clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

THE 24 HOUR RULE: Newsflash - The Huskers Have a Quarterback Problem

NCAA Football: Nebraska at Colorado
This is just happening way too often for an experienced starter.
Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports

Two games. Four Interceptions. Two fumbles (and Ervin’s should probably be credited to him but I’m quibbling).

Two games might be a little quick to pull the trigger. I get that. But it’s obvious something is very wrong here while many other parts of the team are trending in the right direction.

But enough opening remarks - nothing new is being said by the title of this article, so let’s just jump into my nickel’s worth on the subject:

Three reasons why it might be time for Sims to take a break:

1) In his weekly OWH Rewind, Sam McKewon suggested it might be a bad idea because his teammates like him and threw in the line that “social media called for it” which naturally suggests it’s automatically a terrible idea. It’s not. He also added it could turn into a Ditka-type situation where he’s bouncing QB’s back and forth.

While I don’t doubt Sims’ popularity, it was fairly obvious the team tired of overcoming his mistakes Saturday. If he had just managed an average passing performances and only 1-2 turnovers total instead of six (and few other close calls), there’s a decent chance we’re sitting on 2-0 right now. Some might argue that idea where Colorado’s concerned, but we were trashing them on both sides of the line before he went fumble, pick, punt to finish out the first half suddenly down 13-0.

Sticking with a bad situation because the replacement MAY be worse is shaky logic especially since the current results are two games of Broncos-Tim-Tebow-bad. Say Matt Rhule pulls the trigger. If the replacement is better? Good call. If he falters and Sims comes back and improves and keeps the job? Also acceptable. If it does blow up to QB’s being pulled multiple times, maybe to the point of Chubba getting in that mix?

At least you tried instead of riding out a season line trending toward something like 148/260 for 1600 yards with 11 TDs, 22 INTs and who knows how many lost fumbles.

2) Two more points:

a) This is a previous 3-year starter in a Power 5 conference (minus injury time), not some redshirt freshman or sophomore who needs weeks and patience to develop.

b) One of the false narratives out there is Sims was a monster turnover machine non-stop at Georgia Tech so why would we recruit that? Untrue - there had been steady improvement each season on a Yellow Jacket roster not exactly crawling with talent. He went from 13 picks in 288 attempts as a frosh to 7 in 188 (fewer attempts but still a percentage improvement) the next season to 3 in 188 attempts last year. He is in serious regression mode right now with 4 picks in only 34 tosses through 2 games.

3) It is suggested Purdy and Haarberg are so awful they would be worse than what we’re seeing now. Given Purdy’s performance last year? Fair hesitation. Haarberg? Despite Sam calling him “a young colt”, this is his third season and if we’re honest, he should’ve seen the field last year but unfortunately found Mark Whipple’s dog house.

And don’t forget, Haarberg is a guy of whom Rhule could not speak highly enough since he arrived. So, back it up and give him his shot. Adrian Martinez sat a couple of games, handled it with class and bided his time. Sims strikes me as a guy who would do the same.

Minnesota plays tough, well-coached D, but Colorado is not a world-beating defense. Something is off with Sims and the rest of the team needs to be considered here.

Nebraska v Colorado Photo by Dustin Bradford/Getty Images

Game History Matters As Much As Practice

(A Lesson TO Learned the Hard Way in 1990)

In 1990 and 1991, a year before Tommie Frazier hit campus, the Huskers combined for a two-season record of 18-5-1. Fairly typical for Dr. Tom at that time, except for one nugget which I’m guessing is pretty rare - both seasons had split national champions and Nebraska lost to all four of them in the years they shared them. Colorado and Georgia Tech in 1990 and Washington and Miami in 1991.

(Apparently, Bill McCartney was incensed when Osborne not only didn’t vote Colorado #1 in 1990’s final poll, but also dropped them below #2 which cost the Buffy’s an undisputed title. Allegedly, Ozzie thought the 5th down win at Missouri was bullshit. And if we’re thorough, so was the phantom clipping flag with :43 left in the Orange Bowl which called back a 92-yard punt return by Rocket Ismail and preserved a 10-9 win over Notre Dame. But I digress. Also, Bill can eat a bag of ***ks.)

Anyway - in 1990’s last regular season game, starting QB Mickey Joseph went down with a brutal gash to his calf early in the 1st quarter. He was replaced by Mike Grant whose 8-19 107yds 3ints stat line looked even worse on the field than it reads. He was replaced by Tom Haase who went 1-4 4yds 1int but seemed much less overwhelmed.

For the Citrus Bowl matchup against #2 Georgia Tech, Osborne announced a practice competition between the two for the starting job. Fans had no doubt it would got to Grant and it did. Grant came out of the gate looking just as lost as he did in Norman going 0-4 through the air. With the Huskers down 21-0 in the 2nd quarter, Osborne pulled the plug and inserted Haase who led the Huskers on a scoring drive hitting Johnny Mitchell with a 30 yard TD pass. They closed to 21-14 before Tech pulled away for a 45-21 win in the second half, Haase finishing 14-21 for 209 yds and 2 TDs. Too little, too late.

Is it the exact same situation? Of course not. But it was a good lesson in trusting one’s own eyes when it comes to QB live game play.

Please also note another highly unsuccessful outing in the Surrender Whites.

Now I Talk Myself Out of a Switch & Offer An Alternative

So why am I arguing with myself? For one thing, it’s usually safer than arguing with others. For another, I’m just not very normal in general. But the main reason here is looking ahead, we’re coming to the part of the schedule we should’ve opened with.

Quick quiz: Name the other FCS teams who opened the season with back-to-back road games against Power 5 teams. Answer?

No one! (Fine, no more bitching about the schedule. But it’s stupid.)

But anyway. With Northern Illinois and Louisiana coming up, there is an opportunity to give Sims a couple more chances to right the ship, but also send the strong message the #1 job is no longer his by default because allowing the mounting mental errors to slide is not fair to the rest of the team who can lose their jobs for much less.

I do realize QB is a much different position than the other 21 but faith has to have its limits as well as a prepared back-up plan. The Huskers are averaging 11 drives/game through two contests. I would suggest giving Sims both starts but giving Haarberg four drives to work in each contest with three prior to the 4th quarter. (And if these games are close because one or the other has fumblepicked us into a mounting disaster, just go with the hot hand in the 4th.)

It accomplishes the following:

  • It gives Haarberg needed experience. Be it due to continued gameplay issues or injury (Sims has missed chunks of time the last two seasons.), odds are high he will be needed at some point this year.
  • If Sims recovers and gets his shit together against those two teams and it continues into Big 10 play, then wonderful.
  • If he plays well in the next two games, but then goes back to the Minnesota/Colorado tricks in conference play, Heinrich is better prepared to step in.
  • If it all keeps going to hell for Jeff over the next two weeks, the time for sticking with it is pretty much over and - see above - better prepared.

Yes, my coach second-guessing plus a salami sandwich will net you only a mouthful of salted cured meat, but this sounds like a much better plan than just stalwartly sticking with Sims to the bitter end. He’s been playing football for many years and he more than understands what’s happening - his feelings won’t be hurt by being told the current gameplay level cannot continue.

Hope is a wonderful thing when the chips are down, but so is solidifying said backup plan.

(Also, this is definitely not an argument about who the backup QB is. Heinrich appears to be the solid #2 right now no matter what that big “OR” the depth chart says. However, if you’re a CHUBBA-LEEVER, just insert his name for Haarberg’s above. Also, I have to Google how to copyright Chubba-leever. If he ever becomes the starter, those t-shirt sales are mine.)

Nebraska v Colorado Photo by Dustin Bradford/Getty Images

Nebraska Cornhuskers