Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Angry Fan: Pelini Not Saban! Arrgh!!! Bad!

There's no denying that Nebraska fans are disappointed over the 2011 Husker football season.  Some are downright angry, and much to my surprise, seemingly giving up on Bo Pelini. They aren't quite calling for Pelini to be fired; they just express total pessimism for the future of Nebraska football.  Take this entry from Brian Towle of HuskerLocker, where he compares Pelini to Nick Saban, he of the three national championship rings.

Saban's on top of his game right now, with two AP national championships in the last three years.  Add in his 2003 title with LSU and every Saban recruiting class since 2000 has a national championship.  An impressive stat, even if you factor in Saban's two years in the NFL and that his final LSU recruiting class earned their national championship with Les Miles, not Saban, as head coach.  Oh, and a defensive coordinator named Bo Pelini.

Saban's job hopping earned him hate from Michigan State fans, LSU fans , and Miami Dolphin fans. Everybody loves Raymond?  Everybody (except 'Bama fans) hate Nick.  And when Saban bolts from Tuscaloosa (not a question of if, but when), Bama fans will join the Saban hate parade.

But Saban's got the resume now.  Funny thing, though...is that Saban didn't always have that resume.

6-5-1.  6-6.  7-5.  6-6.

That's Saban's coaching record his first four years at Michigan State.  25-22-1. 53% winning percentage.  An improvement over his predecessor (19-26, 42%).  But look at Pelini:  38-16 in his first four years at Nebraska for a 70% winning percentage. An even bigger improvement over his predecessor (27-22, 55%).

So Pelini's had better results than Saban in his first four years.  But what about the other criticism, such as an athletic department not demanding excellence?  I'm still trying to understand that one.  How do you hold a coach "accountable" for "only" going 9-4? Seriously.  I agree that 9-4 is disappointing for Nebraska this season, but please tell me how you hold a coach "accountable" for going 9-4.

Coaching and player development?  Not quite sure where he's going with this one, but he's blaming Pelini for not "prodding or reigning in his offensive coordinator".  Which is it?  Should Nebraska have been more aggressive or less aggressive offensively?  Towle doesn't say...just that Pelini's bad.  Saban recruits all year long...then implies that Pelini doesn't.  Implies, but doesn't back that implication up with any evidence.

It's angry fan talking.  And since not everybody shares the "grab the pitchforks and torches" uproar in loud (and of course, non-violent) protest, that must mean we're just peachy keen pleased with a four loss season. Here's the problem with that:  show me someone who's happy with that at Nebraska.  Nobody's happy.  It's just that some fans recognize that there are worse things than going 9-4 at Nebraska.  It's called perspective.

And that's something that Angry Fan is lacking right now.  Hopefully outbursts like this are cathartic...and that we get this out of our system quickly.

Pelini has been a better head coach than Nick Saban was in his first four years.  Hopefully, Pelini will continue to improve.  But criticizing Pelini for not being Saban is rather excessive at this point.  Pelini deserves a lot of criticism:  blowout losses and a porous secondary, for starters.  But his record to date has more than earned him time (and much more of it) to resolve those problems.


Brian_Towle said...

Ahh yes.. ANGRY FAN is what I'm called I see. Which is fine if this is the only piece you have seen from me ever. Which it isn't.

Making reference to Saban's first few years is a fair rebuttal, something that I honestly didn't think of when I first wrote the post. However, it was surely meant to be shown as what Bo, with his apathetic feelings towards what Saban has excelled in (recruiting, player development, and the Nebraska fan base and tradition), has clearly lacked in going on year 5 of the job.

Think about a Mich. team that turned over their entire staff last year being better than the Huskers Nebraska, on the morning of playing in Ann Arbor, had the opportunity to go to the same BCS game that Michigan won in NOLA. To put that type of performance into one game, much less one that would have put you in the Big 10 title game that you were favored to get to, is beyond disgraceful.

Bo has done well with 39 wins in his time in Lincoln. However, when you are 10-7 in your last 17 games and have not torn it up against BCS opponents, it tends to get a little watered down.

Also, with interviews at Ohio State, Penn State, and Miami while making north of $3 million/year, it tends to make someone wonder if Bo really appreciates what he have in front of him.

When talking about what to do with your OC, it really comes down to where you want the evidence placed. Against Wisconsin, Tim Beck couldn't get out of his own way in the second quarter, when he literally put to the side a running game that was keeping him in the game to let Taylor Martinez pass him out of the contest by the middle of the third quarter. In the Capital One Bowl's second half, however, Beck wouldn't open up the playbook when Nebraska had the lead.

Player development is a real easy realization too. The secondary has been the main sore spot of this defense all season, minus Dennard of course. Why is this an issue? Simple, guys like Andrew Green, Ciante Evans, Justin Blatchford and even you can say Lance Thorell were liabilities through out the whole season. When Stanley Jean-Baptiste goes from a switched over Wideout, to a game saver (OSU) to a starter, to being placed on a milk carton next to Corey Cooper and PJ Smith, what does that tell anyone?

As far as saying that "no one is happy at a 9-4 season", you would be surprised. Visitors at our site (north of 10k daily) are actually very happy that Bo hit 9 wins this year. Why? Because TO hit 9 wins every year and that's the "golden standard" that others want to place on Bo. Now, that does not mean they are right, in that 9 wins in the late 70's-early 80's was similar, because it isn't. Those years, Tom only had 11/12 games a year. Now, when you play at few as 12 games and as many as 14 in a season, that's okay? 9 wins then = 75% winning percentage, where now 9 wins every 13-14 games is nothing more than a sub-70% win total.

And, as far as the AD holding him accountable? That's very simple. Nebraska has not had a Conference title going on now in 13 years. Tom wouldn't have lasted with 9 wins in a year if Big 7/Big 8 titles didn't come with it. The name of the game is being the best in your business, not just doing what you can. You are remembered by winning titles in Lincoln.

So, "Husker Mike", when you talk about an angry fan and include me in the statement, please make sure to read my whole body of work through the season. You can, in fact, realize that I've stuck to my guns all season by going here and going over all my work on the site. http://www.huskerlocker.com/search-blogs Just type my name in, and there you go. Have a great afternoon, and Go Big Red.

Brian Towle
HuskerLocker.com Writer

Husker Mike said...

Sorry, but I've only visited HuskerLocker a handful of times...so I'm not familiar with your body of work. I just responded to your article as it stands by itself.

I disagree completely that Bo is apathetic on recruiting and player development. Would Demorrio Williams have been the same player without Bo Pelini? Ndamukong Suh? I could go on, but I won't.

There is no evidence that Bo Pelini ever interviewed with Ohio State, Penn State, and Miami. There are reports that those schools contacted Pelini, and there's no evidence it went any further.

As for conference championships, the bar has significantly changed since 1995 for winning titles. For Tom Osborne, it was a simple matter of defeating Oklahoma or Colorado to clinch, with five others around for amusement purposes. Now Nebraska is battling 11, not seven schools for titles...and there are more contenders than ever before.

Pelini came close twice to winning a conference title. That's progress because Nebraska hasn't been a serious threat to win a title since 2001.

I understand the frustration with not winning a conference championship since 1999, but Pelini is only responsible for the last four years. Don't blame him for his predecessor.

Brandon Cavanaugh said...


You're spot on with Demorrio and Ndamukong. In fact, I'd go as far as saying that Suh wouldn't have been anywhere near the player he was if not for Bo. However, while Callahan wasn't a good head coach, he was a good recruiter. Suh was waiting for Bo as were a number of other studs.

His ability to develop players has been a mixed bag. When he sees a guy like Suh, Amukamara, Dennard, etc., it's like a personal project of "How can I make this guy into the next big thing?" Unfortunately, this leaves backups struggling (See Andrew Green, Ciante Evans, etc. this year)

Bo was actually very close to competing for a Big Ten championship this year to be fair, but a pedestrian effort against Northwestern essentially took Nebraska's destiny out of their own hands.

Assuming Nebraska did make it to the B1G conference game, I can't say I'd see much of a difference from what happened in Madison. Whether it was Wilson, Persa, Colter or Dennard, mobile quarterbacks scorched this defense. I think that's where a lot of the frustration lies. The carrot's right out in front of Nebraska, but there's one team that wants it that extra bit more and executes where the Huskers don't.

At this point, we can't blame Bill anymore...well, we could, but it'd be somewhat childish. It'd be like blaming Steve Pederson for something happening today. Is Steve a horrible AD? Yes, but he doesn't have anything to do with Bo's 2011 defense getting shredded on multiple occasions.

This is Bo's team top to bottom from staff to players. If you look at 2011, it was the exception to the rule when it comes to Bo's defenses. I expect at least a moderate rebound in 2012.

My main issue with Bo is how he allows his staff to go about recruiting. Even with a small class, it's a lackadaisical effort that leaves Nebraska scrambling for twice the commits they currently have less than a month away from National Signing Day.

Bo has the tools, but he's a very prideful guy and might not want to admit that he's not using a screwdriver correctly. A shot of humility and Pelini may be the guy all Husker fans (Brian and I included) want to see.

Charlie said...

If you have the means, please think about making a donation to The Jack Jablonski Fund. Jack is the Benidle-St. Margaret's (Minnesota) high school player who was hit from behind and paralyzed wo weeeks ago.

For a link to Jack's Fund and for more information about Jack and the reverberations his injury is causing, please see http://www.hockeybias.com/hockey-news-past/Jack-Jablonksi-News-Summary.html

Both a former Benilde student and current Benilde student have each written songs in honor of Jack. They can be found here and also have links to The Jack jablonski Fund:



Husker Mike said...

Normally I don't accept comments that don't relate to that blog post...but this one I'll gladly make an exception for.

scherr said...

I think the key difference in the first four years versus the other years for Nick Saban is Michigan State versus the other schools. Total difference in ability to recruit and get kids in school and demands on students once they are in school. Bo has done a great job turning the Nebraska program around, but the reality is it is a greater challenge than ever for Nebraska to recruit as they once did. Jim Scherr