Today, Scott Frost becomes the latest Nebraska football coach to try and live up to the standards of Bob Devaney and Tom Osborne. Frank Solich and Bo Pelini, while close at times, weren’t quite there. Bill Callahan and Mike Riley weren’t even remotely close. Each of these individuals did some things right, but came up short in other areas. And each probably lives in infamy in the minds of some Husker fans.
Will Scott Frost join the ranks of “those other guys” or “Devaney/Osborne”? We hope it’s the latter, but there’s always the risk of the former. In fact, if you talk to some of old friends in the Big XII or our new friends in the Big Ten, they’d argue that it’s the “likelihood” of it being the former. To them, Nebraska is futily trying to recapture the glory of an era that has long since passed, and will never, ever return.
Maybe they’re right. Hopefully they are wrong.
One thing that is different this time is that, by appearances, Nebraska seems to be more united than at any time in the last 20-plus seasons. It’s something that was clear to Frost last fall when he took the job, and seems to be more clear as the season approaches. One of the reasons why “those other guys” failed was that the environment outside the program didn’t help them succeed, each to varying degrees. It started with an administration that thought they knew more than they actually did, and progressed with fans, media and former players who were quick to provide their feedback. Or perhaps better stated: condemnation.
Was that feedback right or wrong? Let’s not rehash those debates, except to observe that some of those conclusions also came with a sense of finality that had the effect of sucking the oxygen out of the program.
Why am I bringing this up? Simple: Scott Frost will make mistakes. His assistants will make mistakes. His players will certainly make mistakes. There’s not a problem with pointing out mistakes. We can’t go around presumptively declaring failure.
I’ve done that in the past. This isn’t about pointing blame anymore. This isn’t about whitewashing problems either. This is simply about trusting Frost and his staff to fix what’s broken in the program. And as we saw last season, there’s an awful lot that was broken in the program.
This is going to take time. Mistakes are going to be made, and for every two steps forward we see, we might see a step backward. If we see a general trend of progress towards what we want, everyone should accept it for what it is. That doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t ignore those steps backward; go ahead and point it out. Say it sucked. But we need to stop calling for someone to be “held responsible” for it. Let the coaching staff figure out how best to correct the problems.
I’ve sensed a bit of a change in the fan base over the last nine months. The best example I have is the whole issue of awarding the Blackshirts. In May, Frost suggested that the Blackshirts might not be awarded at the start of the season. And when this week came with no Blackshirts, was there any uproar, like in past seasons? (Or earlier this summer, for that matter.) No. Less outrage and drama is a good thing. It’s progress.
Patience is my plea here. Mistakes will happen. Let’s not be in any rush to declare any sort of failure in this program. (We all know what failure looks like now.) If Frost fails, where does the program turn next? It’s a sobering thought, so let’s not even go there.
Failure is simply not an option.