Nebraska's coming off a rather dispiriting 36-30 loss to UCLA in Week 2, one in which the vaunted Nebraska defense gave up, according to our notes...eighty-thousand miles of offense. Wait, that can't be right. No no, 635 yards. That's the official statistic. But it might as well be to the moon and back, because that's about where Husker fans' anger took them after the loss.
And if you thought fans were mad, think about the guys whose jobs are to coach that defense.
To that end, first-year defensive coordinator John Papuchis was in no mood for shenanigans when he addressed fans at the weekly Big Red Breakfast, a gathering prior to Husker football games every Friday morning in which an assistant coach discusses the program, the upcoming game and any other things you'd expect a coach to discuss with fans on a weekly basis.
So when a fan asked Papuchis a relatively (yet not perfectly) innocuous question about the team's goals now that a national championship wasn't in the picture, Papuchis let him have it. Watch and "enjoy."
Now, here's the thing about Papuchis' response: Nothing about the words he chose was objectionable. He didn't attack the fan personally, and he didn't say anything that, when transcribed, puts himself, the football program or the university in a negative light. It was a passionate defense of Nebraska football, and that's all.
That being said, that was a very inappropriate tone to take with a fan—a person whose emotional well-being depends on your program's success and who wants the best for you. Papuchis didn't need to interrupt the fan, he didn't need to raise his voice in the process and he didn't need to put the fan on the spot with that voting question.
That was dishonestly reductive logic on Papuchis' part, and we think he knows it.
Moreover, that "the world was crumbling for a lot of you this week" crack at the beginning of the video is needlessly belittling and dismissive. What good does it do to make fans feel bad about earnestly and unironically investing themselves in the successes and failures of your program?
No, fandom is not the healthiest mindset, but football programs depend on the financial backing of the types of people for whom the world starts crumbling when you lose in Week 2 to UCLA. You know where the fans are all able to handle losses with ease and just turn the TV off and be happy?
The MAC. The mid-majors. FCS ball. Ask those football programs how their revenues are doing, how pricey their TV contracts are.
We get that Papuchis was hating the loss as much as the fans. We believe his sincerity in stating that the team is still focused on the national championship, and we understand his annoyance at being told by someone who doesn't work with the program that the team's goals are lower than what he knows they are.
But a good steward of the football team keeps his cool better than that.
A good steward lets the misguided fan finish, he corrects him gently and he makes the same point Papuchis made with tact and grace—and he doesn't end up on YouTube or elsewhere on the Internet with words like "lashes out" in the headline afterwards.
With any luck, Papuchis will learn that in time.