Time will tell if Tim Beck knows what he’s doing.
But his post-practice interview Monday night showed me something about the new Nebraska offense.
Beck said that Saturday’s performance “didn’t display the expectations of myself, our staff, I think even some of the team and certainly the tradition of Nebraska. We did not play the way we should play.
“And it’s our job to fix it. I’m gonna. I’m gonna fix it.”
I don’t know what Beck is like behind closed doors. I can only base my opinion on his public comments. But a huge problem with Nebraska football may be on the road to solution.
The past two years, there was a personality gap between the offense and defense (this was partly the head coach’s fault). The defense played with a hard edge. With consistent energy. With a fear that, if things went badly, there were consequences.
The offense was soft. Undisciplined. Inconsistent. Weak under pressure.
When defensive players missed tackles, Bo Pelini yanked them. When players dropped passes on offense, Shawn Watson made excuses for them.
Beck, it appears, doesn’t have much interest in excuses. He wants to bring a defensive edge to the offense. And he appears to understand the expectations that you — the fans — have for his offense.
I regularly got the impression that fans had higher standards of success than Watson (and Bill Callahan before him). That those coordinators didn’t understand the football knowledge and tradition in this state. That they were content to put up 400 yards per game, make a few highlights and win the Big 12 North.
Beck is telling you as plainly as possible that he wants to raise the bar. Make offensive players just as accountable as Bo’s Blackshirts.
Moreover, he does not seem interested in pulling the wool over your eyes, or glossing over his struggles. (That could change, of course, if struggles persist).
Beck’s approach is a breath of fresh air, just as it was on defense when Pelini took over for Kevin Cosgrove.
Over the past two years, nobody in the media was more critical of Watson than I was. And if Beck’s offense continually stumbles, I’ll be just as critical. But for now, he’s saying the right things. That’s worth something.
When Pelini chose Beck last winter, many fans grumbled. How can you promote someone from a failed offensive staff, they said. Wasn’t Beck part of the problem?
Maybe. Maybe not.
But there was an immediate advantage to promoting Beck. For two years, he had a front-row seat for the offensive meltdown. He witnessed how Watson handled players, and he read Watson’s quotes in the paper. You don’t think Beck was taking mental notes on what he’d do and say differently?
Sometimes when I hear Beck speak, I swear he’s trying to contrast himself with Watson.
“I don’t care about touchdowns, points, yards. None of that stuff (matters). You don’t win with scheme, you win with people. And we’ve got to get them to do the right things. …
“You don’t sugarcoat it. It is what it is. I’m not going to tell them they’re better than they are. But I’m still going to love them and hug them and let them know I appreciate them. And when they do good, we’re going to tell them that.
“They didn’t do good. Not to our standards.”
Watson made too many illogical statements that insulted fans’ intelligence, especially in discussing Zac Lee and Taylor Martinez. He never quite figured out how to show support for his players AND show fans he understood Nebraska football.
Watson’s replacement nailed it after just one game. (Read the quotes again).
Don’t get me wrong, Beck absolutely might fail in this very difficult job. His scheme may not work. He may not be poised in the press box or organized at practice. His leadership style may wear on players and assistants. Who knows?
But after his very first game as a Division I-A coordinator, a game in which Nebraska scored 40 points, committed just one penalty and one turnover (from the backup quarterback), Beck didn’t reveal an ounce of satisfaction. Nor did he plead for patience.
He accepted blame and admitted mistakes. He gathered his players and scolded them for poor effort and execution.
“It wasn’t a very pleasant meeting, I can tell you that,” Beck said.
Sure, Beck might fail in this job. But he won’t fail for the same reasons his predecessor did.
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>> Pat Dye picked an interesting time to brag about the power of the SEC.
The former Auburn coach went on the Paul Finebaum radio show Monday and said this:
“The level of play in the Southeastern Conference is just different,” Dye said. “If you don’t believe it, call Eugene, Oregon and ask ‘em. It was a dang massacre.”
Look, the SEC is America’s best conference. Nobody in his right mind disagrees. But I’m also quite certain that the SEC was awful last week.
Georgia got drilled by Boise State in front of a pro-Dawg crowd. Dye’s old school, the defending national champions, should’ve lost to Utah State. South Carolina trailed East Carolina by 10 points at halftime. Kentucky nearly lost to Western Kentucky.
Every year, the SEC beats its chest, suggesting that seven or eight of its teams belong in the Top 25. And every year it’s necessary to point out that, yes, the league’s top tier is dominant.
But the middle and bottom tiers (as demonstrated in non-conference games) are sometimes mediocre and often bad. Just like every other league.
If you don’t believe it, call Boise, Idaho and ask ‘em.
>> Now that I’ve ripped SEC folks, let’s build them up again with Chip Kelly’s revealing analysis after Oregon’s loss to LSU:
“They’ve got a little bit different athlete running around out there right now. Looking at their D-line, standing next to them, walking off the field, they don’t look like the kind of guys we see. That’s the common trait, the trait you saw in the Auburn game.”
He’s right. The SEC has a reputation for speed, but toughness in the trenches — especially at defensive line — may be an even bigger reason for the league’s five straight national titles.
>> Here’s Mark Cuban’s advice for the Big 12. He argues sustaining the league is the smartest — and most lucrative — plan. Something tells me Oklahoma ain’t buying it.