Saturday, November 25, 2006

The Callahan Complex

LINCOLN, NE: "Oh yes, we definitely happy."
--Vincent Vega (John Travolta), Pulp Fiction, 1994

A 9-3 record so far, with a guaranteed two more games left on the schedule (and yes, two games that the Corn could actually lose). At this very moment three years ago, Frankie Solich had the same 9-3 on his season's resume after beating Colorado ON THE ROAD, and that was enough to make Steve Pederson pop a cap in his ass.

The 9-3 start in 2006 is enough to bring back jubilation to the Capital City and around the Husker Football Program for the first time since TO was bringing back National Championships from Bowl trips. Maybe it was because there was a surprise (at least to me) trophy presentation after the game for winning the Big 12 North. Seriously, I don't remember anything like this after they won the North in the past, so this had to be something Pederson demanded for the season's final home game, but it would have been especially awkward if the Corn lost to CU.

By the way, what if I were to tell you that 58,000 of the Big 12 Championship tickets were mailed out to Nebraska addresses. Is that something you might be interested in? Even with the euphoria that took over Lincoln and surrounding areas following Nebraska taking care of business against the undermatched Buffaloes, the Billy C critics (of which I've been accused of, but evidently not EVERY week, more on that later) were still out if not in full force but at least vocal enough to get my attention. A few of the most notable:

  • "What's with all the fucking trick plays? Can't they just run the normal offense?" OK, here's where I'm going to come off as blowing Billy C (again, allegedly), but does anyone who hasn't read the 350 pound playbook really know what the "normal" offense is? I'm sure that on at least 3 of the 834 pages in that thing there are a handful of razzle dazzle ones listed. But you know what? One, these plays are a part of the WCO, and two, they've generally worked, dating back to the fake punt against USC and starting off yesterday with the fake field goal that Joe Ganz threw for a touchdown (and you can't tell me that everyone wasn't excited to see Ganz, the heir apparent, getting a touchdown throw at home before next season). All told, Billy C (or Jay Norvell, depending on what you believe) called six "trick" plays yesterday. And most of them actually worked. Or let's just say this: Colorado certainly wasn't ready for any of them, and there were no major turnovers because of them. Plus, isn't it to the Corn's benefit to have the variety of trick plays available on film for other teams to prepare for, which just gives the Bob Stoops' and Mark Mangino's (when he's not busy trying to figure out whether or not to eat that third sandwich) something more to get ready for during practice. I'm all for this from time to time, and I doubt you see anywhere near six of these next week against the Sooners (or, ah-hem, Texas, whoops). One thing's for sure: The days of Tommie Frazier standing over center on 3rd and 9 and yelling to the defense, "Hey boys, we's gonna run the option to the left and get about 15 yards out of it. Good luck trying to stop me or LP or Ahman Green" are o-v-e-r. Deal with it.
  • "So where was all of this shit when we played USC?" Excuse me, looks like I've gotta go down on Billy C once more. USC runs a similar system on offense to Nebraska's now. I'm sure their defense was a wee bit more familiar to some of the tricks and treats than say, I don't know, Colorado maybe. I'm also guessing that early in the season that the team didn't have a lot of those plays down yet. Please let me stop being so nice to this guy...
  • "We let a team like COLORADO play with us close for an entire 3 quarters, we can't put teams away early anymore." OK, this is really starting to hurt, I should just go be the guy's PR guy right now. First of all, USC, the barometer for where Nebraska wants to be, does the same shit. Go back to their first game of the season, where they let Arkansas hang around for the entire first half before opening up the can of whoop ass. Or old school fans will remember the "wearing the opponent down" thing from their Best of Tom Osborne DVD's. Exhibit A would be the 1995 Orange Bowl against Miami, where TO won his first title. It's why games are 4 quarters and not 2 or 3. So you get a little frustrated for part of the game (OK, I can finally get up now, I was in that camp too!).
  • "Everything I hear about Callahan is he's a douchebag!" Yeah, you might remember I brought that up months ago, when I reminded everyone about Billy C's sins and how he'd handled some things during his short tenure here. It's been our most popular post, one people still remind me of and tend to bring up when I evidently go and praise Callahan from time to time (hold on, we're getting to that). Yes, we know he handled Ross Pilkington quitting the team wrong, and the whole Harrison Beck 5-Star QB thing ended in awkward fashion. But you know what he's done with these situations? He's made one thing perfectly clear to everyone who's made the decision to come and wear the scarlett and cream. You're either in our your out, right now. And if you're out, you're out, don't expect me to get on my knees and beg you to come back. I'm sorry, but the days of Solich driving down to Millard to talk Eric Crouch off the cliff and promise him his job back are over. If you're not happy, Billy C's not going to bolt the door down and stop you from going someplace where you might find happiness. So Billy C isn't going to get the Universal love that everyone threw Osborne's way. I do know that the guy certainly does get this: Winning solves everything. And no matter how many "Fucking Hillbillies" comments or throat slashes he makes, if he wins just one national title, he's automatically up there with both Devaney and Osborne.
  • "You know the second he hits it really big here, he's bolting for a job in the NFL." During his first season, I swore that indeed would be the case, primarily because he spent his entire press conferences comparing everything to the NFL and how things are done in the pros. The misery of that season really took something out of the guy. Thankfully, our man learned a lot from that year. He finally got the NFL out of his system, moved out of his Embassy Suites hotel room and bought a great house for his family and started to really feel comfortable here. Like I said, winning fixes everything. And in many ways, Billy C is a lot like Jimmy Johnson when he coached football. Jimmy was the happiest, most giddy son of a bitch in the world when his team's won, but he couldn't have been more miserable or angry at everything and everyone following a loss. Billy C's got some of that in him. He might also be past the point where succeeding in the NFL appeals to him (I mean, can you think of another coach who left the league on worst terms? Ray Handley anyone?). Maybe he just now wants to be Pete Carroll and dominate the college game (if he gets to that point, we're not there YET). The only thing that I can seriously see happening, speaking of Jimmy, is a Jerry Jones/Jimmy Johnson ego fallout that could legitimately happen between Callahan and Pederson. It's just a matter of time before Stevie P starts to want in on this spotlight. If you thought Bill Byrne was insufferable when Osborne brought back titles, wait until you see how badly Stevie P could rub Billy C, especially with both of their egos.
  • "He's got to do something about Kevin Cosgrove." This cry started happening whenever Nebraska fans would run into people from Wisconsin back in 2004. The famous line from the Wisconsin native was always the same: "Hey, I want to thank you for taking Kevin Cosgrove off our hands. He absolutely RUINED our defense!" Cosgrove is still the big pink elephant in the room, the one major fly in Billy C's ointment. Kids are still missing tackles. There was the complete defensive meltdown at Oklahoma State, a loss you have to pinpoint right at Cosgrove. The big rumor is that Billy C has already told Cosgrove to start looking for another gig, even encouraging him to put his name in the hat for the Iowa State job. Some team (I think it was the Minnesota Vikings) had an interest in Cosgrove after last season. My guess is Billy C is going to encourage Kevin to take whatever job becomes available soon. Maybe an 11-3 finish could change everything. I know a 9-5 record would definitely force Cosgrove out. Defense is the one area that Nebraska has failed to improve on since Bo Pellini left.
  • "Shouldn't they just play 'Short People' by Randy Newman over the PA when Billy C leads the team out to the field?" Alright, that one was from me, but you've got to give me something here since I've spent the better part of this post doing nothing but praising the guy. Might explain his Napoleon Complex.
  • "YOU (that would be me) have been flipping and flopping on Callahan all season. So where are you this week?" OK, first of all, going back to that infamous first post, I've made my feelings about Billy C perfectly clear. I have always "wanted" him to work out here because he's just so different about anything that's ever been a part of the biggest thing going in the state of Nebraska. From day one, he's brought new energy, a completely new offense that literally made people's heads spin when they first heard that he was doing away with the option. He and Stevie P both realized that for a program to win and win big, you needed a salesman more than anything. He got the ultimate door to door salesman in Billy C. I fell for his charms his first 6 months on the job, meeting him after 3 months, where he gave me the old Billy Clinton Handshake: The shaking of the hand while grabbing your elbow with his other hand. Thanking me for the good things that the company I worked at had done for the program. Of course, I had to look quite a ways down to make eye contact with him, but that's another thing. So following every Husker game, I've just said exactly what I saw. The old "vacuum cleaner" salesman blog following the Oklahoma State debacle. The big one everyone wanted to remind me about yesterday was the one I wrote following the USC game, "Callahan's worst coaching job by far." I had to go back and re-read that thing. I didn't suck the guy off there at all. I even quoted "Long, Long Way to Go" by Phil Collins for chrissakes. I did see that I predicted that an 11-3 season was on the horizon, that USC was going to again play for the National Championship, and that the Corn still had a long way to go before they were in USC's class. For whatever reason, people still maintain that opening things up against perhaps the best team in college football would have garnered maybe even a Husker victory. So I'm asking for a few friends to at least read all the work before putting me in the same category as Tom Freaking Shatel of all people. Oh, and I did mention we're on the right track. Even if the Corn lose next week (a big possibly if they play Oklahoma, and by the way, is there any doubt that Bob Stoops is Coach of the Year? Look at what he's done with losing is quarterback before the season and his Heisman Trophy candidate running back midway through). They'd still get either the Holiday Bowl or Cotton Bowl. And if they somehow pull the upset, Billy C has the Corn BCS bound. In year three of the Callahan regime. And if you're asking if I'm buying that sales pitch, right now I'd have to say yes. But he's got a tougher schedule next year. A better USC team will come to Lincoln and a better Texas team awaits in Austin. Everyone's going to expect a Top 10 team and a lot more next year. If Nebraska wets the bed in 2007, it's going to be one long year for Billy C.

It doesn't matter what I think of the guy, or what any other huge Husker fans say about Billy C. What matters is that junior and senior high school kids who sit in their living rooms with their parents and buy exactly what Billy C is selling them on those recruiting days. Their buying Callahan stock in spades. And the way college football is right now, where you really don't always out coach somebody, but you definitely have to out recruit them, that's all that matters from here on out. You don't have to out coach anyone anymore. You just have to out recruit them. And for that you need the ultimate salesman, which, here I go down again, Bill Callahan most certainly is.


Anonymous said...

Nice stuff.... it must be too difficult for people to understand that you can write good things about the guy, want him to be successful, but still be critical once in a while.

Anonymous said...

You need to stop blogging about Nebraska football like some expert. Joey Ganz is not the "heir apparent". It's a guy named Sam Keller and he's transferring here for a year after coming from Arizona St. Deadspin needs to stop linking to your stories

Dirtylaundry said...

Last year at this time, Harrison Beck was the "heir apparent". In reality, nobody knows with Billy C. It could be Ganz as easily as it could be Keller. Most of what I'm hearing is that Callahan is in love with Ganz like he's been with Taylor.

Anonymous said...

You never know, but I find it highly unlikely that Kellar, who already put up huge numbers at ASU would transfer someplace for his senior year if he wasn't assured that he would be the starter. Otherwise, why wouldn't you just stay in Tempe if you're going to sit on the sidelines.

Kellar is tearing it up in practice. Joey Ganz is an average insurance policy.