Greg Cote

Richt deserves better from Canes’ fans. Why this is the time for patience — not criticism

Miami Hurricanes football has regressed (so far) in Year 3 of the Mark Richt era.

UM isn’t sure who its quarterback is, or if it has one it can trust.

The Canes’ play-calling under Richt has become blase’ more than inspired.

All three of the above statements are true to various degrees. All three are being exclaimed lately in some form by disenchanted UM fans who always and predictably treat consecutive losses like a personal affront.

But none of the three truisms should mean much in the broader context of what Richt has undertaken here. Just as America isn’t great again because a slogan on a red hat says so, UM football isn’t great again just because Canes fans want it and wish it and demand it.

Preaching patience always brings an outcry of exasperation, especially among fans who are lucky enough to have cheered five national championships between 1983 and 2001 and treat a sixth as if it were a birthright.

Larry Coker was a hero on campus until he wasn’t. His UM teams were 60-15 and yet his exit was hailed.

Randy Shannon was the MIami-born ex-Cane, the savior until he wasn’t. Good riddance.

Al Golden was the shining light with the perfect surname, and the frat boys wore white shirts and orange neckties to games, just like him. He left chased out of town by torches and pitchforks.

Give Richt time.

The first time I ever sat down with Richt in his office here I asked what it would take to get Miami back on a championship level — to get where the Alabamas and Clemsons now are. He mentioned great recruiting classes, a parade of them, so that over time depth was supreme and your whole roster was loaded with talent.

“One after another after another,” he said of recruiting jackpots.

UM’s progress under Richt has been palpable.

His first season Miami was ranked in the final polls for the first time in seven years, and won its first bowl game in 10 years.

Last season UM reached its first ACC Championship Game, and earned ts first Orange Bowl invite since 2003.

This season the Canes had their highest preseason ranking (eighth) in 14 years before a season-opening loss to current No. 3 LSU. Miami was 5-1 after beating rival Florida State a second straight time after previously losing seven in a row to FSU.

That’s a heck of a 2 1/2 seasons from Richt. That’s some goodwill built up.

Or not.

Consecutive road losses at Virginia and Boston College have brought out the wolves in Canes clothing, including friendly fire from some alumni who always seem eager to snipe at the current team for not being as good as they were.

“It’s official!!,” Tweeted Warren Sapp after last Friday night’s loss at BC. “The U is Dead Under @MarkRicht!!!”

(That’s five exclamation points to convey something that is neither “official” nor even true, or fair).

Miami has a reasonable chance to run the table from here starting with Saturday’s visit by Duke, to finish 9-3, ranked and either back in the ACC title game or at least in a sizable bowl.

Richt’s Canes need to outgrow losing two straight road games to unranked opponents. Yes. But at the same time that should not be enough to cause fans to recalibrate their entire faith in Richt, or why they thought he was such a perfect hire in the first place.

The small firestorm over Richt’s play-calling is off point because better quarterback play makes play-calling look good. I would relinquish the play-calling and let offensive chief Thomas Brown do it if I were Richt. But 27 combined points in the two recent losses starts with average play at the most important position, not with play-calling.

The waffling indecision between Malik Rosier and N’Kosi Perry is not off point; that’s on Richt. The fairest criticism of this coach — at 24-10 in his UM tenure — is that he needs to enter 2019 with a strong conviction who his starting QB is, and faith in that person on and off the field. And this season has sown doubts more than confidence that the answer will be Perry.

The quarterback situation moving forward, not the two consecutive losses, should be Richt’s major concern right now.

I believe he will figure that out and continue to keep the Hurricanes pointed right and climbing. More debatable is whether UM fans, absent a great track record for patience, will trust that he will and give him time.

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