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Bye-Week Roundtable Take Two: What to Make of Scott Frost Retention?

The progress is clear. The fact it isn’t enough is also clear. What does a program do now?

NCAA Football: Ohio State at Nebraska Dylan Widger-USA TODAY Sports

The Huskers are 3-7 with two games to go. There will be no bowl game to prepare for for the fifth straight season in Lincoln. However, Scott Frost remains the head coach for at least another season, returning in 2022 with a new offensive staff, a reduced salary, and a much smaller buyout. That is a lot to digest, and the 2021 season is still going on!

Just two games remain for Nebraska, who is off this week, however - Wisconsin (road) and Iowa.

What do you want to see out of the two remaining games this season?

Nate M: Nothing. There is nothing to see. I mean what should we expect when four assistants on the same side of the ball are now gone? If the offense looks better than good. If the offense looks terrible, then that should be expected right?

Well I guess I take it back. I am interested to see how the offensive line looks? It sounds like they were really upset at the loss of Greg Austin. How hard are they going to play for Scott Frost?

Jill: I want to see...hmmm...I don’t know what I want to see. Victories would be nice, but that is a bit much to ask with the dysfunctional side of the ball now thrown into utter chaos. I guess it would be nice to see the future of Husker football. Let’s appreciate the seniors and what they have contributed to building (a clearly improved program on the back side, even if the wins haven’t accompanied that). Starters can still start, but it might be time to get some youngsters into games and get them reps.

Brian J: Youth. Now I’m not talking about benching season long starters, but maybe rotate more throughout the game. Get guys like Alante Brown, Will Nixon, Noa Pola-Gates, Thomas Fidone, and Jamari Butler some meaningful game action.

Todd: I want to see wins! That is what I want to see every time Nebraska takes the field. That’s why the coaches coach and the players play. I want to see Logan Smothers get a few series. I want the offense to go for it on four down all the time, unless they are inside their own thirty. Play with abandon and let it fly boys! There is absolutely nothing to lose!

Mike: If this team is truly close, the law of averages says that Nebraska has to have things bounce their way at some point. Let’s get a W or two, and give everyone a feeling of optimism.

Jon: Florida under Dan Mullen yesterday struggled to beat Samford. The Gators defense gave up 42 points IN THE FIRST HALF against a FCS team that lost 55-13 to Chattanooga earlier in the season. Mullen had fired his defensive coordinator much like Frost fired his offensive staff. While we may not see anything great from the offense, what we cannot see is a team that’s given up. That would indicate keeping Frost is a mistake, that this team doesn’t care about him, and that we need to do something different. There are still games to play for. That better be clear or it’s another wasted year or an unexpected firing after a deal has already been struck.

Are you pro or negative on keeping Scott Frost as head coach for at least another season?

Nate M: I’m definitely pro keeping Frost for one more season. I’ve been on the side that I hope he embraces being the CEO of the team and can keep an eye on more of the details (special teams?). I think it was Bill Snyder who ended up taking on the special teams role at Kansas State and he got to keep in touch with more of the players instead of just players on one side of the ball.

Jill: I felt like there were good arguments either way. I can’t say I’m pro or nay, but I have felt like Nebraska can’t fire its way to being a winning program. After being the place where 9 wins wasn’t good enough, we’re in for a long slog back to those days. We’re going to have to live with growing pains of a coach who is young and a fan base who shared his belief that is was only a matter of time before the Huskers took their rightful place among the Big Ten elite. The clock is definitely ticking though. The wins have to start coming or Frost will have built the base of the program back for someone else.

Brian J: If they would have moved on from Frost after this season I wouldn’t have batted an eye. We are seeing the same mistakes for four straight seasons. If this was year two, that’s fine, but it’s year four. I’m fine with Frost coming back with a retooled offensive staff. He’s got a year to prove it.

Kevin: Negative. The only reason to keep him is saving money. A competent P5 coach would have made a bowl game this season. Scott Frost is not a competent P5 coach.

Todd: Scott Frost should have been let go. He gives me nothing to believe that he is going to be a top-notch Power Five head football coach. Time to move on.

Mike: All of the advanced analytics concur that Nebraska is, in fact, close.

To me, this is absolutely the evidence anyone needs that Frost has improved this program, but the disconnect between those computer rankings and the record requires some changes to the program. With no doubt, retaining Frost was the right decision.

Jon: I don’t think he’ll be successful, but what the hell. The decision is made, I have no input, so why bother worrying more about it at this point.

There are few examples of a coach with Frost’s record working out at Power-Five programs. Do you think Frost will prove one of the rare exceptions in giving him more time?

Nate M: I think it all depends on who he hires. If he’s successful in the hires then he will be successful. When Nebraska is as “close” as it has been compared to how things were when he got here then he was definitely doing something right. His offense just has not been good enough for this team to win. Get that fixed and there’s no reason to think it shouldn’t work.

Jill: I really don’t know. It feels like he is being given one year, but blowing up the offensive side of the ball and the attrition that is likely to come along with that could set that part of the program back more than we think. Nate is right, the hires Frost makes feel like they will be big.

But, we say that every time Nebraska hires anyone in football, so...

Brian J: Jim Harbaugh showed this season that you can get one more year and make something out of it. I hope he does. I want him to have success. If he’s able to let someone else run the offense and be the CEO I think he can do it. But it’s hard for a coach to give up their expertise.

Kevin: Jim Harbaugh averaged 9.4 wins in his five seasons prior to 2020. Harbaugh continues to struggle with beating quality teams/his rivals this year, but he continues to beat teams he should as he heads to a 9-11 win season this year depending on how he does against PSU (will be tough with UM’s injuries) and his bowl game opponent (lololol, he’s not beating Ohio State).

Scott Frost averaged 4.5 wins in his first two seasons. He hasn’t finished with a .500 season and seems destined to finish below his average in year four, possibly with as few as three wins. His record is so bad because he continues to lose to teams he shouldn’t lose to, unlike Harbaugh. This is because he is a bad P5 coach whose teams predictably continue to self-destruct in a way that reflects on the coach despite his attempts to blame the players loss after loss. The two situations really aren’t comparable because it is a Bo Pelini on the one hand versus a coach worse than John L. Smith on the other.

Todd: Nope. He doesn’t have “it.” He has not been able to get his team to eliminate physical and mental mistakes, and they still do not play disciplined football. Dumping four of five assistants on the offensive side of the ball — his own area of specialty — is desperation.

Mike: I have to wonder about those people who have spent hours, if not days, digging through a hundred years of college football to pull out this “evidence”. We all know that Scott Frost’s record is horrible; I’m spending more time writing this sentence than it takes to figure that out. But wins/losses are the cumulative result of dozens, if not hundreds of factors, and there are some key areas where the program is failing. On the other hand, Erik Chinander’s defense looks promising, and the offense has shown flashes of being explosive. It just isn’t consistent, and some of Frost’s staff changes target that. The departures of Greg Austin and Mario Verduzco are easy to explain; all you have to do is watch the games to see those are key positions of weakness. The departures of Matt Lubick and Ryan Held are tougher to grasp, in my opinion. To me, it means one of two things: either there were deeper issues with the offensive staff than were visible to outside observers, or Frost is just flushing everything in desperation. I’m hoping it’s not the latter, because that would seem to be evidence that Nebraska should have just moved on from Frost.

Jon: No. I hope he does. I hope I’m wrong.

What, in your mind, would mark success in 2022 to warrant keeping Scott Frost at the helm in 2023?

Nate M: Minimum six wins but I think we should expect 7-8.

Jill: Wins.

Brian J: We all know what happened to Frank Solich in his final year as the team won 9 games with his retooled staff. For Solich he was fired because Steve Pederson was Steve Pederson. If Frost’s new offensive staff can have the same impact as Pelini’s hire did, then bring him back. But anything else should be grounds for removal.

Kevin: I have to wonder at people who have to resort to spending so much time compiling advanced stats rankings as “evidence” that can magically overrule on-the-field performance through six years as a head coach. Trying to use those metrics to dismiss the overwhelming evidence a coach is not good and will somehow magically change his massive shortcomings in year seven is baffling to me. Scott Frost could go anywhere from 3-9 to, at best, 7-5 in 2022. Even the latter would see multiple West Division losses that result in falling far short of a division title. Reality is I don’t see how he can finish even as high as No. 3 in the standings next year, and so he should be dismissed.

Todd: No more than one loss, conference championship, and a spot in the playoffs. With the schedule next year, he should be able to sleepwalk to eight wins. In my mind that proves nothing.

Mike: Well, we have all sorts of extreme (!) opinions on this, and I’m in the middle. Six wins is almost certainly not enough. We’ve referred to the “Quadrangle of Hate” with Iowa, Minnesota and Wisconsin, and Frost has exactly one win against those opponents in three seasons (plus one 2021 game) thus far. By the end of 2023, Frost needs to have at least two more victories in those games.

Jon: The schedule is much easier than this year. I expect Nebraska to contend for the West. That will be his fifth year. If he can’t do that... either get rid of him or resign yourself to being Iowa, a team that’s perfectly happy with a slightly above average coach who hires his son to run an incredibly crappy offense.

Any predictions for the remaining two games? (If you dare)

Nate M: I really don’t see how we win the next two games against two of the best defenses in the country with an offense that was already struggling and is now down four assistant coaches on that side.

Jill: What Nate said.

Brian J: I think it’s much the same. Nebraska will be competitive but end up losing two games. I think Iowa is Nebraska’s best shot to win, but they have to avoid turnovers. I wouldn’t be surprised to see some new wrinkles which could catch both teams off guard.

Todd: I said above I want to see wins. I doubt that will happen. What we will see is what the team thinks about Scott Frost. So far, they have not quit and have played hard in every game. Whether that happens in the last two games will give a good indication of what they think about their head coach.

Mike: I’ll come out and say it: Nebraska beats Iowa.

Jon: I’m with Mike. 3-9 in the fourth year... give us something to have hope about. Please? You’re getting paid shit tons of money to figure this out.