I wasn’t planning to write about coach Scott Frost’s outing at Big Ten Media Days.
There are a handful of reasons for that – some of which we’ll discuss in the coming weeks. But mostly, it felt like an overblown reaction. A nothing-burger.
Could Frost have given an opening statement? Yep.
Should he have taken a free chance to promote his Nebraska football team, their growth, and/or his optimism for the season? I’m happy to make that argument.
Was it a mistake to not seize that opportunity? In the moment, yes. Because the only thing it did was open up Frost and Nebraska up for a cycle of hot takes.
Case in point #1: Tom Shatel’s bizarre 180 in how he interpreted the day. He initially described Frost as “all business” but later wrote that Frost made a “strange stumble.” In fairness, Shatel made several good points in his columns. Unfortunately, those were overshadowed by what I felt were some unnecessary jabs at Frost.
Case in point #2: Matt Hayes of SaturdayTradition.com posted a column titled “Awkward silence provides another reason to question Scott Frost’s competence, commitment.” Hayes doesn’t just latch onto the moment like Shatel did. Hayes sets up camp and starts into a string of red-hot takes, factual inaccuracies and hyperbole that is just begging for a full rebuttal.
I’m happy to oblige.
Hayes’ words are in bold. My responses are not.
Of all the ways Scott Frost could’ve officially begun his make-or-break season at Nebraska, he somehow chose this.
Walking to the podium at Big Ten Media Days, the first coach out of the box on the first day of the event, the representative for an unrivaled fanbase as a beloved former national championship quarterback facing a win or walk mandate, Frost grabbed the podium and …
One second, two seconds, three seconds … five seconds …
“Coach,” a Big Ten publicist said, breaking the awkward silence, “would you like to make an opening statement?”
“No,” Frost said, “let’s go to questions.”
I appreciate this very dramatic re-creation of the moment for those who were not able to watch it. I also appreciate how the breathless retelling of this harrowing tale takes way longer than the five seconds of “awkward” silence that has forever scarred Matt Hayes, Tom Shatel and others.
Five seconds. That’s all.
Maybe Nebraska will honor the survivors of Big Ten Media Days with a moment of silence before NU’s first home game.
And so began the Frost response to the gift Nebraska athletic director Trev Alberts — he, too, a former beloved Huskers national champion — gave him at the end of last season, the worst at the storied program since 1957.
Yes, you are reading that correctly. The original published version states that Trev Alberts won a national championship. Aside from triggering the PTSD of phantom clips, William Floyd fumbling and a makeable field goal hooking wide left, the main thing Matt Hayes accomplishes here is establishing a lack of credibility.
Look: We all make mistakes. The odds are good that you’ll find typos and grammatical errors in almost everything I publish. But I try to be careful about the facts I state. Heck – I rewatched Nebraska’s final drive of the 1994 Orange Bowl because I wasn’t positive if Byron Bennett’s kick went left or right.
So, if you’re going to use a line like “former beloved Huskers national champion” as a way to draw distinction between Frost and Alberts, you must be accurate.
Standing and representing a university that has supported him for 4 seasons (and through NCAA rules violations/sanctions) — when any other major university would’ve fired him —
I love the inclusion of “NCAA rules violations/sanctions” to imply that Frost is out here leading SMU before the death penalty.
But Hayes is correct that Frost would likely have been fired from any other school by now.
Frost couldn’t even publicly muster platitudes for the athletic director and president who gave him 1 more year, nor for the rabid fan base that deserves much better than 6 wins over the last 2 years, 15 overall and 4 straight years without a bowl.
I’m in agreement that Frost should have taken the opportunity to make an opening statement. It’s a free pass to set the tone, set expectations, and control the narrative. But it is ridiculous to think that Frost should have used that space to genuflect to Trev or UNL President Ronnie Green, or say “Gee, I’m really glad to be here. You wouldn’t believe how close I came to getting fired last year.”
As for the “rabid fan base,” if you spent any time at all on #HuskerTwitter, you’d know that very few of the rabid fans have a problem with Frost not giving an opening statement.
But hey, let’s get to questions, and Frost will give you more answers about how this year will be different at Nebraska. The same answers he gave in 2021, and the COVID season of 2020 — when Nebraska backed him again and led the charge against the Big Ten’s wishes and demanded to play during the pandemic — and 2019, after his first season produced the same number of wins (4), the same bad football, the same disorganized and undisciplined mess that got Mike Riley fired a year earlier.
And wouldn’t you know it, the same disorganized and undisciplined mess led to all of 3 wins in 2021, and 8 of 9 losses by one possession.
Like that’s some badge of honor.
There’s a lot to unpack here, so let’s do some bullet points:
Did Frost truly give the “same answers” as 2019, 2020, and 2021? If so, was he answering the same questions?Your statement on Nebraska during the 2020 COVID pandemic is – to be polite – incomplete. Moving on.Riley was fired for a host of reasons, not just the “disorganized and undisciplined mess” part.
We had a good enough team last year to do better than we did,” Frost said. “That falls on me. It falls on the whole coaching staff. It falls on the whole team.”
There you have it, the mortal sin of coaching and the 1 true indicator of a coach staring at a pink slip: publicly blaming players.
Saying “the whole team” qualifies as publicly blaming players? Seriously?
I could see it if Frost said “Players really killed us last year” or “I’m really happy I don’t have to deal with players anymore.”
But saying that NU could have been better than 3-9 in 2021, and the “whole team” shares in the responsibility for that (along with the head coach and the assistants)? C’mon. That is not publicly blaming players.
If you want to see what publicly blaming players looks like, keep reading.
But it was Frost who stayed tied at the hip with enigmatic QB Adrian Martinez. It was Frost who recruited poorly at the most important position on the field, and didn’t have anyone for 4 years who could push Martinez — much less play for him after yet another of his many turnovers or game-turning mistakes.
Scroll to Continue
Poor Adrian Martinez is down in Manhattan, Kansas, trying to prepare for the season, and he’s catching stray bullets from some guy in Jacksonville, Florida.
Players struggle; it happens everywhere. Don’t blame Martinez, blame Frost.
He was Martinez’s quarterbacks coach and offensive coordinator. He was the reason Martinez didn’t develop.
If Martinez had 1 or 2 legitimate threats to play behind him, his development might have been different. A few of those “one-possession” games may have gone the other way, and maybe the Huskers would’ve played in the postseason for the first time in 5 seasons.
“Don’t blame Martinez”?? Dude, you just did.
We should also mention that – at least on paper – Mario Verduzco was Nebraska’s quarterbacks coach for Frost’s first four seasons. Matt Lubick held the title of offensive coordinator in 2020 and 2021. Both were fired by Frost last November.
If you want to argue that those were de facto titles, and Frost took on both roles (in addition to doing all of the QB recruiting), be my guest. If you want to play technicalities and say that the head coach is ultimately responsible for recruiting and developing the 85-man roster, have at it.
Because, yes, Nebraska’s lack of competition at quarterback has been an ongoing issue. With a few exceptions (notably: Joe Ganz and Tommy Armstrong Jr.) Nebraska has had a sizable gap between QB1 and QB2 for the entire 21st century.
Sure, Nebraska might have won some more games in 2021 with better QB depth. But they definitely win more games in 2021 with better special teams and specialists.
Good grief, think about that. Once mighty Nebraska hasn’t been to a bowl game since 2016, when it lost in something called the Music City Bowl.
Nebraska hasn’t been to a major bowl since 2001, when it lost by a gazillion points to Miami in the Rose Bowl BCS national championship game, where the Huskers mystique all unraveled and hasn’t been seen since.
Doesn’t everyone agree that the “Huskers mystique” unraveled a few weeks earlier in Boulder, Colorado? Goodness, Matt can’t even get this right.
Also, by Matt’s hyperbolic conversion formula, 2021 Nebraska won all three of their games by more than a gazillion points. If my math is correct, NU beat Northwestern by 2.13 gazillion points. That seems pretty good.
So yeah, pardon me if I expect Frost to show some humility and grace and address the elephant in the room. His AD gave him 1 more year to turn the ship or else — and frankly, he’s damn lucky he got it.
Yeah…. Even if you think Frost should have made some type of opening statement (which I do), it would be stupid/destructive/pick your adjective for him to talk about his status on the hot seat, thank his AD for not firing him, or ask about the job market in Orlando.
As for humility, it is very easy to make the case that Frost’s “all business” demeanor (as Tom Shatel initially described it) shows humility compared to his media day comments in previous years.
Frost eventually got to the point where he proclaimed he was excited about the season, and the chances of Nebraska beginning the long road back with a statement season. He likes Texas transfer QB Casey Thompson, he loves the toughness of the team and the leadership from its upperclassmen.
All good things.
To recap: Hayes “eventually” got the thing he wanted – even if he had to count five Mississippis to get there.
Plus, he also found enough indignant rage to fire off his column. What a lucky day for Matt!
Then he mentioned new offensive coordinator Mark Whipple, a nomad of sorts in the coaching world (college and NFL) — but an extremely successful quarterbacks coach and offensive coordinator. Hiring Whipple and giving him the offense (Frost was QBs coach and OC) was part of the deal in returning for another season. A complete shakeup (and shakedown) of the offense.
Even though I’ve been hard on poor Matt, I’ll give him credit: he is apparently the only media member who gets to attend practices, sit in meetings, and listen into the headsets on game day. Otherwise, how could he possibly make such a claim that Frost was the “QBs coach and OC”?
Frost was going to become more of a CEO, manage the team, focus on the fundamentals and discipline and the little things that become the big things when it’s the fourth quarter and you’re in danger of losing another “one-possession” game.
In Frost’s 4 seasons (44 games), Nebraska has 79 turnovers and 210 penalties — and many drive killers at critical points in the game. The program is desperate for consistency and continuity.
No argument on the consistency part.
But by mentioning – several times – just how lucky Frost is to be coaching NU this fall, I don’t think Matt is quite on-board with the continuity piece.
And then it happened, the offensive coach in Frost just couldn’t walk away.
Stepping away (from the offense) is the wrong way to put it,” Frost said to a question about the org chart on offense. “I’m going to still have my hand in it.”
This, everyone, isn’t going to work. Whipple is a hands-on, demanding teacher who pushes his quarterbacks and coaches them hard and lives through calling plays — something he does very well. Or as one NFL scout told me, “Just stand back and let him do his thing.”
It has worked for countless quarterbacks at the professional and college levels, the latest Kenny Pickett at Pittsburgh — who developed from a serviceable player to a first-round NFL Draft pick after 3 seasons with Whipple.
Frost doesn’t have that long. It has to happen now.
Yes, it does need to happen now. Let’s see what Mark Whipple can do with Casey Thompson.
Or there will be someone else at Big Ten Media Days in 2023, lobbing platitudes at Alberts and the Nebraska fans for the opportunity to coach the once-storied program.
Any year you’re coaching at a school like Nebraska, or any of these schools in the Big Ten, there’s going to be pressure to win,” Frost said. “We certainly were playing catch-up with a lot of teams for a long time. I think we’ve closed the gap.
I’ll be honest Matt: you missed a golden opportunity with the “catch-up” quote. One could very easily interpret this as Frost – heading into his fifth season – taking a shot at Mike Riley. That is a much better angle for your “another reason to question Scott Frost’s competence” column.
You’ll get ’em next time, buddy.
“It’s time to do it, and the pressure doesn’t change.”
Like that’s some badge of honor.
It has been an honor to rebut this column, Matt. Have a nice day.