I spent the better part of the 31st, 1st and 2nd in front of the tube and taking in the action, like most college football freaks. Some might call me a masochist, watching others teams rewarded for a stellar season while Miami sits on the sidelines, licking their wounds after a 5-7 campaign.
Hardly the case.
As sick as I am over the Canes version 2007, I had a feeling several other teams and coaches falling flat on their face this new year. Look at the state of college football. Upsets all seasons long. Teams looking Super Bowl one week and Toilet Bowl the next. There was no ‘sure thing’. Ask your buds who bet online.
Inconsistency was the name of the game. Miami saw it firsthand as much as the next letdown team this year. Worked by Oklahoma early on, followed by a Orange Bowl-style beatdown of Texas A&M a few weeks later. Mid-season, the first win over Florida State since 2004 and two weeks after that, an overtime loss to N.C. State with a quarterback who went 1-of-14 with three interceptions.
Icing on this crap cake came in the form of four straight losses to end the year, en route to a five-win season and no bowl invite. Yum.
The ‘sort-of’ silver lining came in the form of extra time in the weight room and a coaching staff that spent the month of December, recruiting like champs. Outside linebacker Arthur Brown chose Miami over USC, Florida, LSU and North Carolina the same day Randy Shannon decided to sever ties with defensive coordinator Tim Walton.
Double score and bonus points.
Reeling in big time recruits while watching other bowl bound teams fail is making the post-season a bit more tolerable.
The zest, enthusiasm and countdown to the bowl game were all missing, but I rolled into year’s end rooting for upsets, drama and losses. Sick as it sounds, it felt cathartic watching the ‘right’ teams losing certain games. Some situations, good for college football and others simply made it easier to tolerate bleeding the orange and green right now.
The biggest downer? The message board rants.
There are some qualified and knowledgeable fans with solid insight on the program, posing logical questions and providing solid scenarios regard the past, present and immediate or long-term future.
Then then the are the rest. The opinionated folk with tunnel vision, zero patience, ever changing opinions and choose to comment before logically working something out in their heads.
A big group of the doom and gloomers appeared the minute Texas Tech’s game-winning field goal sailed through the uprights against a Virginia team that whooped Miami, 48-0 in the Orange Bowl finale.
As expected, many rehashed the Shannon hire and waved their pirate flags in favor of Mike Leach, the Raiders head coach who interviewed for the Canes’ opening last December.
Leach has been running his high octane offense in West Texas for eight season now, yet no big time college program has lured him away and no NFL offensive coordinator gigs have been offered either. Texas Tech hasn’t finished any better than T-2nd in the Big XII South and hasn’t seen better than a three-loss season since the Leach era kicked off in 2000.
The Red Raiders have seen a five-loss season on four occasions, six losses once and wrapped up this year 9-4. The 2008 Gator Bowl was a step forward for this program for a team losing six seniors. Texas Tech is a young team that’s been ‘under construction’ for a while. It didn’t happen overnight. Leach has been working this thing for eight years.
It’s absolutely moronic to believe that Leach was going to roll into Coral Gables and implement some high octane, flashy offense in one year and with this current squad. Any new coach would’ve struggled big time with the 2007 Miami Hurricanes. Bank on it.
Another thing Leach wouldn’t do? Recruit the living hell out of South Florida and the nation the way Shannon and staff have. Leach lovers, where do you think Pirate Boy has Miami fighting this recruiting war? Nowhere close to where a Miami native and long-time Canes head coach, who has been part of this program in every facet since his playing days two decades ago.
The majority of the 27 future signees are on board because of Shannon. The six Northwestern kids? Some of the biggest supporters of the one-year coach you’re gonna find. Arthur Brown? Put that 100% on the relationship forged with Micheal Barrow as well as current recruit Marcus Forston, out there selling The U and this coaching staff to any other All-American who will listen.
It takes time to build a ‘team’. Some Canes enthusiasts fail to realize that – either in denial regarding how far this program sunk, or simply bitter and delusional as a result of said plummet.
Shannon absolutely cannot be judged year one after inheriting a depleted 7-6 team any more than Leach should be praised for beating some mid-level ACC team who handed the Canes one of their seven losses this season.
Look across the nation. It’s no mystery what’s going on in house regarding this year’s BCS teams. Locking down the nation’s best talent. Developing players. Implementing a belief in ‘ team’ and driving home that winner’s mentality.
Southern Cal. Oklahoma. Georgia. LSU. Ohio State. Wins and losses aside this bowl season, all are fully loaded.
Talent in/talent out. Good players being replaced by better ones. Depth at so many positions, it should be illegal. Second stringers as good as the opponent’s starters.
It’s a pretty simple formula – and one Miami used to know all too well.
Watching USC manhandle Illinois in the Rose Bowl, all I could do was think about Miami’s most recent run. The U should be exactly where the Trojans are. If the Canes had a Pete Carroll building the program up instead of a Larry Coker tearing it down, Miami would be exactly where Southern Cal is today.
Carroll started building his winner the same year Coker started dismantling the Canes he inherited. Carroll went 6-6 year one and continued to improve while Coker topped out his first attempt and backslid each of the next five seasons, thanks to poorly judging and recruiting talent, as well as failing to develop the players he brought in.
USC’s six-year run since that .500 campaign Carroll’s inaugural season proves one thing; teams that go on 34-game win streaks, make four straight BCS games and win a championship, sandwiched between a snub and highway robbery shouldn’t be insignificant a few seasons later.
The lengths one has to go to destroy such a dynasty? It’s virtually impossible.
I call it ‘The Imperfect Storm’.
Watch the BCS games. Anyone in denial or burying their head in the sand over the state of Miami football the past few years – the past three days are living proof. The recipe to success is playing out game after game.
The Trojans team who pounded the Illni reminded me of the 2003 Canes. Scary-good and loaded on defense. A talented running back. Good receivers and an up and down quarterback who will cost you a few key games.
USC forced turnovers, punching at the ball and always looking to strip. They played aggressive and with a bounce in their step all day long. The Rose Bowl was won before the Trojans even took the field.
With all that top local and national talent, who outside the Land of Lincoln didn’t expect that lopsided blowout?
Difference is, the machine keeps chugging away out in Tinseltown. Carroll has been the constant, keeping things flowing smoothly. Steve Sarkisian is competent running an offense once headed up by the supposedly irreplaceable Norm Chow.
The same Chow who is yet to turn the Tennessee Titans around after three seasons.
Miami reached a fork in the road in 2003 and Coker took this program down a dead end path. The next three seasons slowly set The U back to the depths as low – if not lower – than the probation era of the mid to late 90s.
We’ll find out in time if Shannon can coach this team and build a winner – but the clock doesn’t start until 2009. Until then, sit back, take it all in and exercise some patience. These aren’t Shannon’s players and this is his first head coaching gig.
A lot was done on the fly this year. Mistakes were made. Some over-the-top coachspeak has fans digging up random, six month old quotes and wanting heads to roll. Goals were set and not reached and in the end, an assistant was fired, signaling Shannon’s official return to the drawing board.
Amazing some choose to focus on what is ‘said’ in a media room rant instead of what is done to fix a problem. It’s time to see the bigger picture. Does it matter that Shannon originally said no one would be fired and soon thereafter, fired Walton? The right decision was made and it was a tough one.
I’ll take the right outcome and a poorly handled explanation any day of the week over saying the right things and not following through when the rubber meets the road. Talk is cheap. We need action, not words.
Miami needs talent. Period, point blank. If there’s anything I’ve taken from bowl season is that talent is as important, if not more, than great coaching. Look at Hawaii. June Jones takes over an 0-12 team and a few years later, they’re 13-0 and in the Sugar Bowl. Sure, they play a bunch of bums… but they played the same bums pre-Jones and were going winless. That deserves some credit.
Mark Richt, a good enough head coach at Georgia, but has also lost some big time games over his tenure with the Bulldogs and has faceplanted with the money on the table. This year’s Sugar Bowl was no chess match. It was David vs. Goliath; literally. The Dawgs out-talented the hell out of the Fighting Chanting Dancing Rainbows. Not much can trump superior talent.
Of course, it’s a balance of the two. Oklahoma couldn’t out-talent a fiery West Virginia tonight, nor could Florida play the ‘speed’ card against a supposedly slower Big Ten team.
Here in lies another piece to Miami’s rebuilding puzzle; motivation and heart.
West Virginia choked down the stretch against Pitt and was the last team to bow out of the National Championship race, handing the title game to LSU on a platter after Ohio State backed in thanks to Missouri losing the same evening.
The Mountaineers wanted it more tonight, whereas the Sooners seemed to be going through the motions and Bob Stoops looks like less of a genius, losing his last four bowl games and fielding a defense that allowed 349 yards on the ground, mostly to a scrambling quarterback and second string, freshman tailback.
On the Michigan front, a senior-heavy team winless in their bowl careers – not to mention, 0-4 against arch-rival Ohio State – willed themselves to victory over a supposedly savvy Florida team and Heisman winner Tim Tebow.
The Wolverines had Lloyd Carr coaching his last game and his squad saved their best for last after losing to Appalachain State in the opener and getting throttled by Oregon a week later.
Urban Meyer was outcoached and outclassed and a cocky defending national champion was put out to pasture with four losses and no BCS berth a year later. Even with the ‘second coming’ behind center.
The message here may be lengthy, but it’s loud and clear. After a half decade of dominating, Miami went way off track. Recent success had this fan base in denial regarding the gradual decline. It was actually more logical to believe the program was maintaining than to believe so much could be lost so soon.
It takes time to build a champion. Howard Schnellenberger needed four years. Jimmy Johnson lose five games year one, choked away a title year three and won his ring year four. Dennis Erickson inherited a juggernaut, bringing home two rings in three years, before leaving a third on the table and sending the program to probation.
Butch Davis needed five years to turn things around during probation and Shannon will need a few years to bring in his kids and clean up the mess Coker made. There is no quick fix here. It’s not ‘ground zero’ but there’s some serious structural damage.
Have faith. Realize it’s a process. Miami will be back. Recruits are lining up, ready to put the Canes back on the map. Let nature take it’s course. Things are gonna jell and a few Januarys from now, BCS games will be in the cards again.
We’ve seen it before at The U. This is officially ‘rebuilding mode’. Give it time, be patient, knowing you’ll see it again.