Our beloved Huskers are sitting at 2-3 with the most recent loss to Michigan at a score of 45-7. Fans and media are responding. There is concern from many, but not me. I have a million things in my head so forgive me if this is excessive or chaotic.
Matt Rhule thinks like me so he must be really smart. Well, we are at least likeminded when it comes to processes and standards. I’m guessing he is a smidge smarter than me. I approach life focused on standards and processes. I have come to find they give the best long-term results and it feels really good when I have a singular focus and purpose, as Simon Sinek would say, "A Why." Matt Rhule has repeatedly stated that it is about the process, not the outcome. Ah, music to my ears. But, you say, we are not good this year. Yep, and that’s OK. Because, I see the following happening and I have absolute faith in that process.
How many former walk-ons are now on scholarship? While we love those stories and those players, as a group they simply are not of the same caliber as highly rated recruits. I know, there are exceptions but I’m talking about the collective. We will not be highly competitive until we put highly competitive athletes into the system. Yes, there will be some exceptions and they will be great stories. I’m looking at you Luke Reimer, I.M. Hipp, and Jared Tomich. But the draft rate tells the story. There are many stories out there that provide data with some variance but the conclusions are consistent: higher recruiting rankings result in higher draft probabilities and higher draft rounds. Rhule has shown he can recruit. The hope is that his recruiting efforts will yield more dividends as win totals increase. History has shown this to be true in most cases so I will have faith it will be true for Rhule.
I don’t have any data here and chose to not do the research. The consensus seems to be that Rhule has a knack for identifying and developing talent. I’ll just trust the majority in this case.
The Process of Practice
You’ve heard the old adage, "Practice makes perfect." Not true. Perfect practice makes perfect. While I don’t believe in perfection in anything, the idea still stands and I support the process of seeking perfection even when we know we cannot achieve it. I don’t get to see practice so I’m just trusting that it is happening. From what I’ve seen from the defense this year, I have to believe they have taken their practice to the next step. I think the offense is limited by talent (lack of) and previous failures but I do see progress with the group. We can identify players or position groups as failing but that is contrary to the discussion in this case. As a team, I can see positive change.
The Process of Culture
From my readings and life experiences, when something has internal meaning, it motivates. Internal meaning and motivation are what propel us forward. External meaning and motivation are short-term and will not sustain long-term success. They have even caused regression, spiraling, and devastation. This might interfere with want we want today, but it will give us what we want in retirement and for our children and grandchildren. Isn’t that what this whole journey is about? The ending? Have you ever read a good book or seen a good movie only to have the ending take a sudden, horrible turn? Yeah, let’s avoid that. There are so many examples of things that have gone badly in our world. Those can often be attributed to an externally motivated culture or a deviation from the standard. Culture takes time but is well worth the pain.
Why is this so hard for so many? Because we are an impatient species and the more our society develops, the more impatient we get. Think about it. I used to have to go to the library to get information. Now, I have to use energy to maintain patience when a web page doesn’t load in a few seconds. God forbit if my computer freezes and I have to do a reboot. Excellence/mastery/expertise (choose your word) take time.
Malcolm Gladwell wrote a book about the 10,000 hours it takes. While the number varies based on the task, the idea is valid. I don’t know how many hours it takes to master the game of football but it doesn’t really matter for this exercise of the mind. Basically, more hours mean more exposure and more learning. However, that path can be interrupted – injury, coaching changes, scheme changes, life changes and distraction, etc. Regardless of how good any player was when Rhule got here, there is probably at least a small regression as he adapted to Rhule’s coaching and systems. The more mature and experienced that athlete is, the easier that transition is.
This is based on transference, transcendence, and interdisciplinary skills. I heard and read so many admitting they just wanted to see progress this year, even if that progress didn’t translate to wins. However, now I’m hearing and reading from many how bad it is because we are losing. They may be different voices but I think those who preached patience have forgotten to practice their preachings. I don’t mean to call out or insult anyone but am just bringing attention to one of our human tendencies – impatience.
The other thing no one wants to admit is we will always want more. When we have nothing, we want something. When we get a little, we want a little more. It never ends. If we go 15-1 every year with the one loss being in the national championship game, we will complain. We will talk about our poor quarterback play. We will criticize our offensive line. We will want more. If we pull off the 16-0 and win it all, we will probably go back and look at the season to find out what we did wrong. "We should have beat that team by 35 but it was only 34 because of the missed PAT. Oh, the shame." "We only got eight 5-star recruits in this cycle? How could they not land that other guy? Really? We let Texas beat us out in recruiting that guy?" (Yep, I chose Texas just to rile you all up.)
I’m travelling to Chicago for eight days on Tuesday. My wife’s family lives there. I love them but eight days is way too much time to spend with those crazy people. So, when we planned this trip, I looked at some things to do. Hey, look! Nebraska football is in Champaign. I think I’ll try to go. This was a few months ago, before the season started. Then we lost the first two games and I started thinking it might not be worth my time. Then we won two games but there were still a lot of issues present and neither of those opponents looks very good so I decided to look for other things to do. I found out Nebraska volleyball is playing in East Lansing on Friday and Ann Arbor on Saturday. I have never been to Michigan and thought that might a fun little two-day excursion.
Then, my-oh-my, Michigan came to town. They showed us how far Nebraska football is behind the elite. The fan base now seems either despondent or angry, depending on their disposition. You know who you are. Some in the media really went after the team. I’m looking at you Sipple. But, I simply realized this is who we are right now. Nothing will change that so it is probably a good time for me to step up as a fan and show them that I care. I’ll see you all in Champaign on Friday.
Finally, it’s time to edit Papa Jon’s infamous quote. "There is hope. Fuck you naysayers. GO BIG RED!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!"