George Mira Jr. Interview Part II

George Mira Jr. is one of the all-time Hurricane greats. In part 2 of this multi-part interview, Mira talked about the tensions that arose during the early part of the Jimmy Johnson era, how Johnson's implemented his own defensive scheme, and how new defensive coordinator Bill Young's scheme might be similar to it. Don't miss that and more in this next installment of the interview!

CT: It's been said that Coach Johnson had some trouble getting the team to gel in 1984. You were there. Why do you think that happened?

GM: Yea, definitely. Jimmy was in a hard position. Jimmy came in and he was told that he had to keep the old coaches. He couldn't do anything, he couldn't change anything. So Jimmy had to work with coaches he did not know. He had to work with an offense and defense he was not familiar with, so right away, it puts a strain on everybody. Because what happens is the way that the coaches act, it carries over to the players. You could sense the conflict and the turmoil with him and his staff. It carried over to the players. We tried and played hard, but it was just a disaster that year.

CT: Do you think that's something similar to what happened with the last coaching regime towards the end? Firing the staff like that and having a bunch of new guys?

GM: Yea, I think that was a mistake. A big mistake, letting those coaches go. That's not a quick fix, you know. "Hey we had an off season, so get rid of these two or three coaches and it'll fix everything." It doesn't happen like that. That was just brutal for their confidence.

CT: At what point did it turn around for you guys? Obviously you managed to do some great things, but '84 was tough.

GM: It turned around when everyone got comfortable. After the '84 season going into the '85 spring. What happened was Jimmy had brought in his own coaches to implement his own system in, and you could see the coaching staff was comfortable with each other and that carried over to the players. We had a new defense. Same offense because I think the majority of the offensive coaches had stayed on. That's when we saw the big change, because the comfort level changed between the coaches at UM.

CT: Jimmy was one of the first if not the first guy to take a safety and turn him into a linebacker, take a linebacker and turn him into a lineman etc. He emphasized speed on defense. How was it different transitioning from that old defense to this new breed of defense?

GM: The old defense was a read-defense. Jimmy brought more of a running/reacting type of defense, whereas before we just kind of sat back and read a lot. Speed was great, and its super, but in certain positions you can't have everyone have a speed demon to run to the ball. You have to be able to read defenses and you have to understand. For example, a middle linebacker like me. There was no reason for me to run a 4.4 40 and run outside and make a play at the line of scrimmage. That's not my job. My job is tackle to tackle. Coach used to always tell me, "if you get outside it's a bonus. You stay inside, you protect the inside". So that's what I did. Now, a middle linebacker has to be one of the quickest guys on the team, just like your interior linemen have to be quick. They don't have to be fast. Outside linebackers can be real fast, so can your safeties. But once you get into certain positions you have to recognize personnel, stuff like "ok, this guy's not real fast, but he's quick as a cat." The guy from the Dolphins was like that, Zach Thomas. Zach was fast, but he was more quick. Real quick. But you still have to read. You know Jimmy did do that, he did introduce a lot of speed to us. But like I said, speed is great, but you have to understand what you're doing. You can't just run to the ball. That's hurt Miami a little bit in the past. They had these outstanding speed teams and they were fast as hell, but when teams ran right at them and they had to read, they got beat.

CT: Have you had a chance to meet with and speak with our new defensive coordinator, Bill Young?

GM: Not much. I met him once, I talked to him. I think he's going to be more adaptive to the game from just talking to him briefly. I talked to him in the hallway there for a bit and it seemed like we were going to get back a little bit to the way things were when I was here. They're going to have guys with the speed, but they're also going to have guys who can just run and learn the game of football. They're going to teach them the game of football. They need to learn the game. They need to understand the game.

CT: It's been said he's going to bring a bit of zone blitz packaging over. Traditionally, we've played a lot of man coverage with cover two over the top. What are your thoughts on those changes and how it will affect what you said earlier about teams being able to run right at us?

GM: Well you know we made a living with cover two. Zone defense is good when you blitz and you're making a lot of things happen. If you play a lot of man to man you're going to live by it, but you're going to die by it also. Live by the sword and die by the sword. Back in the day we played South Carolina. South Carolina played this zone defense and they were fast and they could blitz but you know what? We burned them on one on one coverages. I think if they had put in different blitz packages and played a zone blitz defense, they might have beaten us. They'd essentially go man to man all game and they were exhausted.

CT: Let's get back to you personally as we move through your career. Was the transition from high school to college a difficult one?

GM: Yea, it was very hard. I tell my son. The transition from high school to college is the hardest. From college to the pros to me was not as hard as from high school to college. Because the level of the players at Miami, I think my senior year there were 19 or 18 of us drafted, we had some studs come out of there. But when you played high school ball, you played against maybe one or two studs all year. When you get to college, you play against an interior line where three of them are studs. Then when you get to the pros, all five of them are. But to me, high school to college was a harder jump.

CT: How did it feel to just go from watching your teammates win the national championship the year before to being thrust into the limelight as the starting middle linebacker as a redshirt freshman in 1984? How did that 1984 Orange Bowl game propel this program into being a dynasty?

GM: Well the first thing is that it helped recruiting, winning that football game. What it did was it just showed the players that were there, players like myself and everybody, that we could play with anybody. All the hard work and everything the coaches had put us through in practice had paid off in the end. They taught us the game of football. We learned schemes and we understood things. We had a good grasp of the game. We were thinking football players and it all came together that last game. And every guy that came in behind us, we taught them, so it was just a big rollover, a domino effect coming in.

CT: Is there a big sense of pride in the fact that your class essentially made Miami a dynasty?

GM: I take a big sense of pride in that. They always said that Jim Kelly's class was the class that was the best class ever to come in, and then my class, and then the class after me. My class came in, the guys I came with, Alonzo Highsmith, Melvin Bratton…that class was the class that really started it.

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