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Miami: One city, but a tale of two coaches

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If you are a football coach and your team plays its games at Miami’s Sun Life Stadium, these are not the best of days. To be blunt, neither Miami’s tradition-rich NFL team nor the iconic college program is satisfying their rooters. With apologies to Charles Dickens, Miami is one city presenting us with a tale of two coaches.

With the Miami Hurricanes’ loss to the Cincinnati Bearcats on Thursday, the heat index will intensify under Coach Al Golden. Air traffic controllers will need to be vigilant for the increasing number of “Fire Al Golden” banners trailing behind small aircraft over Sun Life air space.

“Obviously we are disappointed,” Golden said after the game. “But you have to keep going and keep digging and keep improving.”

Miami fans feel like they have heard that before from Golden’s predecessors. They are restless again.

Earlier this week, Florida State supporters recalled how their proud program’s brief period of ineptitude against Wake Forest gauged just how far the Seminoles had fallen a few years ago. FSU is now back among the elite.

Miami, with 5 national titles, has justifiable pride in their program’s pedigree of winning. Even if they weren’t hoisting the championship trophy, the Hurricanes were a perennial force to be reckoned with.

The last decade has not been kind. Over that span, “The U” has won a grand total of one minor bowl game and now lost 5 in a row.

Hurricane fans clamor for the Hurricanes of the 80s, 90s and the early part of this century. Unfortunately, all they see are tropical depressions.

Randy Shannon replaced Larry Coker as head coach in 2007, but when Shannon went 7-5 in his fourth year, the writing was on the wall for him. He was fired in 2010 before that year’s Sun Bowl, which the Hurricanes lost to Notre Dame.

Golden inherited a program paying for rule breaking that occurred before he got there. High hopes generated by a 9-4 record in his third year were dashed by a 6-6 record last year and a second consecutive bowl loss.

Hurricane boosters expect what the Seminoles got: a return to greatness. Unless Miami totally collapses, it is hard to imagine a mid-year coaching change, but the Golden vigil is currently in progress. FSU is up next week in Tallahassee.

Sun Life Stadium’s other occupant, the Miami Dolphins, are playing in their 50th season in the NFL.  Don Shula won more games than anybody, a couple of Super Bowls, 5 AFC Championships and sold a lot of tickets. Since turning his attention to selling steaks, the Dolphins have not returned to glory.

Since 2001, Miami has made the NFL playoffs only once. They have not played for a conference championship (which they lost), since 1992. Jimmy Johnson, Dave Wannstedt, Tony Sparano (some longed for Tony Soprano), poor Cam Cameron, or even Nick Saban could restore the luster.

Since 2012, Joe Philbin has taken his turn on the coaching carousel. Philbin followed up on a 7-9 record his first year with two consecutive 8-8 marks.

Philbin surely understands this, his fourth season, is a make-or-break year for him. Things are not broken, but are starting to bend.

After an encouraging victory in Washington on Opening Day, Miami laid an egg in Jacksonville in Week 2. Last week in their home opener, the Dolphins were totally humiliated by Rex Ryan’s Buffalo Bills, 41-14, to fall to 1-2.

This Sunday, Miami flies to London to play the New York Jets. For Philbin’s sake, a win is recommended. One year ago, Miami routed the Oakland Raiders in London and the losing coach, Dennis Allen, was fired after the game.

Philbin might suggest his highly paid all-pros like Ndamukong Suh and Cameron Wake start to play like all-pros. These guys and their teammates know Philbin’s job is on the line. We will see if they are ready to lay it all out for their coach.

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Bob Sparks is President of Ramos and Sparks Group, a Tallahassee-based business and political consulting firm. During his career, he has directed media relations and managed events for professional baseball, served as chief spokesperson for the Republican Party of Florida as well as the Florida Department of Environmental Protection and the Attorney General of Florida. After serving as Executive Deputy Chief of Staff for Governor Charlie Crist, he returned to the private sector working with clients including the Republican National Committee and political candidates in Japan. He lives in Tallahassee with his wife, Sue and can be reached at Bob@ramos-sparks.com.

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