Jan. 3, 2017
Welcome, Husker Nation, to the Carriker Chronicles, and today I had planned on going back and grading offense, defense, and special teams. However, it was very obvious that you, the fans, were more interested in hearing my opinions on the Nebraska coaching staff. So what you want, you get (just like my wife, love you babe ;).I'm going to start off with the special teams, and I'm just going to do the bowl game because the special teams coordinator was fired, so to me, the bowl game stands alone. I'm going to give them a B+. It was their most complete game of the entire year. The kicking game was good with Caleb Lightbourn and Drew Brown was very good, the kickoff unit forced a turnover which got the team to within a touchdown at that point in the game. The only reason it's not an A performance in my opinion, is the return game. We have to find ways to get DPE and Tre Bryant some lanes; they're too explosive and dynamic with the ball in their hands. Again, it was their best performance overall, so I give them a B+. Now, on to the man I got the most questions about overall, coordinator wise, Mark Banker. I might differ in my opinion than some of you fans at home, based on what I've seen online. In my opinion, his first year was very rough, for the defense, as well as the entire team. I've said this before, I think it had a lot to do with things outside the locker room, affecting things inside the locker room, affecting play on the field. If you don't believe me, compare some guys' play in year one versus year two under Coach Riley. Same guys, completely different performances. I think a lot of it was psychological. To me, the defense made the biggest improvement from year one to year two. I also believe they were the best unit of the three (offense, defense, and special teams) that we had this year. (Yes, there were games that were not good; OSU, Iowa, gave up a lot of points to Tennessee, there were games where they didn't tackle and play as well as we had hoped they would) To me, it was the biggest improvement, the best of the three units, and did more with less. Keep in mind, there were three defensive lineman who were in their third year of playing and would have started, who went elsewhere. Two of them are in the NFL contributing to really good football teams right now. That's a lot of depth and talent gone from the front four, which is essential to Mark Banker's style of defense. Yes, improvements need to be made, but as far as firing Mark Banker, I think he did an admirable job with the improvements from year one to year two. In my opinion, the coordinator who could have done better was Danny Langsdorf. Look at the talent we had on offense. A lot of people said our receiving corps was the best in the Big Ten, we had three (four including Tre Bryant who came on later) running backs who can do good things with the ball in their hands, we had a fourth-year starting QB who can make a lot of plays (yes, mistakes too) but he's got heart, playmaking ability, and experience. Honestly, the first seven games of the year, we averaged just under 35 points per game, which is pretty good. However, in the last six, we averaged 17.6 points per game, almost half. When you look at our three regular-season losses, we scored a total of 30 points in those games, the most being 17 against Wisconsin. To me, we did less with more on offense. Langsdorf tried to mold the offense around Tommy Armstrong, but that's not what he really wants to do. He wants to pass the ball. When it's crunch time, that's what he ends up doing, and that's not what our personnel was fit for. I believe he could have done a better job molding the offense to our personnel. I am a little more critical of Langsdorf than I am Banker. Keep in mind that in the bowl game, the offense scored more points against a bad defense, while the defense gave up more points to a really explosive Tennessee offense. As for Mike Riley, the guy I got the most questions about, of course, if you're one of the people who wants to fire him after year two, I think you're being impatient. Same thing I said last year to people saying that (which in my opinion, is ludicrous). You have to give a coach a minimum of 3-4 years to evaluate him. After that 4th, or maybe 3rd year, you can evaluate whether or not he's the right guy for your program going forward. What is interesting is that the fourth year is when I think we can expect a lot out of Riley, but the schedule is also brutal. I don't measure Riley versus Riley (from year to year). I measure Mike Riley against Bo Pelini. Bo was a good coach, but he wasn't able to take us to that next level. I've said before, I had no issues with him being let go. To me, that's the measuring stick to use for Riley. I don't believe he was a backwards move. Will he be a lateral move, or a forward move? That's what we brought him in to be, and that's what we need to see going forward. Now, for those of you who do want to fire Riley, let's say we do. We've fired our third coach with 9 wins in a season. To me, it's not about the wins. It's about the losses and who didn't we beat. Again, no problem with the firing of Pelini, but I am interested in seeing the FCS Championship Game on Saturday. Solich, to this day, I still wonder; I don't believe it was the wrong move, but was it the right move? In 2002, the Huskers had a 7-7 season. Then, they fire a bunch of assistant coaches; guys who had been there for 2, 3, and 4 decades. I'll never forget coach Solich walking down the hallway after that. He had tears in his eyes. He looked away because he didn't want me to see. Those were some of his best friends for many years. But, in 2002, you fire a bunch of assistants, and then in 2003, you improve to 9-3 and then you fire him? I never really understood that. I always got the impression it was for the '02 season, even though he was fired after the '03 season. I didn't understand the timing or the plan at that point, but it doesn't matter now. Now, I just look forward to the MAC championship every year, because more often, Ohio and Coach Solich are in it. One of these years, they're going to win it. If you look at where they are versus where they were when he got there, he's done a pretty good job. I have a tendency to keep an eye on my old coaches and root for them. Nebraska is an awesome place, the football program is top notch, second to none, especially when it comes to recognition and prestige. If you're a head coach (again, if we fire Riley) and you're looking at this program, you say, 9 wins isn't going to cut it. That's okay, I want high expectations. But then you look at firing the last guy after two years? Put yourself in that coach's position; you have a family with mouths to feed, people depending on you, you're not just a name and face on a video game. You are a human being with a wife and kids. You want at least a smidge of job security to know that you're going to get at least three, maybe four years to show people what you can do. If you were a coach, would you want that job? I'm not answering, I'm just asking the question. Let's take firing off the table. We're not firing Mike Riley, we know that. The bottom line is, we need to give him the proper amount of time to show us what he can do before we can evaluate him as the man going forward to lead the Husker football program. I'm not the first to say this, nor is this the first time I've said it. He's been cooking with Bo Pelini's groceries. Going forward into next year and beyond, he's going to be cooking Thanksgiving Dinner, Christmas Dinner, and everything else with his own groceries. That's when the evaluation really starts. Be sure to tune in Thursday, we've got a loaded show! I have a whole list of things written down here, and the bottom line is, we're going to be putting this past season behind us Thursday, and we're looking ahead to next season. I give my thoughts and opinions on what I believe needs to happen in the program, whether that be mentality, physicality, or practice-wise. I'm going to address Mark Banker's statements about getting bigger to play in the Big Ten and faster to be an elite team. What do we need to do going forward to improve the Husker program; how do we get bigger, faster, stronger with recruiting, Mark Philipp the strength and conditioning coach. What do we do starting this next season? I address that on Thursday. Also, who's coming back? Who do we need to target for National Signing Day? Also, I am going to have a very special guest. I hope you guys enjoy it. I know I will! I'm hoping to have a show on Saturday. The FCS Championship game is at 11:00 AM CST so it should end between 2:30 and 3:00. It'll be kind of like after a Husker game; maybe you're rooting for Bo Pelini, maybe you're not. I'm probably going to put out a 2-3 minute video. I'm going to a family event, they may lock me in a dark room, so if it doesn't happen, it's not my fault, it's theirs. Love you people, but I'm hoping to do that video. Very short, after the game. Also, after this week, we'll go back to our regular schedule next week! Now, this has nothing to do with anything, but once every 15 years, check your closet! You never know what you might find (I'm wearing a Boy Band Reject cutoff shirt). So until Thursday, Husker Nation, Go Big Red. And always remember to THROW THE BOOOOONES!!!!!