Great Debate: Mullen “Settled” by Hiring Manny Diaz


Dec 31, 2014; Miami Gardens, FL, USA; Mississippi State Bulldogs head coach Dan Mullen waves off his players from the field after losing to the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets in the 2014 Orange Bowl at Sun Life Stadium. Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets won 49-34. Mandatory Credit: Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

There was lots of speculation that Dan Mullen was preparing to hire Manny Diaz as the new Defensive Coordinator for Mississippi State. We learned yesterday, that it was made official and Diaz will take the reins of the defense once again. News of this announcement was met with an overwhelming meh. There was a word being used to describe the hire throughout the fan base: settled.

Did Dan Mullen just settle for a guy that he was familiar with? It’s possible, but why do we say that? Is it because Diaz is only a mediocre coach? Is it because Diaz left us for greener pastures after the 2010 season? If we want a definite answer, we have to look at what Diaz has done in his career.

Middle Tennessee State University
Diaz came to MTSU after spending time as the safeties coach and linebackers at North Carolina State. He spent four years as the defensive coordinator for the Blue Raiders. Here are some of the accomplishments that the defense attained under the leadership of Diaz.

  • Led the conference in sacks and tackles for loss twice
  • Finished no lower than third in either of those categories in his four years there
  • In 2009, finished 2nd nationally in tackles for loss and sixth nationally in sacks

The MTSU defense made lots of big plays. The result of that helped Diaz secure a job with Mississippi State as their defensive coordinator in 2010. The defense of the Bulldogs in the first year under Mullen was terrible, so Mullen brought in Diaz to get that side of the ball back on track.

Mississippi State University
The Bulldogs defense made remarkable strides under Diaz in 2010. The unit ranked 22nd in the country in scoring defense giving up just under 20 points a game. They were also 17th in rushing defense and tackles for loss that year. How big of turnaround was it? In those same three categories the previous year, the Bulldogs ranked 71st, 62nd, and 89th respectively.

With the drastic turnaround, Diaz was hired by Mack Brown to lead the Longhorns’ defense in 2011. This is where the narrative of Manny’s career changes.

Texas lost Defensive Coordinator Will Muschamp to the Florida when he took the head coaching position for the Gators. There were some improvements to the defense in 2011, but the 2012 season saw the Longhorns put up their worst defense ever. The failures of the defense culminated during the second game of the 2013 season against BYU. The Longhorns gave up 679 yards of offense to the Cougars, 550 of which were rushing yards. Diaz would be fired after that game. Louisiana Tech would hire him the following January.

Louisiana Tech
The Bulldogs of Louisiana Tech had absolutely no where to go but up. In 2013, Louisiana Tech was dead last in defense. The defense gave up 568 yards a game in 2013, so they had to make major improvements. And they certainly did. In 2014, they went from the 120th ranked defense to the 51st ranked defense. They gave up 356 yards of offense a game, a 213 yard improvement. Diaz proved that he still knew how to coach a defense.

My take
The reason why this is being met with such indifference is because of his failures at Texas. Every where he has gone, Diaz has had success every where but there. There are lots of theories why Texas has struggled so much recently, but it has colored the way many view the hire. I don’t think Mullen settled by hiring Diaz. I think he made a hire that he is comfortable with. The working relationship between Mullen and Diaz was arguably the best among all the guys he has hired as the Defensive Coordinator. From what I can tell, Mullen didn’t want Diaz to go in the first place, so he hired a guy he was comfortable having on staff. If Diaz can produce the type of numbers he did in 2010, then the future is bright for Mississippi State in 2015.