Manny Diaz one of a few head coaches calling defensive plays

MIAMI, FLORIDA - NOVEMBER 09: (Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images)
MIAMI, FLORIDA - NOVEMBER 09: (Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images) /

When Manny Diaz announced last week that he is taking over the defensive play-calling for the Miami football team from defensive coordinator Blake Baker he was questioned about the ability to be the head coach and call plays. Diaz will be part of a handful of head coaches who call defensive plays.

Manny Navarro of The Athletic noted that Virginia head coach Bronco Mendenhall, Gary Patterson of TCU and recently fired Tennessee head coach Jeremy Pruitt have all called defensive plays. In the NFL Washington head coach, Ron Rivera called defensive plays when he was the head coach of the Carolina Panthers.

Former Atlanta Falcons head coach Dan Quinn, Denver Broncos head coach Vic Fangio, Minnesota Vikings head coach Mike Zimmer and New England Patriots head coach Bill Belichick all are or have been defensive play-callers with coordinators on their staffs. While rare, the move by Diaz is not unprecedented.

Navarro noted that multiple head coaches including Mike Norvell of Florida State and David Cutliffe of Duke call offensive plays. Diaz reportedly called the defensive plays for Miami in the 48-0 shutout of Duke in the penultimate game of the 2020 regular season according to Navarro. A game later Miami lost 62-26 to North Carolina.

The Hurricanes allowed 778 total yards and 554 rushing in the loss to the Tar Heels. Miami was missing several coaches against Duke which seems to have contributed to Manny Diaz calling plays against the Blue Devils. The stark difference from the shutout against Duke to allowing 62 versus UNC might have precipitated the change.

Diaz last called plays for Miami on an every game basis as the Hurricanes defensive coordinator in 2018. Miami finished the 2018 season 18th allowing 19.5 points per game and fourth in total defense allowing 278.9 yards per game. Miami finished 23rd in scoring defense and 13th in total defense under Baker in 2019.

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Those numbers plummeted in 2020. In the second season under Baker, Miami was 50th allowing 27 points per game and 67th in total defense allowing 408.4 yards per game. In two years the Miami defense allowed 38.46 percent more points and 46.4 percent more yards. Diaz has put his future on the line taking over the defense.