minds. More precisely, he will match wits with the ACC Coastal’s defensive wizards more than Manny Diaz will. It’s up to Diaz to contain Bryce Perkins of Virginia and outsmart Justin Fuente of Virginia Tech.
Enos has to guide the Hurricanes past Foster and Mendenhall in the two most important games of the season. He has to figure out Florida State’s defense as well.
Diaz will step into the cauldron of pressure, moving from the coordinator’s chair to the big throne in Coral Gables. Nick Saban is relatively unique in that his coordinators seem to change every single year, but the Alabama machine keeps rolling. That is not reflective of how most successful programs operate, partly because Alabama is not “most programs.”
The way things usually work is that head coaches need their coordinators — especially the “weakside” coordinator — to meet the challenge.
Diaz definitely needs Enos to hit his marks and deliver the goods this year.
The head coach might get the credit — and certainly, hiring the right coordinator is something for which a head coach deserves credit — but Manny Diaz probably won’t become a success as a collegiate head coach if Dan Enos falls short of the mark.
Keep that point squarely in mind before Miami’s season begins.
Zemek- Diaz and Mullen ready for intimate chess match
Some coaching clashes are compelling because of how different the two men are. Some coaching confrontations are enhanced by the level of mystery in the encounter. Some coaching matchups are fascinating. because the two men know each other well.
Saturday’s college football season opener between the Florida Gators and Miami Hurricanes fits into that third category. Dan Mullen and Manny Diaz know each other well.
How many times in the history of college football has this EXACT set of details below pertained to a season-opening coaching clash?
— The two programs involved in the game have won national titles in the past 20 years
— Both head coaches were previously coordinators at the schools they currently lead as head coaches
— Both head coaches served under SEC champion head coaches (Urban Meyer and Mark Richt)
— Both men were part of coaching staffs which participated in New Year’s Six or BCS bowls
— Both men had coached in the Orange Bowl in the past five years
— One of the two coaches not only worked for the other coach, but in two separate stints
— The two separate stints lasted exactly one year apiece
Yes, this is an uncommonly intimate coaching matchup.
Manny Diaz was Dan Mullen’s defensive coordinator — not once, but twice.
Mullen took over the Mississippi State program before the 2009 season. He invited Diaz to be his defensive coordinator for the 2010 season. Diaz then jumped at the opportunity to go to Texas and work for Mack Brown after Will Muschamp grew impatient with Brown (as the coach-in-waiting) and bolted for… Florida, where Mullen had worked from 2005-2008 under Meyer as offensive coordinator.
Diaz spent three years in Austin as the Longhorns flamed out and Brown lost hold of the program. (Brown has resurfaced this year as a rival for… yep.. Miami in the ACC Coastal Division with North Carolina.) Humbled and knocked down a peg in the coaching hierarchy, Diaz then spent the 2014 season at Louisiana Tech. It was Mullen who gave Diaz a lift before the 2015 season, enabling Diaz to once again coach not only at Mississippi State, but more generally in a Power Five conference.
Diaz — in a move mirroring his jump to an established veteran coach in 2011 — once again latched onto a big-name program led by a high-profile sideline sultan. He joined Mark Richt in Miami for the 2016 season. He once again spent three seasons as the coordinator for that program.
Unlike the Texas tour from 2011 through 2013, Diaz’s star clearly rose in Miami. The turnover-chain defense of 2017 was the reason Richt won the ACC Coastal and a berth in the Orange Bowl. Diaz’s reputation grew in Coral Gables. The disastrous 2018 season for The U had nothing to do with the defense, which held up its end of the bargain. Richt’s offense and his inability to develop Miami’s quarterbacks led the car to swerve off the road and into a deep ditch.
Diaz saw the sinking ship and wanted to begin his career as a head coach. The Temple job has been a short-term catapult for various coaches in recent years. Matt Rhule used it to go to Baylor. Geoff Collins — who once coached at Florida as an assistant — used it to go to Georgia Tech. A man named Al Golden — Canes fans want to forget him — used Temple as a stepping stone for the Miami job. Diaz sensed opportunity and went to Philly.
We all know what happened next. Richt retired. Diaz changed his mind. Here we are.
Diaz gets to match wits with Mullen. Manny not only has the advantage of knowing how Mullen thinks; he has been able to see how Mullen has evolved.
It is a very unique and particular dynamic: A coordinator got to see how a boss (his head coach) thinks in two separate occasions five years removed from each other. Diaz’s introductory course on “Mullenology” was in 2010 at Mississippi State. Diaz received the graduate course in 2015. (He didn’t have to pay tuition, either. He got paid for the course!) Now the two men meet in 2019, eager to see how their ideas have continued to develop.
The obvious yet extra-sexy aspect of this intimate coaching matchup: Mullen is an offense-first coach, Diaz a defense-first coach. If the two men both coached the same side of the ball, the battle of brains wouldn’t be nearly as interesting. It is PRECISELY because they occupy different sides of the ball that Diaz-Mullen and Canes-Gators are so loaded with intrigue.
At the beginning of this decade, they were introduced to each other.
In the middle of this decade, they reconnected with each other, again on the same coaching staff.
At the end of the 2010s, Dan Mullen and Manny Diaz will stand on opposite sidelines in a Week 1 cauldron of pressure.
The college football world will be primarily interested in seeing how both men have evolved in their own ways and on their own terms. Yet, the context surrounding Gators-Canes is incomplete if the relationship between Mullen and Diaz isn’t included.
How they evolve in their understanding of each other — not just their own autonomous selves — will have a lot to do with the outcome of Florida versus Miami.
Hurricanes QB Martell situation like “Mad Men” episode
“Don Draper” has some advice about Tate Martell
There is no denying the following point: Purely as a matter of analysis, Tate Martell endured a spectacular fall the past few days at the University of Miami.
A man transferred from Ohio State to get more playing time as a starter, but Jarren Williams will be the Miami Hurricanes’ starting quarterback when Manny Diaz leads The U against the Florida Gators on August 24.
Martell was beaten out by a freshman — a really good freshman, but a freshman nevertheless.
This comes after Martell talked a very big game and didn’t play nice with Justin Fields, who transferred into Ohio State from Georgia in his own attempt to get more playing time as a starting quarterback.
There is no denying the point that this is a dramatic story. It is a story of upheaval, surprise, and crushing disappointment for a young athlete who was arrogant, who has acted like a prima donna, and whose mental state right now is not easy to pin down:
Saw @Andrew_Ivins report on @247Canes regarding Tate Martell reportedly not practicing today. Heard the same earlier tonight from a non-team source. Miami spokesman told me just now he’s still on the roster, but did not confirm or deny the report about Monday’s missed practice. pic.twitter.com/wAveudwyb9
— Manny Navarro (@Manny_Navarro) August 13, 2019
It is dramatic. It is spectacular. It is soap-operatic and emotionally involving.
Are you roused? Excited? Gleeful at Martell’s demise?
There is — on a very small level — a “happy” dimension to this story. Manipulative and selfish behavior was not rewarded. I get it. Everyone can see and understand that point.
Martell has an inflated view of himself, doesn’t seem to be a team player, and simply hasn’t worked hard enough or well enough (if not both) to earn a starting QB job at either OSU or Miami. There’s a reason Urban Meyer limited him to running-QB duties for the most part, a Big Ten version of the “Belldozer” Oklahoma used with Blake Bell in red-zone situations several years ago, while Landry Jones was the “normal” quarterback for the Sooners.
If you want to be happy that Tate Martell couldn’t bully his way into getting the Miami job, and that he got his comeuppance, fine. That’s okay, as far as it goes. However, that national sense of schadenfreude — especially from the state of Ohio, but from various corners of the country — was certainly over the top on Monday.
Let’s be clear: No one was defending Martell’s behavior on Monday or at previous points in this process. His behavior was clearly poor. He certainly has to look in the mirror — not to anyone else — if he wants to improve his football career. No one would dispute that Martell has to straighten up and fly right, and that he needs to take ownership of his attitude and adjust it.
Yet, Martell’s name became a worldwide trending topic. That schadenfreude obviously flowed deep into the bones and marrow of many college football fans and observers. A lot of #CollegeFootballTwitter seemed to be laughing at Martell, rather than taking quiet satisfaction in seeing his bullying behavior go unrewarded.
Martell didn’t deserve the Miami QB job on the merits… but he also didn’t deserve to be laughed at.
The reports later on Monday that he didn’t attend practice might not actually amount to anything serious… but aren’t you at least somewhat concerned about him right now? Would a reasonable person conclude that he is taking this very hard and feels absolutely devastated?
This could be an overreaction, but it certainly isn’t beyond the realm of possibility at the moment: Is Martell mentally troubled? Phrased differently, is this merely a childish reaction on his part to losing the QB1 battle (which is possible), or is he going through more personal trouble and trauma than any of us on the outside can possibly see or understand?
The former answer might be the likely one, but the latter answer — that Martell is mentally disturbed — shouldn’t be ruled out completely… and IF that is the case, the nation’s laughter at Martell will have been severely overplayed.
This brings me to my ultimate point: Don Draper of “Mad Men” has something to say to the nation about Tate Martell.
If you watched the show, you will recall that in Season 2, Episode 9 — “Six Month’s Leave” — Freddy Rumsen drinks to excess in a downward spiral of alcoholism. He wet his pants in public. Three of the men in the office — Ken Cosgrove, Paul Kinsey, and Harry Crane — laughed at Freddy, instead of seeing the severity of his situation and the humiliation he is facing in a business setting.
Empathy and concern for a fellow human being should have come to the forefront, but derision surfaced instead.
Don chastised his three co-workers with this memorable line:
“That’s none of your business. Freddy had a bad day. Can’t you find something else to do besides dining on the drama of other people’s lives like a bunch of teenage girls?”
There is a very big difference between quietly approving of a scenario in which bad behavior was not rewarded, and — at the other end of the spectrum — taking profound pleasure in the downfall of another person.
Are there times when taking pleasure in the downfall of another person is comparatively more acceptable? Yes — when that person committed a crime and truly harmed other people’s lives. Seeing that person brought to justice and being forced to confront a lifetime of sins (or merely a set of severe sins which hurt other people) is a natural and healthy human inclination.
Tate Martell didn’t do that. He ran his mouth and had an inflated opinion of himself, as a college athlete who is trying to square himself with how the world works.
Martell has a lot to learn, and this could merely be a case of a prima donna and a bully getting a splash of cold water in his face — which will hopefully awaken him to the need to reform his behavior — but if this is something a little more serious than that, the derision which flowed through Twitter on Monday will hopefully give way to a more concerned and empathetic mindset among college football fans.
Yes, Tate Martell needs to clean up his act… but we don’t have to dine on the drama of another person’s life like a bunch of teenage girls.
Don Draper knows how to handle this latest “plot twist” in the world of Miami football.