Just think, a couple of months ago dreams of a 2010 National Championship were dancing in the heads of Nebraska Cornhusker fans from Lincoln to Chadron. My, how the times have changed.
A myriad of issues address the Cornhuskers as they begin the offseason. It's only fair to point out that not all the issues are related to the offensive side of the ball. Aside from the offense, Nebraska needs to improve on overall game management, penalties, effort and consistency.
Understandably, for most Nebraska fans, the 1,000 lb. gorilla in the room is the question of whether or not Offensive Coordinator Shawn Watson will stay or go. While I hate to be the one to deliver bad news—it is unlikely Miami hires away Watson.
The real question then, I think, is one of Bo Pelini's leadership. Pelini has already said there will be no staff changes after the bowl game. When he says this I cannot help but wonder if Bo Pelini is Bill Callahan's doppelgänger. A doppelgänger being, of course, the malevolent double of a living person.
If changes are not made and the 2010 offense carries over to the 2011 season, things could quickly turn into horror movie-script material for the Cornhuskers. Yes, I am talking about not even making a bowl.
Watson's 2010 offense was an absolute mess. Yes, there were some high points early in the year but the offense and its personnel regressed as the year dragged on. Worst of all, Nebraska's offense seemed incapable of every adjusting to other teams' defenses. The 2010 Holiday Bowl was just the exclamation point on this realization, which more or less, has been playing out for the last two seasons.
Say what you will about former Nebraska head coach Bill Callahan, it is appearing more and more that he had a positive effect on the offense and the further we get from his tenure the more things appear to unravel under Watson's system. What is really sad is the thought that Bill Callahan's ghost could be haunting Bo Pelini.
Callahan is a talented offensive mind. Did you see him on HBO's Hard Knocks? The way the New York Jets rely on him is impressive. Still, its impossible to deny that Callahan's tenure at Nebraska was a debacle. Callahan guided the Nebraska offense to impressive heights, but was too loyal to his terribly ineffective defensive staff and Defensive Coordinator Kevin Cosgrove. One could argue that Cosgrove took Callahan down and hard in 2007.
If Bo Pelini does not make changes in the coming weeks to his offensive staff, he could share a similar fate to Bill Callahan. Callahan's defense gave up 76 points to Kansas, but Pelini's offenses this year only managed to score 6 and 7 points in games against Texas A & M, Texas and Washington- none of them top tier defensive units.
Loyalty is a valuable trait. Sometimes, however, it can end up hurting people. Greg Davis was Texas' successful offensive coordinator for years under Mack Brown. This fact did not stop Brown from removing Davis this year only eleven months removed from a National Championship Game appearance.
If Texas had cause to fire its offensive coordinator this year, surely Nebraska can be justified in dumping Watson.
It's worth pointing out that other assistant offensive coaches need to be looked at closely too; it's not just Watson. Nebraska's proclivity to fumble the ball more than a meth-binged out hobo year after year would, in other programs, rightfully lead to staff changes.
Remember fans, as bummed as you are about the 2010 Holiday Bowl, it could have actually been much worse if Washington had managed to recover Martinez's two fumbles.
Finally, the good news: Nebraska has a golden parachute in this situation. Mark Mangino is available to be Offensive Coordinator. Mangino, the 2007 Coach of the Year, was probably an even better Offensive Coordinator at Oklahoma than he was a coach at Kansas. The man also ran a tight, disciplined ship at Kansas and Oklahoma on offense. Reesing and company were not nearly as talented as Nebraska's 2010 offense, but they played with more smarts, effort and effect than Nebraska has for years on offense.
At the end of the day, this falls on Bo. It takes cojones to make changes. It's easy to be loyal in this situation. Sometimes leaders have to go out on a limb and risk things, which bringing in a new Offensive Coordinator would be doing. Buy hey, that beats the alternative of Bo Pelini being the next Bill Callhan and getting fired after a 5-7 inaugural Big 10 season, in which, the offensive side of the ball fails to keep Nebraska in games against Washington, Iowa, Ohio State, Wisconsin, Penn State, Northwestern and Michigan State.