A Call to Action: Nebraska's Offensive Woes Must Not Continue

Josh KleinCorrespondent IDecember 8, 2009

I'm not in the habit of calling for people's jobs.

In fact, I'm not going to call for anyone's job; all I'm going to do is present the truth. It's for the readers to decide whether or not they think someone should keep their job.

Let's not beat around the bush. Shawn Watson is one of the only Husker coaches whose job looks like it's on the line after this season, even though the receivers and the line haven't helped with the development of the offense.

Before we look at statistics, I think it would behoove any real Husker fan to look at personnel. Zac Lee is obviously no Joe Ganz, and Cody Green seems to be too green to do any significant decision-making in pressure situations.

The No. 1 playmaker on the offense is apparently Niles Paul, who is just figuring this out near the end of his junior year. Receivers like Chris Brooks and Menelik Holt have not tapped into their potential, and Curenski Gilleylen is a fireball against the Sun Belt but a non-factor against Big 12 foes.

The lone bright spot in the offense seems to be at running back with three similar style backs: Roy Helu Jr., Rex Burkhead, and Dontrayevous Robinson. All three look good, but running behind an inconsistent offensive line has forced their performances to appear lackluster at times.

The tight ends were supposed to be a strength, but Mike McNeill barely got thrown to, Ben Cotton and Ryan Hill can't listen to a snap count, and Kyler Reed is athletic but too small to be effective on rundowns.

Looking at the offense, it seems like they have the weapons to be at least a middle-of-the-pack unit in the Big 12. Brandon Kinnie has emerged as a big target at wide receiver, and Niles Paul looks like a good deep threat.

The running game should be good with players like Burkhead and Helu carrying the load, and the offensive line comes back next year pretty much completely intact, except for center Jacob Hickman.

That being said, there has to be a reason that this offense is as ineffective as it is. That reason? Inexperience and indecisiveness at the quarterback position.

Against the two best defenses in the Big 12, Zac Lee was a combined 11-of-28 for 74 yards, one touchdown, and three interceptions. Hardly the pedigree for a Big 12 Championship quarterback.

In fact, if Lee would have done what was asked of him against Texas on Saturday and avoided making too many mistakes (instead of throwing three interceptions, two inside the 20), Nebraska is most likely up at least 15-10 with 1:44 to go in the fourth quarter.

The facts are the facts, however, and this offense, though hoisted by the defense, has effectively lost three games for Nebraska. It goes to show that it is better to have a great defense and bad offense than vice versa, as the trend was reversed in the 2007 season with only five wins.

So who is to blame for the lack of production?

Some have their scapegoats; all I have are facts.

Nebraska is ranked 102nd in the nation in total offense. That's their worst ranking since the 1960s. To make matters worse, the team that is ranked ahead of the Huskers at 101 is FBS newcomer Western Kentucky—Nebraska's first opponent next season.

To go along with that, Nebraska is ranked 80th in scoring offense, 78th in third down efficiency, 113th in first down offense, and 101st in passing offense. They are also ranked 68th in rushing offense, which is Nebraska's supposed strength.

In every offensive category, Nebraska is ranked outside of the top 50 teams in the Football Bowl Subdivision (formerly Division I-A). The same thing happened to the defense in 2007, but that team finished 5-7 instead of 9-4.

The point is that defense is always the place to start; then fill in the offensive gaps where you can. It seems to me though the gaps are widening on offense for Nebraska; without Ndamukong Suh next season, they need to close quickly because this defense might not be as dominant as it was in 2009.

To make matters worse, future Nebraska recruit Curtis Carter decommitted from the program on Sunday evening. Apparently, he didn't see where he fit in the offense anymore.

Curtis Carter is a four-star athlete with blazing speed and good hands. Running a sub 4.4 40-yard dash, he was the playmaker that Shawn Watson's offense was desperately missing. Now he is gone, probably to Missouri.

Chase Harper and Tyler Gabbert are the only high-caliber skill position players left, and it's worth considering whether Gabbert might follow Shawn Watson out the door.

It's amazing what two years will do—a broken defense to a broken offense. Husker fans are frustrated and asking why they couldn't just even out at some point.

Shawn Watson was forced out of his offense this year. It may be a cop-out, but it's true. He bit the bullet and stuck to a limited knowledge of the power running game. Instead of using the pass to open up the run, he was forced to use the run to open up the pass. That's just not Shawn Watson football.

Shawn Watson football is to be average at most things and specialists in nothing. He did the same at Colorado, never averaging better than fifth in the conference in offense. The concept is to keep the defense on its toes and off balance; sometimes it works, a lot of times it doesn't.

I think Husker coaches and fans alike can agree on one thing—something definitely needs to be done. The defense looks like it is definitely in the right place right now. If Pelini can keep them in the top 15 of the country this team can go places, but now it's about the offense.

The question on everybody's mind is, "What would this year have looked like with last year's offense?"

The funny thing about last year's offense is that Nebraska was ranked sixth in the conference in total offense. In the Big 12, Watson was average, but I think we all agree that an average offense led by a clutch quarterback and a good running back can win championships opposite a top 10 defense.

So judge for yourselves whose head you are going to call for. But remember: All a great defense needs is an average offense.

Judge for yourselves. Do you think this is an aberration or a trend for this offense? Are you willing to trudge through another year of mediocrity on the offensive side of the ball?

Who knows, we could all be wrong and see a turnaround in the bowl game. It will be interesting to see what the "Nebraska Offense" looks like against Arizona on Dec. 30.

That may determine Shawn Watson's future.