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Mike Riley Must Be Allowed To Fail

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It was an pretty good weekend for the Big Ten Conference. On Friday I said that it was a weekend for the Big Ten to take care business and they mostly did. In fact, most of the conference crushed their opponents. Even Rutgers bounce back from last week's loss to trounce Morgan State 65 – 0. Purdue was impressive in their win over Missouri and while Michigan struggled with Air Force they eventually pulled it out by double digits in the end.Only two teams lost. Illinois lost to USF as was expected. Then there was this other team that lost despite being a double digit favorite.

There were some other big upsets around the nation. UCLA lost to Memphis, and you wonder how long the Bruins are going to put up with Jim Mora. Stanford was upset by San Diego State, Mississippi State beat the hell out of LSU, and Vanderbilt moved to 3-0 by upsetting Kansas State. Get this – it was the first nonconference win over a ranked opponent by Vanderbilt since 1946. That is one hell of a long streak to overcome.

The USC – Texas game Saturday night was one of the more fun games so far this season. That's two times I've watched Texas and enjoyed the hell out of the game and in both occasions the Longhorns lost. Quarterback play on both sides of the ball in the fourth quarter was just amazing, especially Texas' true freshman quarterback Sam Ehlinger.

Overall, it was an excellent weekend for college football… Except for that just one thing…


It occurred to me that it's going to be "work" to be a Nebraska fan this season. I still have hope that this team is going to pull its head out of a dark place and go on to win most of its games. I still have hope that they can save their head coaches job, because I don't think it will do us any good to keep up the lather, rinse, repeat scenario of hiring and firing coaches when they don't meet our expectations. This is not to say that I have a lot of faith in Mike Riley's coaching staff, but I still have a lot of hope.

Let's go back to that "work" comment.

For most of my life it's been pretty easy to be a Nebraska fan. Tom Osborne's teams steamrolled opponents who were physically inferior and probably had fewer real athletes than the northern Illinois team we lost two on Saturday. We came down to one or two big games a season, and Osborne is known for winning those games in a hot streak in the 90s. Previously he was known for not "winning the big one”, but we tend to forget that, as is common in myth making.

Even beyond Osborne it's been easy. You can whine about not winning a conference title since 1999 and how hard it's been, but even most of those years Nebraska has had winning records along with division titles. When you’re thinking about how hard it is to be a fan, don't compare yourself to your own past – I had a younger fan this weekend tell me that the one thing he hates about being a Nebraska fan is that he hates hearing from all the older people about "how great everything used to be". Most of that is irrelevant right now.

If you want to know what I mean by "work", compare yourself to a Purdue fan. Or pick Minnesota. Or Iowa, the team we make fun of who doesn't have any trophies, but has still managed to beat us three out of the last four years. Those teams still have fans – they don't have a sellout streak to point to, but they still have fans. The fans of those teams may be making fun of you this year. They will be laughing at you and taunting you on social media.

Are you going to go run and hide and not wear your Husker gear?

This is what I mean by “work”.


Nebraska got itself into this "lather, rinse, repeat" process when a narcissistic megalomaniac fired Frank Solich after a nine-win season. Years later, another athletic director would fire Bo Pelini after nine-win season. In hindsight, it was a stupid move by both people in charge. If each of them, the athletic directors, had waited a season or two both of those coaches would've failed. Both of them would've had subpar, less than nine win, seasons. If those athletic directors would have had more patience, Nebraska fans wouldn't constantly be arguing about whether or not those should have been fired and outsiders wouldn't be pointing to the fact that Nebraska continues to fire coaches right after they have what others would consider a fairly successful season.

The problem with firing either Shawn Eichorst or Mike Riley right now is that it will once again make Nebraska look like a bunch of spoiled, petulant children for whom nothing will ever be good enough. (This might not be too far from the truth, but it's not the point of this article right now.)

Nothing says "don't come here" like turning the football program into mission impossible but without the movie ending.

Mike Riley must be allowed to fail. That failure must be total. Failure this season would be not making a bowl game. Riley has already shown that he is willing to make changes in his coaching staff, for better or worse. If he makes a bowl game this season, and makes changes to his staff then he can continue.

I see no purpose in firing Shawn Eichorst, other than people don't like him. I don't know why people don't like him, other than the stupid "he's not one of us" excuse that people give. I can understand if you're upset with the current status of the football program, but you don't fire people on a whim or because you're upset or angry. If you do you pay the price over the long-term of not having consistency in your program. Besides, Eichorst has been around long enough we might as well consider him one of us. People tend to learn from their mistakes.If Eichorst is allowed to fire Riley still stick around he probably won't pick another Riley again.

That last paragraph is based off years of consulting and watching managers and how they go about their business. There are some mistakes, made once (theft or fraud, for example), that require firing because they point to character flaws or problems that cannot be fixed. Other mistakes can be chalked up to learning experience, and if you're not going to allow people to learn from their mistakes without the fear of being fired, you are going to have one terrible organization over the long term.

Nebraska fans need to exercise patience the season. There's still an entire football season in front of us. Nebraska's goal – to win the Big Ten West - is still intact.

Can it happen?

Doubtful.

Can Nebraska make a bowl game?

Probably.

But it must be allowed to play out until the end.

Otherwise, you can count on a slow death spiral that will make the Callahan years look like good times.

News

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