John Papuchis walked off the practice field Tuesday night and met with reporters for 10-15 minutes. It’s part of the job description. Routine.
What Papuchis did next wasn’t. He walked over to Keith Mann (NU sports information director), Rich Kaipust and me. After the worst defensive performance of the season, the defensive coordinator basically volunteered for more questions. So Papuchis and I went another 10 minutes.
This is not a heroic achievement. This is not a feat that will help Nebraska win Big Ten championships. Many of you will say, “So what?” But it underscores something I’ve been meaning to write about for a month — an important characteristic in Bo Pelini’s assistants, many of whom are catching flack these days.
They take their criticism like men. They are accountable. They recognize the significance of their jobs.
Bo is paid a bunch of money to answer tough questions. His assistants are not. Yet not once this season has a Nebraska assistant declined an interview request from me. Rarely has an assistant even asked me to “make it quick.” (And remember, when they’re not playing well, I can be one of their most vocal critics).
Repeatedly, they’ve been cordial and honest in assessing what happened the previous Saturday, even when their comments made them look bad.
This is important to the media because it helps us do our job. But it also signals something more important. I do think the coaches are fully invested in making Nebraska great again. I do think they respect what we the public thinks.
I’ve been covering NU for 11 years and — when things got tough — some assistants declined interviews, bristled at questions and, occasionally, sought confrontation.
This staff has consistently demonstrated professionalism.
You can argue whether it’ll be worth anything on the scoreboard, but for fans, it should make them easier to root for.
>> On one hand, Gary Andersen took a miserable program to an 11-2 record this year. On the other hand, he’s only been a head coach for four years, and his best previous mark was 7-6.
Two points, however, are a bit surprising: He doesn’t come from the Alvarez/Bielema/Wisconsin family of coaches. And he ran a spread offense at Utah State. Look for the Badgers to adapt their offensive style and start recruiting quarterbacks who can move — I’m not counting Russell Wilson, who fell into their lap. I foresee a day within the next five years when the old-school Big Ten offense is basically extinct. Oh never mind, Kirk Ferentz isn’t leaving Iowa.
>> How many NFL coaching openings will there be next month? And which college head coaches might be courted? The first answer, I think, is somewhere between six and 14.
Andy Reid (Eagles)
Norv Turner (Chargers)
Romeo Crennel (Chiefs)
Chan Gailey (Bills)
Ken Whisenhunt (Cardinals)
Rex Ryan (Jets)
Jason Garrett (Cowboys)
Jim Schwartz (Lions)
Ron Rivera (Panthers)
Pat Shurmur (Browns)
Lovie Smith (Bears)
Mike Mularkey (Jags)
Dennis Allen (Raiders)
Mike Munchak (Titans)
If even one-quarter of the “maybes” get fired, that’s eight openings. Who gets them? I don’t know, but the college coaching dominoes are finished yet.
>> The highest-paid coordinator tandem in the country isn’t at Alabama or USC or LSU. It’s at Clemson, where Chad Morris and Brent Venables made $2.1 million together! That and more in a USA Today package on assistant coaches’ salaries.
>> You know I’m not a big believer in bulletin board material. But if ever there were a time to avoid it, it’s leading up to the Capital One Bowl. Georgia is coming off a crushing defeat. I don’t imagine it’s easy to get excited about facing Nebraska after they were so close to the BCS championship game.
Well, Taylor Martinez’s words will make it easier. Last night, the Husker quarterback said, “They’re like any other Big Ten defense. Big Ten defenses are the best in the country.”
Big Ten? Best in the country? There might be a few Georgia Bulldogs who take issue with that. As for All-American Jarvis Jones, “he’s just another football player out there,” Martinez said. “It’s not that big of a deal. That’s just the way you have to look at it.”
>> Over the next five years — at the same salary — would you rather have Josh Hamilton and Albert Pujols? Or Eric Hosmer and Salvador Perez? Joe Posnanski digs into the fascinating numbers.
>> Liz Merrill’s chilling story of two South Carolina teammates and NFL receivers who committed suicide.
>> After losing to Ohio State last night, Winthrop’s coach used his microphone to speak out against the Newtown murders.
>> Crazy stat of the day: Adrian Peterson averages 6.3 yards per carry, second among NFL running backs. Christian Ponder averages 6.0 yards per pass attempt, second-to-last among quarterbacks.
>> It’s JUCO signing day! Mitch Sherman profiles Iowa Western for ESPN.com.
>> How long does Charlie Weis intend to be at Kansas? This may give you a hint. Of his 23 committed recruits, 16 are junior-college players, as Sean Callahan pointed out on Twitter. One reasonably good season and Weis will be looking for a way out of Lawrence.
>> Reminder: The World-Herald’s Stu Pospisil is in Florida to report on Omaha Central’s national tournament. He’ll be doing a “Cover it Live” session throughout the game, which starts at 5 p.m. Here’s highlights of Day One at the tournament. Looks like there’s a talented field.
>> As promised Monday, more reader email excerpts regarding the Huskers:
“The Blackshirts should be put in a vault until we can get a Top 10 ranking in defense, a Big 10 championship and a game in a BCS bowl. I also think NU should lower their ticket prices because they are overcharging for an inferior product.”
– Frank in Texas
— “Here are the top ranked BCS programs based on total wins the last 5 years (Bo Pelini Era)
3. Florida- 52
5. LSU – 51
Ohio St. – 51
7. Nebraska- -48
Tie Wisconsin- 47
“Based on the total wins over the last 5 years, yes I would say it’s pretty clear that we are a top 15 program under Bo. … Bo has our program and as long as we are in position to win the conf champ, eventually it will go our way. Very clear, that Bo is the right guy for the job!” — Todd
— “The greatest fear that should keep the new athletic director awake at night is the growing apathy of Husker Nation towards football. I feel it when I talk to Husker fans across the country and sense their lack of passion. People have limited time and money to spend on entertainment, and Husker football is entertainment (sometimes very bad entertainment). People will find other things to spend their money/time on besides Nebraska football unless the entertainment value is enhanced.”
— “I am a season ticket holder; have been since ’06…driving 5 hours one way for each game, so I have time and money invested in this thing, too. At halftime of the ’07 OSU game, I asked myself if I could continue doing this. If Callahan had remained coach, probably not.
“I haven’t come close to that point with Pelini. The ’08 Colorado game; the ’09 OU game, the Missouri game in ’10, the Ohio State game last year, and the Michigan game this year were all games that I just had a blast at. He appears to take the “student” part of student-athlete seriously. It appears that his players don’t get in much trouble off the field. His sideline behavior has calmed down to some extent. He also appears to “get”, if not embrace, the culture of Nebraska.”
“I think we Nebraskans got spoiled by Tom. We remember what he did for the
program and the state. But what we really remember is the last 5-7 years of
his coaching career. The 90s were his and the teams greatest years.
Everyone always remembers the good things. Do we remember that Tom couldn’t
beat Oklahoma for his first 6 years? Do we remember that he had a built in
staff when he took over? Do we remember that his staff was very loyal and
stable. Do we remember he had a team that had just won National Championship
and had many returning players? Bo had none of that when he took over.” — Richard
— “As Osborne said when he fired Callahan, it’s not all about wins and losses, it’s about being competitive with the top teams in the country. Three embarrassing, school-record breaking losses, and getting outscored in conference play in the 2nd worst major conference in college football doesn’t represent that in my book. With a loss in the bowl game, we most likely won’t even be ranked at the end of the season, which represents national irrelevancy in my opinion.”
“Aside from his on-the-field results, Bo has also lost points with his off-the-field antics, with his rude behavior towards fans and media members. Specifically, I find it offensive as a fan and booster, that Bo has criticized the fans on multiple occasions and has referred to our passion in following the program as a burden (see Big 10 Media Days 2012.) A smart coach would recognize that the fans are what sets Nebraska apart from other programs and use them to his advantage. It is a refreshing contrast to watch how Tim Miles is handling the basketball program.”
— “I sense more loyalty in Bo’s little finger than many coaches. Let’s see…Wisconsin Coach Bret Bielema goes after Russell Wilson knowing he has one year of eligibility left. Why? To win no matter what. Then, he leaves for Arkansas 3 days after winning the Big 10, for $1M more, and won’t even be coaching the players who worked their tails off, despite tough losses and an 8-5 record. Which players feel more loyalty to their coach now…the Huskers or the Badgers?”
— “We have donated to the program and have been fans and have had season tickets most years.. since shortly after moving here in 1967, but we are discouraged as our many of our friends, and probably will not renew our season tickets next year. I am a forgiving, patient, and optimistic person, and grew up following college football as did my husband, but Bo is an embarrassment.
“Not just on the field, but the dismissive, defensive, and sarcastic way he deals with the media, plus fans are tired of being told how hard it is to coach at Nebraska .. he had been here before and Lincoln and the atmosphere should have been familiar to him. At $3 million a year, I would think he would be happy to coach here, landing his first head coaching job.”
— “This is just another example of the “us against the world” mentality that Pelini has brought to the program. After Ohio State he basically pleaded to his team that they needed to prove everyone wrong, and for six straight games they did. He asked this team to play with a chip on its shoulder for the rest of the regular season and boy did they. However, when that goal was attained and everyone, I mean everyone, felt like Nebraska was a real contender, a team that could compete, they took a step back. This is just what happens with Pelini, he plays to the extremes and until he can figure out how to motivate this team without needed a “us against the world” mantra, these losses will continue to pile up.”
“Like most Husker fans, I’m down after the Wisconsin game, but I still have a little bit of hope. During Callahan’s time, the defense seemed hopeless. During Solich, the offense felt antiquated. Pelini, on the other hand, has gotten things going on both sides of the ball at different times. If you took 2012′s offense and paired it with 2009 or 2010′s defense — only one class between them — you would have a top-10 conference champion, and possibly more. You’re a statistics guy, Dirk. Isn’t there some law of probabilities that says that Bo Pelini — even if by accident — must field a good offense and defense at the same time eventually?”
— “I think the thing that bothers me about Pelini is that he’ll accept BLAME, but I don’t know that he’s ever taken RESPONSIBILITY when things like last Saturday happen. Does that make sense? He went in front of the podium and put it on himself, said that we can dump blame on him… but does it look like he’s going to accept the responsibility for FIXING anything?”
— “I don’t see any reason why the Nebraska coaching staff should be a bunch of unproven or underachieving coaches. I will say that Terry Joseph has done an outstanding job with the secondary, Rich Fisher has turned a joke of a position into a lethal group of receivers, and Coach Kaz is just doing the best he can with what he has. Other than Ron Brown, I don’t see a coach on the team that should keep their job. I think it is time for DONU to open up the pocket book and get some coordinators and assistants in here that know their stuff, know championship football, and know how to put a good product on the field.”
— “Hopefully you, along with MANY others, see the job that Pelini has done over five years. He has brought back a burning desire by many fans to get to the stadium or to their couches to watch a good night of Husker football. Not long ago, before Pelini came to “save” the Huskers, there was almost a feeling of apathy by some fans. There were so many times that the anticipation of a good game or a stout defense was met with disappointment. Sadness. Despair. And yes, again, apathy. Those days are gone.”
– Joe in Logan View