This is what I’d do, since I clearly know how to run a major college football program. The rest of you, take notes.
1) Don’t fire Bill Callahan. Buy out his contract and offer him a position as a recruiting coordinator or position coach for a couple of years. Whether or not he has the makeup to be a head coach is still fairly debatable, but he’s made the rounds coaching offenses over the years, both in the college and pro ranks. Let him coach the offensive line. Put him in charge of recruiting. Those are two things we know he’s good at. If he wants to stay a college coach he’ll adapt, otherwise he’ll have to take his dog and pony show back to the NFL and hope somebody forgot about the 2003 Oakland Raiders. Unfortunately though, the kind of team he’s run over the last few years reminds you of some offbrand electronics component made in Taiwan: looks shiny when you pull it out of the box for the first time, but after awhile you come to the conclusion that you should have bought the more expensive, name-brand component made in Japan instead.
2) Do fire Kevin Cosgrove. This has to be done. His defenses consistently ranked in the 50s at Wisconsin, and this year it’s much worse. Chase Daniel had a career day against Nebraska. The defense has generated all of 6 sacks so far this year. There is no pass rush, a soft pass defense, tackling issues, motivation problems, you name it. Cosgrove is in his fourth year of scheming against Big 12 spread offenses and the results just aren’t there. Who do you replace him with? Dan McCarney. Mike Stoops. Grant Wistrom. Some Division I-AA hotshot.
3) The rest of the position coaches need to be taken on a case-by-case basis. Strength and conditioning is being questioned. Both lines are playing poorly. The wide receivers still have the dropsies. Sam Keller seems to be doing ok, which would be a testament to effective quarterback coaching, but we don’t know about the other guys because the system doesn’t allow for a backup quarterback to get meaningful snaps right now. You almost can’t judge running back production because the offensive line doesn’t allow for much margin of error.
4) Buy out Steve Pedersen’s contract and put him on the street. The reasons are well-documented, but the chief one should be to extend an olive branch to the old guard and to the state. The last thing anybody needs is for guys like Broderick Thomas, Damon Benning, Christian Peter, Steve Warren, etc., to spend time on the radio in Omaha and Lincoln talking about how the program has gone downhill under Steve Pedersen’s watch where fans can listen and get discouraged in the program. I’m not saying all the decision-making in the football department should be held accountable to random people that used to play at Nebraska, but there are way too many stories of the current athletic director shutting out former players and coaches from the program to ignore. That’s just wrong, and it needs to end. The fans need to come first – this isn’t Los Angeles, and there aren’t 17 million people in line for tickets. There are enough, but there aren’t 17 million. The program really needs to handle the fan base with kid gloves.
5) And while we’re looking at the athletic director position, I’d split that in half: an actual athletic director that oversees all programs except football, and a football director who does the same thing an AD would do except they’d work strictly with the football program. That includes fundraising, TV deals, having the final say on staff changes, and most importantly engaging in public relations with John Q. Public.
6) As a measure of goodwill to the state and to the old guard, bring Tom Osborne back into the fold to serve in some capacity, but not as a head coach. He retired from that job ten years ago because he wanted to retire while he could walk away. He’s 70 years old now. Give him a year-to-year deal and let him work 8-5 on whatever he wants. If he wants to help run the offense and mentor some young hotshot offensive coordinator for a couple of years, let him do that. If he wants to be the athletic director, let him do that. Just put him someplace where he’ll be visible to the public and people can see that he’s doing something to help the program out. For all the times over his 25-year tenure that Nebraska fans wanted his job on a plate, right now he’s the security blanket that will take the heat off of any new head coach or athletic director for a good couple of years.
7) Establish the following criteria for a new head coach, and find somebody to suit:
- Established record of success in the college ranks, or a reasonably successful NFL coach willing to adapt to college football instead of wanting to force a college football program to adapt to the NFL.
- No coachspeak, no diplomacy, no white lies. This state won’t stand for it. If you get beat by 4 touchdowns, don’t stand at the podium after the game and say you saw some positives to take into next week’s practice.
- Must be willing to feature the running game, and not the glorified single wing that Frank Solich was running. Nebraska football is defined by running the ball. The West Coast Offense experiment was interesting, but it’s not what this state hung its hat on for so long.
That’s enough for now.