Rams’ Sean McVay is NFL’s hot new flavor while Adam Gase has lost his savor

You know the wonders we all wanted rookie head coach Adam Gase to work last year with Ryan Tannehill, the promising quarterback with several levels of development still to come?

Well, Sean McVay, the youngest head coach in the NFL, is making it happen with Jared Goff of the Los Angeles Rams.

Los Angeles Rams quarterback Jared Goff heads for the field during player introductions before the start of a game against the New Orleans Saints played at Los Angeles on November 26, 2017. (AP Photo/John Cordes)

Of course, any player who goes No. 1 overall in the NFL draft is supposed to succeed. The thing is that Goff didn’t succeed as a rookie in 2016. He rode the bench for the first nine games, even though the Rams weren’t going anywhere. Was he still not ready? Was he just not as good as advertised?

There were no good answers to those questions even after former Rams coach Jeff Fisher finally decided to give the kid a start. That day is memorable only because it featured the Rams against Miami and was part of the Dolphins’ six-game win streak on the way to a playoff berth.

Still not all that memorable? OK, the details are these. Miami scored a couple of fourth-quarter touchdowns to get out of Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum with a 14-10 victory. Both of those scores came on Tannehill passes, and the winner came with 36 seconds remaining at the end of a rapid 75-yard drive.

Goff, meanwhile, was not particularly dangerous, completing 17 of 31 passes for 134 yards with nothing longer than 21 yards and a total of just 12 first downs for the Rams. Tannehill looked like a veteran quarterback, in other words, and Goff looked like a pup. Overall Goff lost all seven of his starts to close out the season and his lack of development was one of the reasons that Fisher got fired.

Enter McVay, who fired up Kirk Cousins’ stats while working as the Washington Redskins’ offensive coordinator and got the Rams’ top job at the age of 31.

All of a sudden the Rams are 8-3 and Goff has a quarterback rating of 98.6 that ranks eighth in the league, ahead of Matthew Stafford and Matt Ryan. Goff has 18 touchdowns and five interceptions and is playing every bit like a first-round quarterback should play.

Tannehill had a good year in his first season with Gase, too, but the numbers (93.5 rating, 19 touchdowns, 12 interceptions) aren’t quite as sharp and it must be considered that 2016 was his fifth year in the league. In theory, Tannehill should have been more ready for a breakout season than Goff, who skipped his senior year at California and is barely 23.

All of this adds to the perception that Gase no longer is the fresh flavor of the month in NFL coaching. Far from it.

Losing Tannehill for the season in August was beyond Gase’s control, of course, but absolutely everything else about the Dolphins offense has gone wrong, too. If it were Tannehill at quarterback and not Jay Cutler or Matt Moore, it figures the story wouldn’t be much better.

Not saying that Gase is a lousy coach or that his stay in Miami will be short, but clearly his ability to make the Dolphins into a Super Bowl contender on offensive ingenuity and a gigantic reserve of self-confidence no longer sells around here.

There always will be hot new coaches. What’s needed in Miami is a system that consistently works, even when the flame begins to die down.

Fair or not, it’s difficult to say right now that Gase would get the same out of a guy like Goff that McVay is getting. As the weeks go by and the losses pile up, Gase is looking more and more like a coach who is discovering how tough this job really is, and one who isn’t quite sure what to do about it.

Add it to the big bucket of confusion about the 2017 Dolphins. That bucket looks even deeper when a team like the Rams, 4-12 last year, begins to come on strong.

Last question, and it really stings. If the Dolphins wind up with a high 2018 draft pick and decide to go for a quarterback, would Gase be able to make that pay off? You want to say yes, but everything about this franchise is beginning to feel like a wish again.

[Before Richt became available, UM interviewed Greg Schiano and Dan Mullen]

[For Gators, Dan Mullen is a good solution who wants to be great]

[Hurricanes finally brought out the beast in antiseptic Hard Rock Stadium]

 

 

Before Mark Richt became available, Miami interviewed Greg Schiano and Dan Mullen, too

Miami Hurricanes administrators can sit back and grin, satisfied that they’ve got the right football coach in Mark Richt.

In just his second season at the school, Richt has Miami in Saturday night’s ACC Championship game against defending national champion Clemson, and a win there should lead to a spot in the College Football Playoff field.

Miami Hurricanes defensive coordinator Greg Schiano (center) with Mike Boireau(left) and Damione Lewis (right) after a 1999 practice. Staff photo by Allen Eyestone, Palm Beach Post.

Could it have gone this well with any other coach available to at the end of the 2015 season? Impossible to know, but Richt was not the only candidate who got serious consideration.

Greg Schiano interviewed with Miami back then. The opportunity came at a time in his life when the former UM defensive coordinator would have given anything to be the boss in Coral Gables. Schiano was between jobs, having been fired as the Tampa Bay Buccaneers head coach. He was volunteering as a high school coach, as a matter of fact, at Tampa Berkeley Prep.

There was reason to believe that something would come of it, too, since former UM star Jonathan Vilma, who played for Schiano, was a member of the six-person advisory staff that athletic Blake James put together to assist in the search process.

It’s a matter of timing in these things, though. Earlier, when Larry Coker got fired at Miami, the Hurricanes were turned away by Schiano. That was in 2006, when he was building something of his own at Rutgers, and formally asked to have his name removed from Miami’s list of candidates.

Lately, Schiano’s name was turned toxic when Tennessee pulled back from a decision to hire him because of an ugly social media reaction, buoyed by campus protests.

The advertised reason for the uproar was an unsubstantiated narrative that the coach somehow ignored or condoned Jerry Sandusky’s child molestation crimes while the two were assistants at Penn State. More likely a ton of Vols fans just thought they could do better than Schiano and coalesced around a convenient rationale to scare Tennessee administrators away from what had seemed a fairly straightforward hire of a well-respected coach.

So who else did Miami interview in November and December of 2015 before Richt got the job?

Dan Mullen, freshly introduced as Florida’s new coach, talked with James and his search staff. At that time he was 54-35 in seven seasons at Mississippi State. Had he gotten the Miami job, he would have been just as enthusiastic about flashing the “U” hand signal as he was about doing the Gator Chomp in Gainesville on Monday.

Butch Davis also interviewed with Miami before the Richt hire. He had been out of coaching for a couple of years and was eager to a second stint as head coach of the Hurricanes. These days Butch is coaching at FIU and waiting to see which minor bowl assignment his 7-4 Golden Panthers will get.

All questions were answered, and quickly, when Georgia fired Richt on Nov. 30, 2015. Four days later he was announced as Miami’s coach.

No need to be smug when one of these frantic coach searches works out. For every athletic director who nails it there are 10 who regret ever being put in the position to choose, and scores who fear the moment when they will be out there scrambling to find the right man again.

[For Gators, Dan Mullen is a good solution who wants to be great]

[Because hiring Chip Kelly wasn’t easy for Florida, nothing else would have been]

[Hurricanes finally bring out the beast in antiseptic Hard Rock Stadium]

For Gators, Dan Mullen is a good solution who wants to be great

Florida hiring Dan Mullen away from Mississippi State on Sunday is less about big splashes and more about steady ripples.

Because he was at Florida, working directly with Tim Tebow, when the Gators won a couple of national championships, all the good feelings and all the great players from those golden days will come rippling back to Gainesville now.

STARKVILLE, MS – NOVEMBER 4: Dan Mullen, former head coach of the Mississippi State Bulldogs, talks with Nick Fitzgerald during a game against the Massachusetts Minutemen at Starkville, Mississippi. On Sunday Mullen was announced as Florida’s new head coach. (Photo by Butch Dill/Getty Images)

“Thrilled that #GatorNation gets a coach who accepts our Championship expectations!” is how Tebow put it in a tweet. Oh, and also “Congrats and welcome home.”

The Swamp hasn’t felt very much like home lately to the players from Urban Meyer’s title teams. It has become a place where Florida State comes to relax, where Missouri scores 42 points, where even Georgia Southern can get a win. Florida fans feel it, too, a disconnect with the last two Gator coaches and a dismantling of the program’s mystique.

Mullen, the offensive coordinator at Florida during the sweet spot of 2005 to 2008, is more familiar, more established, more certain to stir up some high-scoring fun than Will Muschamp and Jim McElwain were. There is danger it won’t work, just as there is danger in any major move like this, but Florida athletic director wasn’t getting any action anywhere else.

He couldn’t get Chip Kelly, but hey, Mullen is from New Hampshire, too.

He couldn’t get Scott Frost, but Frost could hardly say no to Nebraska, where his own homecoming eventually lies, and yes to somebody else.

So Gator fans will try to get used to this marriage in a couple of ways.

The older ones will try to believe in Mullen as a coach who was tough enough to last nine years in the SEC West, and one who should be able to bring the same high class of quarterbacks to Gainesville that he brought and developed in Starkville.

The younger ones will sputter a bit, noting that Mullen has never won anything bigger than a Gator Bowl as Mississippi State’s coach and demanding that he present his extreme makeover credentials no later than Sept. 29, 2018. That’s the day Florida visits Mississippi State, a day when Mullen either shows the new Gator program to be ahead of his old one or comes off as no great improvement.

Frost would have been a better compromise between the two groups and a stronger guarantee of drastic and unconventional change in the Gator playbook. Would have been nice to get a taste of that. A chip off the old Kelly block but without the jagged, arrogant edges.

Sunday showed, however, that no AD’s selection ever goes completely unpunished. Florida will take a little grumbling, maybe even a little yawning, over the shouting and protesting in the streets that was ignited by Tennessee’s choice of Greg Schiano, a deal that was sunk before it was signed.

Mullen, at least, knows he won’t get the quick hook from Stricklin, who once was his boss and supporter at Mississippi State. That alone helps Florida, which has forfeited the vital continuity of recruiting and player development with recent firings.

What helps the Gators more is Mullen’s ability to grow kids with good arms into quarterbacks with great instincts and solid leadership skills.

I don’t think even he can fix Feleipe Franks, but the next wave of highly-regarded prospects who arrive in the Swamp will know that Mullen had great success with Chris Leak and Tebow at Florida, with Alex Smith at Utah, and with Dak Prescott and Nick Fitzgerald at Mississippi State. They’ll know that and they’ll expect to happen for them.

That’s the start to revving up the Gators again, just as putrid quarterback play was the start of Florida’s drop into the pit of mediocrity, with the loss of basic offensive principles wringing the life out of the Gators’ great defensive traditions as well.

Will the turnaround be instantaneous? Of course not. Think of how far Alabama had sunk before Nick Saban took over, and how the Tide went 7-6 with a home loss to Louisiana-Monroe in his first season there.

Will ever Gator fan rejoice at Mullen’s hiring simply because he helped bring two national titles to Florida? Of course not. You can tell that by the fact that a great cheer of celebration went up in the Swamp Saturday when the videoboard showed Ohio State trailing Michigan. That was a rebuke of Meyer, plain and simple.

Mullen didn’t leave Florida for supposed health reasons, however, and then experience a miracle recovery in time to coach at his real dream job.

Mullen did a great job at Florida and got an SEC head coaching opportunity out of it. Now he has an even rarer opportunity, leaving Mississippi State for greener pastures. Normally coaches wear out their welcome there and get fired. Normally coaches don’t show themselves to be any better than those who came to Starkville before them.

The Bulldogs are better off, though, because of Mullen’s organization and ingenuity and psychological stamina. He will need all of that and more at Florida, but the good thing is he fully understands what it means to be a Gators coach and is not frightened of the challenge.

So UCLA gets the big splash with Kelly. He would have been a pain for SEC opponents to deal with, but he didn’t want to coach Florida and soon enough would have been a pain for Stricklin and the Gators brass, too.

Chip, remember, is the guy who cut Tebow from the Philadelphia Eagles roster. Instead Florida gets the coach who Tebow will greet with a big old bear hug, whether it’s at Monday’s official press conference announcement or soon thereafter.

Until the wins start coming in, that’s the most genuine celebration that Florida could hope to inspire.

 

 

 

Because hiring Chip Kelly hasn’t been easy for Florida, nothing else about him would be either

If Chip Kelly doesn’t want to coach the Florida Gators, it’s better to find it out now.

That’s the only conclusion to draw from Friday’s Yahoo Sports report that the Gators have moved on from their top coaching candidate.

In this Monday, Dec. 28, 2015 photo, Philadelphia Eagles head coach Chip Kelly listens to a question during a news conference at the NFL football team’s practice facility in Philadelphia. The Eagles fired Kelly with one game left in his third season, dumping the coach after missing the playoffs in consecutive years. Kelly was released Tuesday, Dec. 29, 2015 just before the end of a disappointing season that began with Super Bowl expectations. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke)

No matter the reason, if it’s Kelly telling Florida no or Gators athletic director Scott Stricklin tiring of the mind games, this would have been another one of those bad fits that have combined to set the program back a couple of times now.

Of course, there is a part of me that wants to wait for official announcements from Florida or from UCLA, to see if Kelly will change his mind.

[Saturday update: Chip Kelly agrees to a five-year deal to become UCLA’s football coach]

That’s what happened in 2012 when he was all set to become the Tampa Bay Buccaneers’ coach but decided at the last minute to stay at Oregon.

The following year he told the Philadelphia Eagles no, thanks, but he would be staying at Oregon. Then he changed his mind and went to the NFL anyway.

The guy burns bright, like a firefly, and isn’t always sure at any given moment what he truly wants for himself.

Bottom line, though, Kelly could have taken the Gators job last Sunday when Florida’s top brass came to see him in New Hampshire. He is not coaching anybody and has no reason to delay if this opportunity to run one of the college game’s most coveted programs was a top priority.

Because he didn’t, it shows that the thought of coaching in the SEC, of struggling to overcome Nick Saban and all the others, held no instant appeal.

Because he didn’t, it shows that Kelly has no appetite for operating in an environment where his ego and his powers might be checked by Stricklin, or his failures magnified by a hypercritical SEC fan base.

Because he didn’t, it proved that there are other candidates out there who are far more motivated to take on this task, men who wouldn’t arrive in Gainesville with an exit strategy already building in the back of their minds.

It’s a major disappointment for Florida to miss out on the rebirth that Kelly could have brought to the Gators’ offense. This major swing and a miss looks bad for the program, too, just as it looked bad when Jeremy Foley went shopping for Bob Stoops and Mike Shanahan but wound up hiring Ron Zook when those two didn’t jump at the offer.

This job search won’t have a good ending, however, if there is conflict at the beginning.

Stricklin and Kelly either haven’t connected or haven’t yet, even though there has been ample time to do so. There’s no forcing it now. Just as importantly for the Gators, there should be no looking back.

The only way Kelly can truly destroy the Gators is by taking a job in the SEC. That’s why the best news now might be his quick introduction at UCLA, far, far away.

Hurricanes have finally brought out the beast in fancy-schmancy Hard Rock Stadium

Turns out there never really was anything all that wrong with Hard Rock Stadium, a building that has worn many other names since its opening 30 years ago. Took a while to figure it out, though.

When the Miami Dolphins didn’t get much going after moving there from the Orange Bowl, everyone agreed that the new facility had no soul. The seats were too far away from the action. The noise leaked out before anyone had a chance to feel it. Pretty and clean, sure, but where was the grit?

It was the same when the Miami Hurricanes showed up in 2008. Must have been the building to blame for all those lackluster seasons. Couldn’t have been Randy Shannon and Al Golden.

The Marlins kept looking to get out, too, reasoning that baseball wasn’t meant for so big a barn and that’s what explained the team’s perennially poor attendance.

Miami Hurricanes linebacker Zach McCloud  celebrates with fans after Miami’s 41-8 win over  Notre Dame at Hard Rock Stadium in Miami Gardens, Fla., on Saturday, November 11, 2017.  (Andres Leiva / The Palm Beach Post)

Funny, though, how sellout crowds of 67,000-plus filled the facility, then known as Pro Player Stadium, for the 1997 World Series, and again when the Marlins won it all in 2003. Couldn’t hear yourself think in there, as I recall.

Winning big is the secret to every stadium’s charm, and the Hurricanes are proving it again with the rock-show atmosphere of their recent home wins over Virginia Tech and Notre Dame.

Along the way, Stephen Ross has spent the money and Dolphins CEO Tom Garfinkle has used it wisely to spruce up Hard Rock in many important ways, including a canopy to keep sun and rain out but lock crowd noise in. If the teams stink, however, it’s like booking a show that nobody wants to see for the Kravis Center. You can send half the ushers and valet parkers home in that case because it just ain’t happening.

Ask anybody who attended the Notre Dame game last Saturday night if the stadium experience felt flat to them.

Ask if they would like to return to the Orange Bowl days, with backless benches for sitting and backyards for parking.

The answer from some will always be yes, so sweet was the big-game sound of the Hurricanes and the Super Bowl Dolphins back there. It’s nostalgia, a magnet to the past, and that’s understandable.

Don’t imagine, though, that Hard Rock is actually soft, that opponents will never worry about coming there because the place is just too corporate. That notion doesn’t fly anymore.

The 9-0 Hurricanes have proven it wrong and you can tell it because there reportedly will be something close to a sellout for Saturday’s home game with Virginia. That’s for a noon start, the exact opposite of those late-night parties of the last two weeks, and it’s against an opponent that drew just 40,963 customers the last time these two teams met at Hard Rock.

The new building that Joe Robbie built isn’t so new anymore after three decades of sports events and concerts and such. It’s far from perfect, no matter how many expensive improvements are made, and there always will be a little too antiseptic to satisfy some rough and ready football fans.

What counts for personality down there, however, will always be the personality of the spectators themselves. And if they’re wildly happy, as they have been lately with the Hurricanes, Hard Rock Stadium will continue to be a wild and happy place.

The kind of place that earns a rugged nickname that rolls right off the tongue, like The Rock.

 

Better consider the cosmic consequences before trading Giancarlo Stanton

One day soon, unless fate intervenes, the monster headline will drop that Giancarlo Stanton has been traded by the Miami Marlins for money reasons alone.

Though it won’t come as a surprise, there is no warding off the shock of dumping so spectacular a slugger at the peak of his powers.

Derek Jeter should know better. He is a major player in the history and the mythology of

Miami Marlins outfielder Giancarlo Stanton high-fives teammates before the start of the team’s home opener, against the Atlanta Braves, at Marlins Park in Miami on Tuesday, April 11, 2017. (David Santiago/El Nuevo Herald/TNS)

the New York Yankees. Even if he doesn’t believe in it, he has heard a million times about the Curse of the Bambino, a baseball fable that lived on for what seemed like forever.

Not saying that Stanton is Babe Ruth or ever will be, but stick with me for a minute.

The Boston Red Sox were doing just fine, a fistful of World Series titles and everything, until they sold Ruth to the Yankees following the 1919 season.

It’s not like there was anything wrong with the Babe at the time. He was 24 and coming off a season in which he led the American League in home runs (29) and RBI (113). Players like that are too good to be true.

Money got in the way, however. Red Sox owner Harry Frazee needed some to finance a string of Broadway theatrical productions he wanted to stage and the Babe, fairly theatrical himself, was getting a little hard to handle with this party lifestyle. So Frazee moved the budding superstar for $100,000 in cash from the Yankees plus a sizable loan from the team.

Over the next 86 years the Red Sox won zero world championships and the Yankees won 26. Curse or coincidence? You be the judge.

All I know is that trading Stanton for any reason feels like throwing away the gift of a lifetime. It figures there should be some kind of punishment for that. Short-term there will be, of course, in the form of fan backlash against the new owners. Long-term? Well, the Marlins haven’t exactly been killing it lately but it can always get worse.

The Red Sox suffered 14 consecutive losing seasons after selling the Babe, and included in that skid were nine last-place finishes.

Jeter doesn’t expect something so dire to result from trading Stanton for a raft of prospects that may someday remake the Marlins in the way that the world champion Houston Astros have been remade. Maybe that will happen, too.

Just don’t say that I didn’t warn you about Giancarlo Stanton and would could become the bane of the franchise’s existence for decades to come.

Call it the Hex of the Hulk.

If you have the courage, here’s where Monday night’s lifeless defensive effort ranks in Dolphins history

I lack the precision to work for the Elias Sports Bureau statistical search team, and then there’s the  personal flaw of occasionally getting up from my desk to eat or sleep.

You can trust me, however, when I say that Monday night’s defensive showing by the Miami Dolphins was historically bad.

Miami Dolphins defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh (93) chases Carolina Panthers quarterback Cam Newton (1) in the first half of an NFL football game in Charlotte, N.C., Monday, Nov. 13, 2017. (AP Photo/Mike McCarn)

Carolina rolled up a franchise-record 548 yards in total offense in a 45-21 victory that Cam Newton didn’t even bother to finish. By hunting through a half century of Dolphins stats, I could find only seven games in which Miami allowed more yards, and three of those were in overtime.

Here’s the list of deadliest defensive efforts in Dolphins history.

622 yards allowed, 38-24 loss to New England in 2011

597 yards allowed, 38-34 loss to New York Jets in 1988

593 yards allowed, 31-28 loss to L.A. Rams in 1976

589 yards allowed, 34-31 OT loss to Buffalo in 2016

582 yards allowed, 35-31 loss to Buffalo in 1991

581 yards allowed, 51-45 OT loss to New York Jets in 1986

564 yards allowed, 41-38 playoff OT loss to San Diego to end 1981 season

548 yards allowed, 45-21 loss to Charlotte in 2017

Every game but Monday’s was a shootout, a competitive game, an NFL happening.

This loss to Carolina, the 21st-ranked offense in the league, was a dud from the start. Poor tackling, including several total whiffs. Lousy coverage of receivers, who actually helped Miami quite a bit with some wide-open drops. Poor positioning and sluggish response to practically everything the Panthers presented, and it’s worth noting that Carolina was limited to a single field goal by Chicago a few weeks back.

I covered a couple of the games on the list above and they rank among the most compelling assignments of my career. The overtime playoff loss to the Chargers at the old Orange Bowl. The 51-45 video-game affair at the Meadowlands in which Dan Marino passed for a career-high six touchdowns and lost.

Today’s Dolphins have no one on offense to balance out big numbers like these, but I don’t want to hear about Jay Cutler being a turnover machine or Adam Gase trading Jay Ajayi away or anything else.

When the Miami defense is disintegrating like this, allowing the two highest yardage totals of the season in consecutive weeks, there is nothing to say except that the entire team is kaput, and the season with it.

Feels strange to say something like that about a 4-5 team, especially when the Dolphins turned the 2016 season around so rapidly and so well after a 1-4 start, but it is so.

You can’t win much of anything in the NFL playing Pac-12 defense. Things will get better against Tampa Bay this Sunday but then comes New England and Kansas City and all the rest.

Prepare to see more entries to the franchise’s list of Top-10 defensive demolitions. Prepare for the moment when things like these are no longer shocking.

Once the Miami defense lays down, and it appears to have happened, there’s just no getting up for this team.

 

 

First order of business on the Gator coach search is finding a guy who’s not afraid to give it a try

For years now I have been clinging to the same philosophy when it comes to coach searches at Florida.

You don’t get a guy who has no SEC experience to step into a pressure cooker like the Gators job. He needs to know the region and its recruiting rhythms. Needs to have been a big winner as a head coach already. Needs to have a ton of confidence and the ability to snatch up and develop a championship quarterback or two or three.

ANNAPOLIS, MD- OCTOBER 21: Head coach Scott Frost of the UCF Knights stands with his players during the play of the Navy Midshipmen fight song following the Knights 31-21 win at Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium on October 21, 2017. (Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images)

So when the Gators hired Urban Meyer, I had major doubts about going with a flavor-of-the-month from the old Mountain West. (Wrong about that)

And when the Gators hired Will Muschamp, I felt pretty good about it based on SEC roots and recruiting power and was willing to overlook the lack of head coaching experience. (Wrong about that, too)

And when the Gators hired Jim McElwain, I was somewhat ambivalent but satisfied that at least with a reputation for building a quarterback at Colorado State he probably could do it again. (Wrong, wrong, always wrong)

So what’s the proper combo for 2017? The only right answer now is whatever makes fans and boosters happy in the moment because they’re just about ready to shred their season tickets right now.

The Gator program has jettisoned too much of its cachet with this constant coaching churn. Whoever gets the job now will be lucky to keep it for three years. McElwain couldn’t, and he won the SEC East title in each of his first two seasons there.

I’d probably be wrong, under the circumstances, to eliminate Scott Frost as a candidate because he is winning big in the American Athletic Conference and hasn’t even been doing that for long. (Florida wouldn’t want anything to do with playing Central Florida right now or anytime soon).

Probably wrong about crossing off Dan Mullen, too, just because he got rolled by Georgia and Auburn this year and is about to get rolled by Alabama, too.

Probably wrong about doubting Willie Taggart for being 5-5 in his first year at Oregon, or Mike Norvell for being at little ol’ Memphis, or Matt Campbell for pulling off a few flashy upsets in the Big 12 but being 9-12 at Iowa State overall.

The only thing that might feel just right, at least at this very moment, is Justin Fuente, but Miami just slowed his progress at Virginia Tech with a thorough whipping of the Hokies on Saturday night.

The whole thing will have to be wrapped up, one way or the other, by Dec. 10 or so. Got to get the next recruiting class coming in. Got to find a guy who is willing to do more than just play Florida for a bigger contract at his current job. Got to prove to Gator boosters that the program didn’t peter out the day Tim Tebow left.

Whatever happens, the reaction column I write can’t possibly be as strong and as certain as they used to be. Nothing about Florida is certain anymore, including the idea that any ambitious young coach would die to be there and to stay there for years and years to come.

That may be true again one day, but for now, with even UAB a major threat to stick it to the Gators in a few weeks before a half-empty stadium, what’s happening at Florida may actually be enough to scare some pretty good candidates off.

Notre Dame has already lost to one elite team but is Miami in that class?

 

Notre Dame has crushed every ACC team it has played this season, beating Boston College, North Carolina, North Carolina State and Wake Forest by an average score of 41-20, but maybe that’s not the way to measure Miami’s chances of knocking off the Fighting Irish on Saturday night.

Notre Dame offensive lineman Quenton Nelson in action during the first half of an NCAA college football game against North Carolina State, Saturday, Oct. 28, 2017, in South Bend, Ind. (AP Photo/Darron Cummings)

If you want to believe that the Hurricanes are candidates to win their way all the way into the four-team College Football Playoff, it’s more encouraging to look at what Notre Dame did against another team in that elite class.

We’re talking about the Georgia Bulldogs, the only real threat to Alabama in the SEC and a team loved by the CFP ranking committee. In September Georgia went to South Bend and built a 20-19 signature win on swarming defense.

Mark Richt is right to talk about the muscle that Notre Dame packs on the line of scrimmage, offensively and defensively, yet Georgia did just fine.

The same Notre Dame team that rushed for 515 yards and seven touchdowns against Boston College managed just 55 rushing yards against the Dawgs.

On the other side of the ball, Nick Chubb and Sony Michel each averaged around 5 yards per carry against the Irish. It can be done, and it will have to be done by Miami if Malik Rosier is going to have time to hit some of his favorite passes way downfield to Ahmmon Richards and Braxton Berrios and Darrell Langham.

Overall, Georgia and Notre Dame were an excellent match, and it’s conceivable that they might meet again in the playoffs depending on the dozens of things that still must play out. Miami can either prove on Saturday night that it belongs in that same class or settle back onto the other good path that’s available to them, the path to a first-ever ACC title.

To me, the Hurricanes have a defensive front seven that plays and produces like Georgia’s does. The bonus is Richt’s playcalling on offense and a willingness to trust Malik Rosier in ways that Georgia coach Kirby Smart can’t quite do with his freshman quarterback, Jake Fromm.

There even were a few gadget plays early in last week’s 28-10 dismissal of Virginia Tech. That steals some of the confidence from a physical defense when it comes to teeing off on basic handoffs and conventional dropbacks. It slows down every reaction just a bit and keeps the strongest players slightly off balance, even when those gadget plays, throwbacks to the quarterback and such, don’t quite work to perfection.

Bottom line, I’m not so worried about the 710 yards in total offense that Notre Dame ran up on Wake Forest, a 2-3 team in the ACC. Same goes for the way that the Irish limited North Carolina State to 50 yards rushing.

Miami is supposed to be the cream of the ACC now and would be expected to muscle up on those conference rivals if they met them right now.

Instead it will be the Irish on Saturday night, a team that has pushed everybody around except Georgia, and should find the Hurricanes pretty tough to bowl over, too.

Sour recipe for Dolphins’ offense is one part passing, one part rushing and one very big part holding

Is it impossible to win a game while getting flagged 11 times for 107 penalty yards, the way the Miami Dolphins were on Sunday night?

No, the Miami Dolphins edged Arizona 26-23 last year despite being called for 14 penalties.

All those lost yards and all that lost momentum just make it tougher, however, to get anything

(Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images)

done, and the Dolphins offense, last in the league going into Sunday’s 27-24 loss to Oakland, doesn’t need anything to make life harder. What they need is better play on the offensive line, and better coaching in that room on the fundamentals of knocking other people around without knocking your own team backwards.

Here, in order, is a listing of the offensive penalties from Sunday night and how they tore great holes in whatever Jay Cutler was trying to build on a 34-of-42 passing night.

Illegal formation charged to Ju’Wan James: Wiped out a 14-yard gain and a third-down conversion on a catch by Jarvis Landry.

Holding on Mike Pouncey: Declined by Raiders because Miami was about to punt anyway.

Holding on Jermon Bushrod: Turned a second-and-10 into a first-and-20.

Holding on Jesse Davis: Wiped out an 8-yard run by Damien Williams that would have put Miami in a manageable third-and-2 situation.

False start by Jesse Davis: Came on the very next snap, turning a second-and-20 into something even worse.

Holding on Jarvis Landry: Wiped out a 30-yard gain to the Oakland 21-yard line on a swing pass to Damien Williams.

Holding on Mike Pouncey: Wiped out a first-down gain of 4 yards on a Kenyan Drake run.

Holding on Jermon Bushrod: Wiped out a fourth-and-9 conversion pass of 14 yards to Julius Thomas.

 

There were two other defensive penalties and a Terrence Fede holding call on a Miami kickoff return but the major problems are on offense, which is Adam Gase’s specialty area.

He’s the head coach who wants to shift into a more fast-tempo mode in his playcalling but is still trying to get his guys to do the basic stuff first. Gase talked last week about changing the way Miami practices and meets and slogs through walk-through sessions. He talked about finding a new way of teaching and of learning.

It’s clearly not working when every starting offensive lineman but Laremy Tunsil gets penalized in a close game that required crisp execution from start to finish.

Difficult to see the Dolphins topping .500 or Gase’s offense ever finding its promised high gear when the offensive line, the foundation of it all, is festooned in yellow flags.

Maybe next year, when Miami finds an offensive line coach with the authority and the skill to demand more professionalism in his room. This problem won’t fix itself quickly, and there was no hope of it ever happening under Chris Foerster, whose own lack of personal discipline got him fired and into rehab.