Mark Richt came to Miami and, in two years, made the Hurricanes an ACC Coastal Division champion for the first time in school history. The Canes played in the ACC Championship Game for a spot in the College Football Playoff. They played in the Orange Bowl game. They played in the games Miami football expects to encounter each season.
Given how marvelously successful 2017 was, and given his history at Georgia, where he won multiple SEC championships and fielded an especially strong team once every three to four years, it seemed that Richt was about to settle in for a long and prosperous tenure at Miami.
This did not mean that 2018 was going to be a great year. Before I joined Florida Football Insiders in September, I wrote this piece in August about the difficulty of following the 2017 season with another equally successful campaign.
However, while being skeptical about whether Miami could go 11-1 or even 10-2, I never thought Miami would sink to 7-5 in the regular season. More precisely, I never thought the Hurricanes would look so consistently clueless on offense. I thought this would be a 9-3 or possibly 10-2 team which would be competitive in its losses but not come up with the takeaways it gained in crucial situations last year. I didn’t think this would be a genuinely mediocre team.
Yet, that’s exactly what the 2018 Hurricanes were.
It was ugly. It was conspicuous. It was a case of substantial regression, not a slight downturn or the kind of season which, with a few bounces of the ball, could have been 11-1 again.
No, this season’s Miami offense played far too poorly to earn that benefit of the doubt.
This was a miserable autumn in which Richt lost the mustard on his fastball The good feelings in and around the Miami program after the 2017 joyride didn’t just evaporate; they evaporated and then turned to anger from fans. This never felt like a season in which fans thought, “Well, this season just didn’t break right. We’ll get ’em next year.” No, it was deeper than that. This was a season marked by thoughts such as, “How did we perform so well last season, bring people back this season, and become THIS BAD?”
The pitchforks were out for Richt in October and were never truly put away.
Okay, then. Three months were awful, but at least now Miami had four weeks to prepare for a bowl game against another 7-5 team which had conspicuously underachieved this season. Wisconsin was “Miami Midwest,” following an Orange Bowl season with a returning quarterback and several familiar faces… and utterly falling all over itself on offense. Miami looked at a beefier version of itself when it stepped into the Pinstripe Bowl to battle the Badgers.
This was a chance to get healthy in a winnable matchup against an opponent which started a backup, Jack Coan, at quarterback. With four weeks for Richt to prepare, this was a time for the head coach and offensive mastermind to show that he could coach up his quarterbacks and get them to play up to standard.
One bowl win wasn’t going to make the pain of the regular season go away. One bowl win wasn’t going to eliminate or severely reduce the problems faced by Miami — now without Manny Diaz, now without recruiting momentum, now without an 11-win season to celebrate — heading into 2019.
One bowl win, however, would have done a lot to quiet the growing fears that Richt had lost his touch. A crisp performance from his quarterbacks — not a spectacular one, but simply a display of basic competence and football IQ — would have given Richt the reassurance that he was entering 2019 with a regained sense of command over his offense. He needed that with Diaz heading to Temple.
Instead, Richt got a complete disaster. It could not have been worse.
Miami played down to the “warm weather team in cold weather” stereotype which was fully in evidence for Miami even in last year’s successful season.
The Canes played and moved like icicles in Pittsburgh. They moved as poorly against Wisconsin in New York. They were clueless on offense the whole game.
They were slow on defense at the start as they struggled to adjust to the conditions. Even against an opponent which couldn’t pass the ball with any consistency, the Canes couldn’t stop Wisconsin’s running game, which kept moving the pile and creating holes in the middle of The U’s defensive front.
Soft. Unprepared. Poorly coached.
No improvement over four weeks. No player development — especially not at quarterback — after weeks of bowl practices. No improved decisions or play calls from the offensive staff. No willingness to bench Malik Rosier at halftime (which should have been the obvious move) and give N’Kosi Perry at least a full half of football.
No brains. No clue. No toughness. No chance.
On a night in New York when Miami needed to at least show that it was capable of improving before 2019 came to a close, Miami delivered a stink bomb.
It was never the case that Richt’s job was in jeopardy this season. Miami would have become a very undesirable place for other big-name coaches if Richt had been fired this year. Other coaches would live in terror, paralyzed at the thought of virtually nonexistent job security, if they saw someone with Richt’s seniority and credentials shoved out the door ONE YEAR after an immensely successful 2017 season.
However, this Pinstripe Bowl did need to set the table for 2019. Richt did need to show to his bosses and his fan base that he could turn this ship around.
Instead, that ship ran into the hard rocks of Wisconsin’s linemen, wrecked on a December night in the Big Apple.
2018 is mercifully over for Richt and Miami. That’s the good news. The bad news is that with 2019 upon us, Richt has no more excuses and no more grace periods. He has managed to do the improbable: He has squandered every last ounce of the good will he generated in 2017. Richt has to know — and everyone in college football does as well — that if Miami doesn’t meaningfully improve in 2019, Richt will be looking for a new job. This doesn’t mean Richt has to win the ACC title or go 11-1, but it does mean that Miami has to win the games it is supposed to win.
In 2018, the quality of the ACC took a big tumble. The ACC Coastal champion, Pitt, lost five games en route to its division title and got buried by Clemson for loss number six. No ACC team other than Clemson won 10 games in the regular season. Against this version of the ACC, Miami should have been able to win at least nine games
It ended its season after the Pinstripe Bowl at 7-6, essentially a break-even team.
If the rest of the ACC remains as bad in 2019 as it was in 2018, and Miami can’t win nine games, Richt — with this 2018 disaster, capped by the Pinstripe Bowl debacle — has lost any margin for error. He has lost the benefit of the doubt he had in 2018 as his cushion, his buffer, against fan anger and displeasure.
The 2018 regular season got away from Mark Richt. The Pinstripe Bowl was a time to reshape attitudes.
Richt, as everyone can see, spectacularly failed to do that.
The hot seat talk — relative to the 2018 season — never added up.
Now we’re focused on 2019, though. Feeling warm yet, coach?
If this mess isn’t fixed, the 2020s will begin with yet another man calling the shots in Coral Gables.
We will see if this storied football school endures yet one more U Turn before the end of this decade. Games as bad as the Pinstripe Bowl should have been consigned to Miami’s past, but they are clearly still part of the present moment. Miami administrators are left to wonder if they will continue to be part of the future.
That’s exactly why Mark Richt took a tremendous 2017 season and exhausted its measure of value in the subsequent 12 months.
Former Canes coach Golden apparently ready for trial against school
Former Miami Hurricanes head coach Al Golden is apparently about to have his day in court, while trying to recoup what he says is multi-millions of dollars that the University still owes him from firing him 5 years ago.
Miami Herald writer and columnist Barry Jackson had more on Monday evening that there apparently will not be a settlement by the school with the man that coached them for parts of five seasons in the 2010s.
UM schedule change, another new hire, Golden trial, why Ray Lewis says hiring Ed Reed is a ‘genius move,’ and Kosar weighs in. And more: https://t.co/MvTx7WxJND
— Barry Jackson (@flasportsbuzz) February 4, 2020
Golden is seeking in excess of $3 million for what he says is compensation per his contract that he was owed when Miami terminated him in October of 2015 after a humiliating 58 – 0 lost to Clemson. The University says that Golden has been paid what the contract required.
As Jackson reported, there have already been depositions on both sides, including with Miami athletic director Blake James. And both James and Golden will be testifying in the civil suit about what went wrong and how it has not been rectified for almost three years, since the dispute started.
Golden came to Miami after having turned around the Temple football program, but only went 32 – 25 in his four plus seasons. He contends in a chain of emails that were obtained by the media recently, that the University mislead him about the Nevin Shapiro payment scandal and the punishments that Miami was going to receive for scholarship losses and a bowl ban.
He further contends that he asked for tough opponents like Wisconsin and Michigan State to be pushed back on the Canes schedule early in his tenure, while they were in the middle of the sanctions. However, that James would not relent, thereby, making it much tougher for Miami to compete and win.
The University has had no comment on the possible suit going to trial. Golden’s lawyer told the media recently that they are anxious to have their day in front of a judge and jury.
Golden has been a position coach in the NFL with the Detroit Lions the last two years. Meanwhile, Miami is still trying to find their footing with coach Manny Diaz coming off a dismal 6-7 season where they lost their last three games. That included a humiliating 14-0 shutout loss to Louisiana Tech in the Independence Bowl.
Hurricanes name College Hall of Famer Ed Reed Chief of Staff
The Miami Hurricanes are hoping to reestablish their winning ways, and coach Manny Diaz is starting 2020 by reaching back to a prominent member of their recent past to help them.
Diaz and the school announced Thursday afternoon that former All-American, National Champion and College and NFL Hall of Fame safety, Ed Reed, will be coming aboard as a newly-created “Chief of Staff” position for Hurricanes football:
Visits and vacations are nice, but there is no place like home.
— Canes Football (@CanesFootball) January 30, 2020
As the school’s release said, Reed “will be responsible in advisory role of all aspects of the football program including strategic planning, quality control, operations, player evaluation and player Development among other duties.
“We are thrilled to welcome Ed back to Coral Gables,” Diaz said. “He is not only one of the most decorated players in Miami football history but also a devoted Cane who cares deeply about this program. All of our players, coaches and staff will be fortunate to tap into his experience, knowledge and passion on a regular basis.”
This hire comes on the heels of Miami apparently botching the hiring in a similar role of former star RB from the 80’s Alonzo Highsmith earlier this month. Highsmith negotiated with Diaz and AD Blake James about looking to come back to Coral Gables after having been in a similar role with the Cleveland Browns in the NFL this past year. Alas, they could not agree. Highsmith has since been fired after the Browns fired GM John Dorsey and shook up their front office.
As for the “Chief of Staff” position, numerous college programs, including Clemson Alabama and Georgia have a similar positions to aid and assist the head coach with the day-to-day administration of program.
You cannot find a more decorated Cane willing to help, as Reed was arguably the best safety in college football in the 2000s. Miami posted a 23 – 1 record over his final two seasons (’00-’01) and he was part of the 2001 BCS Championship team that finished 11-1 and destroyed Nebraska in the Rose Bowl.
Reed with a consensus First-team All-American in 2000 and 2001 and set the Hurricanes record for interceptions with 21 before leaving Coral Gables.
Reed was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame in 2018 for his accomplishments.
Reed was later a first-round pick of the Baltimore Ravens in 2002, playing at 11 sasons with them before playing his final year with the Texans and the Jets. He is a former NFL Defensive Player of the Year and was an All-Pro six times. Reed was just inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame year ago.
Read was not quoted in the release by the Hurricanes on Thursday afternoon.
However, he did participate earlier during Super Bowl week in Miami with former Hurricanes legendary coach Jimmy Johnson in a special program from Fox Sports with other famous Hurricane alumni like Michael Irvin.
"This is a moment in time that needed to be done and it couldn't have been done in a greater place." #TheReUnion, hosted by @FOXSports, made for great stories and honest discussion about the brotherhood formed only at The U. https://t.co/6bdlY8IQkV
— Canes Football (@CanesFootball) January 30, 2020
The program called “The ReUnion” dealt with Miami trying to regain the winning ways and dominance of the 80s and 90s.
Miami stumbled to a 6-6 finish and then was embarrassed to end Diaz’s first season with a 14-0 shutout loss to Louisiana Tech in the Independence Bowl.