If I'm Ron Brown, I'm either thanking the Good Lord for being spared the wrath of the last couple of weeks, or quietly wondering why everyone has ignored him for the last week. It seems Brown is the only Husker coach who hasn't been the target of speculation or criticism in the last couple of weeks...and for the most part, the speculation and criticism is really unfounded.
I get why people are a little uppity around the Husker fan base; I'm not happy with how the Big XII Championship game turned out either. But to borrow a saying from Bill Callahan: "It is what it is." I don't have an explanation as to why Taylor Martinez was allowed to finish the game, and I don't think we're going to get one. The coaches made their decision, and they have to live with it.If that was the limit of the criticism, I could possibly sign off on it. But for the last 10 days, it's been one thing after another. Criticism of Shawn Watson's record in Big XII Championship games. The pursuit of Bo Pelini by the University of Miami. Rumors of Carl Pelini, John Papuchis, Ted Gilmore, and Mike Ekeler leaving. Lack of production at times by Barney Cotton's offensive line. After a while, it's gotten a little excessive.
Let's start with Watson. Watson's record in Big XII Championship games in recent years is not so good, but let's not forget what he had to work with. A 2005 Colorado team fighting off the death spiral of the Gary Barnett era, and against a Texas team that went on to win a national championship. A 2009 Nebraska team that struggled to find healthy I-backs, offensive lineman, and a quarterback on the field. We knew those teams weren't great offensive teams for various reasons. 2010 looked like it was going to break that mold...until Taylor Martinez limped off the field just before halftime of the Missouri game. Martinez was never the same though he was back in the game for a couple of the games, but without his game-breaking speed, the offense suffered. Some blame Watson for this, but let's remember that football is quickly becoming a quarterback driven game. How good would Auburn have been without Cam Newton this season? How important was Colt McCoy for Texas last year?
I say this not to imply that Watson should be praised for his offense, but rather that fans remember that when Nebraska was down two of the Huskers three game-breakers in the biggest game of the year, you have to expect a bit of a struggle. Is Watson going to Vanderbilt? Don't know. But be careful what you wish for. People were awfully excited about Bill Callahan running the Nebraska offense in 2004, but by 2007, most Husker fans would have gladly used up their vacation time to help Callahan pack up his house after that Oklahoma State game.
I've heard criticism after criticism of Bo Pelini in the last week, starting with the rumors regarding Miami. The story out of Miami carried on for days without any basis in reality. Every Pelini statement was then dissected and rehashed to look for what wasn't being said. Did anybody ever follow through in Miami to try and validate the story? Hardly. Instead, idle speculation became validated in a vacuum. Nature abhors a vacuum, and the media wouldn't accept anything less than an "I'm planning to stay at Nebraska for the next 40 years." Of course, all you have to do is look at Nick Saban and realize that even that isn't going to cut it. It's a lose-lose proposition for coaches who don't want to have to debunk the story every time someone makes up a rumor. (See Martinez, Taylor, re: transfer/suspension)
Did Bo Pelini talk to someone about the Miami job? He probably took one phone call, and that's about it. And that phone call likely might have been placed cold, with no forewarning as to what was happening or going to happen. So when the media kept rehashing the same old story, Pelini was forced to issue a statement, which then was promptly hashed up to identify what wasn't said. Then yesterday, things went from silly to absurd when someone asked Pelini about his birthday. My guess is Pelini took that question as "we have nothing else to ask, so this discussion is over." And of course, the media then runs with it. Even sportswriters in Columbia, Missouri try to make something out of it.
I'm not saying that there aren't questions about where Nebraska football is, but I've had enough of fans and media making mountains out of molehills. In case people haven't realized it, Nebraska's won two more games in under three years with Bo Pelini than they won in four years under Bill Callahan. Nebraska football isn't quite back, but it's closer than it has been since the start of the millenium. Last week, ESPN's Colin Cowherd suggested that Pelini might be considered by some to be in the same class as Nick Saban and Urban Meyer. That's excessive hyperbole, because Pelini doesn't have the resume those two gentlemen have... yet.. That being said, I think it's something that everybody around these parts need to keep in mind. There's a lot of good things happening with Nebraska football; there's no need to obsess or rumor about something bad. Criticism is one thing, but let's have some balance out there.
Frankly, if I'm Ron Brown, I'm thinking now's the time to schedule another school presentation. Maybe a good distraction by the ACLU will quiet out much of the criticism. Or maybe he can get away with one, especially if Watson takes the offensive coordinator job with Texas.