Written by Shane Shoemaker (@SShoemaker24)
Sports is a cyclical thing.
It’s very rare that a team, any sort of team, is good for an extended period of time. Granted, that is hard to argue seeing all that Alabama has accomplished since Nick Saban took the reigns in Tuscaloosa. But if you remember before him, it was a struggle for Bama to even make nine or 10 win seasons consistently. So contrary to popular belief that I see from most Bammers, they were, at one point and time, really bad. And of course, before that they were good as well. They do after all have 347 national championships they’ve added up over the years.
The only question that fans want to know when it comes to their teams, though, is — “when will we finally be good again?” when they’re in a transistional phase. It’s never the other way around, no fan asks when they will be at the bottom again. I mean, I can’t imagine a Bama fan walking around saying, “Ye kno whut, when ye figure we’ll be not good ‘gen?”
But you always think, as a fan, as each new head coach seems to come every third, fourth or fifth year, that you have “the guy” to get you back to the top, the next coach who, just by his opening press conference will say all the right things to assure you and the university that hired him that he is the right man for the job.
For me, I fell for that with Al Golden and his pressed white button up t-shirt and swirled orange and green tie. Like his coaching tenure at Miami, those things, including his always mentioned huge playbook, were gimmicks to make you buy t-shirts, and moreover, into the coaching staffs illogical coaching mantra Golden set.
So, needless to say, Golden was not the guy that was for Miami. Neither was Randy Shannon and neither was Larry Coker. Shannon was a desperate plea, the only option to fix what had turned into to a messy situation that was left by Coker who seemed to forget to instill any form of discipline when he was asked to take over after Butch Davis left to take the Cleveland Browns job. Coker was the parent letting his kids run the household instead of vice versa.
The University of Miami has its best coach since Butch Davis, and that happened the moment he was hired, before he even stepped foot on the field or won a single game.
Miami got lucky with Richt’s firing from Georgia. Though Richt had seemed to struggle his last couple seasons at Georgia — even though he only had one losing season and had nine double digit win seasons in 15 seasons — turning the theme “Georgia’d” into a popular phrase amongst many pundits. But the SEC as a whole was dying off at the vicious hands of Nick Saban since his arrival at Alabama. Remember that SEC dominance? Yeah, that doesn’t exist any longer. Saban has ran all of them off because none of them can consistently beat him. Kevin Sumlin is the only exception here and maybe the reason why he still has a job at Texas A&M.
The biggest draw to Richt was that he never could win “the big games.”
To me — again, it goes back to Saban here — Richt was done after his loss to Alabama in 2015, his final season at Georgia. Richt and his Bulldogs had a lot of hype going into that game, even looking like a bit of a favorite at one point being that they were at home in Athens. However, Georgia took a shellacking that day, 38-10, and then the next week lost a close one to Tennessee and later in the year lost, convincingly, to Florida. In total, Richt still had a 9-3 record that year — something most fans and teams would kill for (like Miami).
Richt, in season two of his Miami coaching tenure, has done things that not any coaches prior to him could do, something that is the lifeblood of Miami Hurricanes football.
Before Richt, Miami hadn’t won a bowl game since 2006.
Before Richt, Miami hadn’t beat Florida State since 2009.
Miami hasn’t had a top 10 recruiting class since 2012 and hasn’t had a top 5 class since 2008. (As of now, they’re ranked anywhere from third to fourth in the country for the 2018 class.)
(Miami also has never won or even been to the ACC title game.)
And as of this past Saturday (Oct. 14), where it was upset Saturday for a lot of highly ranked teams, Miami, ranked 11th in the country at the time, beat the odds and came back and defeated fellow ACC coastal rival Georgia Tech by a point.
It was games like the one on Saturday where the Canes would usually fall, sulk and give up when they were behind. But not this team. This team, with little depth in certain positions, key injuries and, in my opinion, not the quarterback you are seeking to lead your team — good kid, athletic, but inaccurate and slow starts — is making plays and becoming clutch and making the plays when they matter to win games.
Again, this is something Miami wasn’t doing for the past decade or so. This is how “The U” lost its dominance and luster and became just another university. So while it’s natural to ask “Is Miami back?” I’d say the answer is no. Simply because their just getting back to basic Miami Hurricanes football, heck, good football in general —which is first and foremost winning.
There’s still a long season ahead, including a matchup next week with Syracuse, who beat Clemson on Friday. Plus, big matchups against historical rival Notre Dame and ACC coastal foe Virginia Tech. For Miami’s sake, at least those games are at home.
People will talk about the swagger, the dancing, the turnover-chains, the fighting, the smack talking, the big hits, the big plays, etc. etc. But ultimately, all of that was packaged and wrapped in winning, because without winning, no one would have ever noticed those things. So if The U wants to be “back,” then that’s what they have to do and do it consistently. They have to be a team that every time you play them and you’re the opposing team, you need to say, “That’s going to be a tough one,” or, “I don’t think we can beat them” if you’re a fan.
Games like the past two weeks for the Canes can help make them a better team instead of breaking them if they had lost. It proves that the know how to win. And for Richt and company, that’s all you have to do to get back.