Why? I went into the season with relatively low expectations; I still had doubts about this coaching staff going in. And while I'm not sold, I am impressed by how this staff adapted and accepted the players they inherited. And yes, in turn, the players better accepted the coaches. The defense was significantly better (except in a couple of games), and the offense was better. And the results were better: 9-3 (with still a chance to win a tenth) beats the heck out of 6-7. Going from needing an NCAA waiver for a bowl game to a possible New Year's Day bowl game is better.
It's not even debatable.
Some will though. Some just want to be argumentative, while others are just disappointed that the Huskers dropped another egg this month. And then there a few (explitives) who just want to rag on former head coach Bo Pelini.
The Bo-leavers have a valid point; after this season, it's Mike Riley's offense moving forward. Tommy Armstrong and Ryker Fyfe won't be around after the bowl game, and the quarterback room will be occupied by Mike Riley guys. But will it be better next year? I fear not.
Next year's quarterbacks will be Tanner Lee, Patrick O'Brien and probably Tristan Gebbia, assuming he enrolls in January. That's two freshman and a Tulane transfer who put up worse passing numbers at Tulane than Tommy Armstrong did his first two seasons.
Wait, what? Doesn't Sean Callahan insist that Lee is a NFL draft pick (in a high round, I might add)?
The 3-2-1: Is transfer QB Tanner Lee a future NFL Draft pick? Here's what we know: https://t.co/kUYY7QkA46 #Huskers pic.twitter.com/6fSfF9sUIz— Sean Callahan (@Sean_Callahan) August 27, 2016
Yes. But the numbers don't lie.
Tanner Lee: 53.5% completions, 3601 yards, 23 touchdowns, 21 interceptions
Tommy Armstrong: 52.9% completion, 3661 yards, 31 touchdowns, 20 interceptions
And the rushing numbers? Well, there's no comparison:
Tanner Lee: -287 yards rushing, zero touchdowns
Tommy Armstrong: 907 yards rushing, eight touchdowns
I've never seen Lee play in person, and maybe he'll adapt better to Riley's offense than he played in Tulane's offense. But the hype train reminds me more of the hype that surrounded Sam Keller ten years ago, and Keller at least had a record from Arizona State that partially explained the hype. Lee just has Sean Callahan's tweet as the explanation.
It's presumptive and premature to pencil any of the three quarterbacks into the 2017 lineup. O'Brien will have had close to another 100 or so practices before we see him again, and Gebbia is still in high school. That uncertainty causes me to temper my thoughts for 2017, and thus my appreciation for the 2016 season.
2015 should have taught every Husker fan to appreciate each and every victory, and I certainly appreciated a nice bounceback season, overcoming all sorts of adversity.
No doubt about it. Nebraska improved quite a bit in 2016. That's something to appreciate.