That's the problem. We all fell for Bill Callahan, salesman extraordinaire. It was easy to buy him in February, 2005, when he proudly stood up to a podium in front of a throng of eager reporters, bragging about the "New Class of Recruits", headed by Beck. Hell, the Omaha World Herald put together a TWO PAGE spread complete with artisitrs renderings of EVERY SINGLE RECRUIT from Callahan's award winning first class. It was the sort of overdone piece normally reserved for when, oh I don't know, the Red Sox win the World Series. Or at least Nebraska winning a National Title. Or so "Husker Nation", as Stevie P dubbed all Husker fans, thought.(Stevie P, it should be noted, is the proud Nebraska Athletic Director Steve Pederson,and if Callhan's moniker is Billy C, Stevie P has to ride shotgun). It was enough to get over 60,000 people to watch a football practice, known in Nebraska as the Spring Game, in April, 2005.
When Stevie P brought Callahan in to even interview, I was stunned because he was run out of Oakland so quickly, especially from Tim Brown, Al Davis and Charles Woodson, who went on the record to the media about what an ass Billy C was and had lost and entire team just one year from a Super Bowl they could have won if their idiot coach would have bothered to change the audibles (more on that later). But I shouldn't have been that shocked, considering that Stevie P had spent over a month trying to find ANYONE to take the coveted job of Nebraska Head Football Coach. Oh sure, he had a guy who WANTED the job in Defensive Coordinator (and interim head coach and fan favorite) Bo Pellini, but evidently Stevie P's main target was none other than...Houston Nutt, who promptly used the courtship to get a better deal from Arkansas. After all of this blew up, Stevie P had omlettes all over his face. And then somehow, someway, out of the clear silver and black sky, a fallen Billy C somehow told his agent to try and get him an interview at Nebraska. Within what seemed like 45-seconds, Billy C and Stevie P fell in love and Callahan was bringing the West Coast Offense to Nebraska. So at the very worst, we'd at least have fun for a minimum of 3 years before somebody accused Billy C of calling his team "idiots" like he did in Oakland.
So even if we all agree that Billy C, salesman, is a great idea, shouldn't the mainstream media at least be questioning Head Coach Bill Callahan right now? Shouldn't Tom Shatel of the Omaha World Herald at the very least SUGGEST that Callahan just isn't cut out to be a head football coach? Let's consider some of his ON FIELD highlights during the past two seasons:
- He literally shoved the West Coas offense idea around Joe Dailey, a Solich recruit who was brought here to play quarterback in the mode of, if not Tommie Frazier, at least Jamal Lord. All things considered and with what he had to work with, Dailey will be known as the first Nebraska Quarterback to throw for over 300 yards in a game. Enter emergency golden boy, Juco transfer Zac Taylor, who dazzled those 60,000 + at that spring game to the point that Joe Dailey went to the media and promptly called Callahan "Billy C", and the following Monday announced he was transferring to the friendly confides of North Carolina.
- Ross Pilkington, a wide receiver who was named a captain as a junior during Billy C's first season and had all the makings of someone who could thrive in an offense that throws the ball quite a bit, promptly quit at the end of the season, supposedly because he hated "his coach" so much. (By the way, shouldn't SOMEBODY have said WTF when Callahan named four guys as captains during his first season and for the first time maybe ever NONE of them were seniors? Doesn't that at least raise some sort of red flat. Sophomore CAPTAIN Joe Dailey???)
- On national TV, Nebraska is embarassed by Texas Tech 70-10. After game, Billy C the salesman, "still saw some good things out there". Like what? That the clock struck 0:00 when the score read 70-10, was that the good thing? Many Husker fans point to the 62-36 loss at Colorado as one of the lowest points in recent Husker history. The Tech loss in 2004 has to be the biggest loss in Husker football, period.
- The embarassing tradition of making his quarterback run back to the sidelines before EVERY SINGLE PLAY. I'm not even sure this happens in high school football. The sad part about this was, even though we might have forgiven this sort of thing with Dailey as QB, it still happened with Taylor!
- Ending his first season with a 5-6 record, which of course had to make Tom Osborne nod in approval when announcers said, "For the first time in over 35 years, Nebraska will not make an appearance in a bowl game." But no worries, following the game, Billy C announced, "We're building towards our championship season." Nobody brought up the fact that he didn't say seasonS, but never the less, the salesman sold us the bridge that said, "Right this year off and get all ready for next year and my amazing 5 star recruits."
- Missouri finally won a game against Nebraska in 2005, 41-24, but that's probably only because they found a way to rack up 523 yards of total offense against the Huskers, including a 79-yard run by QB Brad Smith (480 of those 523 were compliments of Smith himself). The local papers even had to admit it was as school record.
- Oh yeah, a player who at one point in time committed to coming to Nebraska thought so highly of Billy C that he sent the coach a TEXT MESSAGE announcing that he changed his mind and was picking Kansas State instead (which probably made Frank Solich smile for the first time since getting busted for DUI).
Which all leads us to Harrison Beck, who came here, as, there's just no better way to put it, the chosen one. It was all set up perfectly. Zac Taylor falls into Billy C's lap, gets the whole West Coast offense thing even better than anyone expected, and all of a sudden he had a proven QB who could run his system, his offense, for two years. Beck would redshirt during the 2005 season, learn as a true freshman, then be the second coming of Matt Leinert for THREE freaking years. This couldn't go wrong. All of a sudden my thoughts on Billy C were back to positive. He could be Coach Callahan.
Then out of nowhere, because he KNEW he had to win a game at home against an overrated Kansas State team, Taylor gets minorly dinged, and Billy C pulls Beck from his redshirt during the middle of the game, has him play something like THREE series, only for Nebraska to win the game by 2 points, just to become bowl elligible. (Let's also not forget that Solich losing to Kansas State at home was his Waterloo, something that may have been in the back of Billy C's mind.) All of a sudden, Beck had used up a year of eligibiltiy, and would have to come in this year as a sophomore instead of a frosh, but it still looked like it could work out OK in having two years of the "chosen one" as the QB.
Only a funny thing happened on the way to "Fall Camp. Harrison Beck was all of a sudden 4th on the QB depth chart, and then we all learned that the chosen one had a huge fan in his own mother. Before we could really learn anything from camp, Beck's mom spouts off to the media (Steve Sipple of the Lincoln Journal Star in particular) about how her son should be the starter NOW, how he's better NOW than Zac Taylor. Finally, Tom Shatel wrote something importanta about the situation, that this would be a defining moment for Callahan and that he had to handle the "Beck situation with kid gloves". The next day, both Billy C and Beck agreed that it was in the best interest for Beck that he just take his ball and his mother and go home, or at least transfer somewhere like North Carolina State. And everything we read now is that Beck had to go, he was too immature, wasn't right for us anyway and oh by the way good riddance? All we'd hear about was how the kid was just a big baby who couldn't handle being ordinary, nevermind the fact that shit should have happened the same way when Eric Crouch babied out and quit for a day and took his ball and ran home to his parents, only to be talked off a ledge by having Solich personally drive up and tell him, "It's OK, boy. You can be our starting quarterback". Less than two years ago, Harrison Beck and his family (I'm assuming his vocal mother was with) received a POLICE ESCORT to get to Lincoln in time to watch the spring game.
Callahan got so incredibly lucky last year by beating up on what turned out to be an eextremely bad Colorado team and then somehow won an exciting Alamo Bowl against an overrated Michigan team. Everybody's confused Billy C with Coach Callahan. EVERYONE'S excited about this year, primarily because the the Big XII North is as winnable as a game against Pacific, and all I can smell is another mutiny. How long before Marlon Lucky gripes about someting? How long before everyone realizes that yes Zac Taylor is a really special quarterback, but unless there are receivers and lineman who "get" the system too, it's not going to amount to a pitcher of warm spit? And I swear to you, if Billy C does that shit where he makes Taylor -- now a senior and captian, -- come running to the sidelines before EVERY play, well, at least we'll know that Joe Dailey will have a drinking buddy someday. We should have realized the luck on this guy way back on September 17, 2005, when Pitt came to Lincoln. Less than 7 days before, Frank Solich's new team Ohio had somehow upset Pitt on a nationally televised game. The split camp of Solich Supporters/Callahan haters couldn't wait for the Pitt/NU game. If Nebraska couldn't beat a team that former coach Frank Solich could beat with a group from Ohio University....somehow, the salesman Billy C managed a 7-6 win at home because some poor kicker for Pitt missed a field goal in the final seconds. If that kid makes the kick, Callahan doesn't even get a chance to get the lucky breaks he got at the end of last season.
I want Callahan to work because he's interesting, he doesn't play the bible card like another former Nebraska football coach, he yells things like "Fucking Hillbillies" at OU fans, and he's genuinely happy after a win (remember how hard it was for Osborne to do anything but remain stoic while staring at one of those National Championship Trophies? Could you imagine what Billy C would do with one of those things?). I want to toast some scotch with him at the Onion after winning a title. But I'm not drinking Billy C anymore. The more I look back on it, Callahan was Ray Handley, that disgruntled NY Giants coach who followed Parcells, with a lot of luck. At one point in time during his first year with the Raiders, Callahan's team was 4-4, then they somehow ran the table and went to the Super Bowl. He was run out of the NFL in a big glorified way, and he lucked into a situation where Nebraska had an opening, and Callahan knew he could get away with any of his shenanigans at a place like Nebraska because football runs the state and all he'd have to do is win. I hope he goes 10-2 this year, somehow finds a way to beat either USC or Texas (because we all know beating both is just not even a long shot), and plays in a BCS game. But I smell doom, I smell a big flop a coming, maybe a 6-5 or 7-4 that somehow buys Callahan another year. Mostly I smell a big loss at Oklahoma State, and all of a sudden people won't buy Billy C's speak anymore.
Oh yeah -- about those auidibles at the Super Bowl. About three months after Callahan was hired, I had the chance to talk to a former NFL player who was on one of those teams (I promised I'd never reveal his name). Callahan was up against the Tampa Bay Bucs, coached by none other than Chucky Jon Gruden, who the previous year had coached the very same Raiders team very close to a Super Bowl. The story goes that Rich Gannon, QB for Gruden and then for Callahan in the Super Bowl, was using the SAME EXACT audibles that Gruden had used the year before. It got so ridiculous that, the story goes, somebody on the Tampa Bay defense TOLD Gannon that they knew the audibles were from last year, that the entire defense knew what was coming, and Billy C still did nothing.
Even if that story isn't true, it certainly should be.