Nebraska football fans have been burned by media hype far too often in recent years.
They'd get their hopes up, and their hearts broken.
That's a fact, and there's fallout.
Anybody else sense Husker fan skepticism is much higher than normal? It seems that's the case, and it's healthy. It's needed. It's natural. If I could rewind my career, I would've proceeded with a healthy skepticism much more often.
Skepticism is the flavor of the offseason in Husker Nation. Am I wrong? You've perhaps noticed it since Nebraska head coach Scott Frost hired Matt Lubick as his offensive coordinator and receivers coach last Friday. My read is much of the fan response has been tepid. Although the hire makes sense on several levels, it seems plenty of Husker fans and media are quick to poke holes in it, as opposed to embracing it with the intensity that they embraced Bob Diaco's hire as defensive coordinator following the 2016 season.
Josh Peterson pointed that out earlier this week during our discussion on "Unsportsmanlike Conduct" (1620 AM). The lion's share of Nebraska media (including yours truly) fell all over themselves hailing Diaco as someone who could push the Husker defense over the top. During the months and weeks leading to the 2017 season opener, we couldn't write enough about the energy that Diaco was pumping into Mike Riley's program. Diaco's 3-4 system would change everything, and it wouldn't take long. That was the prevailing sentiment.
Never mind that Nebraska defenders, in transitioning from Mark Banker's 4-3 defense, had to learn different techniques and blocking schemes. Former Nebraska defensive coordinator Charlie McBride expressed caution, saying many veteran defenders would feel like freshmen again. We didn't listen. We got burned. Fans wanted so badly to believe in the hype. And in a sense, that's OK. Hype isn't all bad. Hype is simply an excitable cousin of hope. What would be the fun of media pouring cold water on everything during the long offseason? What would be the fun of fans regarding everything with an eye roll?
But there's more cold water and eye rolls around here than I can ever remember. Yes, even with Frost, the homegrown head coach, leading the way. That's what a 9-15 record in two seasons will create — increased skepticism and cynicism. It's only natural.
My heavens, how could Nebraska fans not be skeptical and cynical at this point? How could they not proceed with more of a prove-it-to-me mentality? Many have been thoroughly beaten down. They haven't experienced a conference championship since 1999. The Huskers have endured losing seasons in four of the last five years. On and on. It's often been dreadful.
If you have a soul, you feel for Nebraska fans, many of whom starve for the nation's attention. They want all the those people from far-off lands flying over the state in 747s to notice their program. They felt Diaco would help matters. But media couldn't have been more wrong about him. His defense was an utter disaster. The Huskers dropped six of their last seven games in 2017, the losses by an average of 26.2 points.
So, it should be easy to understand those Nebraska fans who aren't readily signing off on Frost's hire of Lubick. I get it, but only to a point. After all, Lubick served from 2013-15 as Oregon's passing game coordinator and receivers coach while Frost was the offensive coordinator. During that period, the Ducks finished no lower than fifth in the nation in scoring offense.
I hear from people who are skeptical about Frost turning to someone with whom he's so familiar. That's the sort of skepticism that goes too far. This is no time for Frost to take wild swings. I mean, didn't we learn our lesson from the Diaco debacle? He was an unfamiliar face forced onto Riley by then-athletic director Shawn Eichorst. Diaco had to teach his system to a staff of unfamiliar assistants. It never came close to working.
If Lubick had to call plays in the 2020 opener, he could do it. That seems valuable.
Other skeptics point to the fact Lubick stepped away from coaching last season, citing the need for more balance between his job and personal life. If Frost's record at Nebraska was 21-6 — Paul Chryst's record in his first two seasons at Wisconsin (2015 and '16) — skeptics would be more apt to embrace the narrative of NU getting a refreshed coach who's raring to get started.
Ah, but Husker fans have been burned too many times, and the fallout is unmistakable.