The last time Bill Callahan called plays, his offense put up 51 points. And his team lost by two touchdowns.
Callahan and his fancy play sheet are back in the spotlight. I can’t imagine a more combustible play-caller/quarterback combination than Callahan and Tony Romo. Pass the popcorn!
What did Jerry Jones see in Callahan that inspired him to undercut Jason Garrett’s authority? Hard to say. Callahan’s record has more smudges than shine, especially the past decade. There was the Super Bowl debacle, then the Nebraska debacle. Callahan is not a head coach and often he wasn’t a very good coordinator, either. (I’m imagining Joe Dailey and Tim Brown running into each other at an airport bar somewhere, striking up a conversation and forgetting to board their flights as they share one horror story after another.)
Nebraska fans will never forget Southern Miss or Iowa State or Oklahoma in 2004 (What a season!). Or USC in 2006, when Callahan waved the white towel after, oh, about the first quarter. Or the running back shuffle — Brandon Jackson is still wondering where his carries went.
Nevertheless, Callahan knows the game. And you know what, he did have his moments. This morning on Twitter, I asked fans for Callahan’s greatest play-calling success. With their help, I’ve pieced together five games worth putting on Billy C’s highlight tape — I’m sure Dez Bryant will be impressed:
Honorable Mention: 2007 Colorado. Like a lot of the ’07 season, the numbers are inflated because the defense was so bad and NU was in catch-up/desperation mode. But Callahan’s first half was brilliant as he utilized Joe Ganz on the zone read, piling up 35 points — the third quarter was a bit of a disaster.
5 — 2005 Colorado. Imagine how much worse Callahan’s four years would’ve been without Zac Taylor. Actually, don’t do that. Taylor was brilliant in this game, Cory Ross caught nine balls for 129 yards out of the backfield and Callahan’s offense ran 90 plays for 497 yards. For once, the defense followed suit. Winning 30-3 isn’t too shabby when you’re a three-score underdog. “This is why we did what we did.”
4 — 2005 Michigan. Most of the Alamo Bowl’s second half was bleak. But the last nine minutes looked like a turning point in the Callahan era. It certainly was a high point in his play-calling as NU scored two touchdowns in a four-minute span. Callahan’s mix of run/pass was excellent.
3 — 2007 Kansas State. Ron Prince is still crying “Uncle.” Callahan unleashed Ganz, then ran up the score, recording 73 points and 702 yards of total offense. Ganz had 510 yards passing and seven touchdowns, a stat line that inspired Callahan to call him a “system” quarterback.
2 — 2006 Texas A&M. As a whole, Callahan’s offense surely had better days. But in terms of performing under pressure, this ranks No. 1. Zac Taylor was nearly flawless — his throw on fourth-and-3 may have been the best of his career. Taylor and Mo Purify missed on a fade, so Callahan went right back to it.
1 — 2006 Texas. Battling some freak October weather and a top-five team, Nebraska battled back from a 16-7 deficit in the fourth quarter. The shovel pass to Brandon Jackson for a 49-yard touchdown. The halfback pass from Marlon Lucky to Nate Swift to take the lead. The third-and-short slant to Terrence Nunn (before he fumbled). All were fantastic play calls. I suppose it was a bad omen that even on Callahan’s best day, he couldn’t win.
I can’t wait to see if his luck changes in Dallas.
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>> Speaking of my imagination, I’m picturing Bud Selig meeting with his underlings in early-May, asking “How can we stay in the headlines during the NBA Finals and Stanley Cup playoffs?” Someone suggests an Astros winning streak. “Not bad,” Selig says. Another subordinate recommends the Royals hiring George Brett as hitting coach. “We could try that,” Selig says. “But how ‘bout something bolder. What about that Biogenesis thing in Miami?”
I’m not quite so cynical to believe the conversation happened. But the irony of MLB trying to clean up the game is that every time it brings the vacuum out of the closet, it shines the light on old cobwebs. I hope baseball punishes A-Rod and (especially) Ryan Braun and the rest. But no matter what happens, the sport looks awful. And I hate to say it, but PEDs in baseball is such a tired topic, I don’t really care anymore.
>> Thirty MLB teams played Tuesday. Only one didn’t score a run. Minnesota’s Samuel Deduno and his six career wins handed Kansas City an 11-straight loss at home — the Royals haven’t won in Kauffman in a month! Is George Brett tired of this job yet? He best not look at this list of facts.
>> How ‘bout the insanity of running the MLB Draft during super regional weekend? It begins Thursday. North Carolina third baseman Colin Moran and Oklahoma pitcher Jonathan Gray, among others, will be juggling their professional dreams and CWS dreams. Can you imagine having the NFL Draft the day before conference championship weekend? Or the NBA Draft the night before regional finals? I feel for the players, who won’t fully be able to soak up their two monumental accomplishments.
>> Pat Forde on Gordon Gee’s “reign of error.” I didn’t really care if Gee kept his job or not — I don’t think many were clamoring for his exit. But if I were an Ohio State alum, I would have a problem with a million-dollar president making my school look so foolish.
>> Stewart Mandel breaks down the quarterback transfer craze in his mailbag.
>> Bo Pelini is unusual in today’s business. College athletic directors, by a wide margin, prefer to hire head coaches with an offensive background. Interesting research by FootballScoop (and nice find by Mike’l Severe).
>> Notre Dame signee Eddie Vanderdoes inked a letter of intent four months ago, then changed his mind and is headed to UCLA. One problem: He loses a year of eligibility. Sports Illustrated’s Andy Staples looks at the national letter of intent contract and wonders why kids sign it in the first place.
>> A Notre Dame commit took his recruiting letters from Alabama and flushed them down the toilet. And, of course, he recorded it. Hope his parents have a good plumber.
>> Interesting column on the PGA Tour pros who withdrew after 18 holes of US Open qualifying. Adam Schupak uses ex-Husker Brandon Crick’s underdog story to illustrate how spoiled the pros are.
>> Will Leitch examines how Lionel Hollins’ resistance to advanced statistics will likely be his undoing in Memphis.
>> Are you ready for Nadal-Djokovic in Paris? Friday’s semifinal will be the de facto final — and maybe the match of the year. I’ll take Rafa in four.
>> Tennis tournaments are a favorite target of sports bettors. And sometimes obscure pros feel the Twitter wrath of angry gamblers.
>> A former Auburn basketball player was indicted for point shaving. I wonder how often this happens with nobody knowing it.
>> Finally, Heat-Spurs starts tomorrow night. Talk about a contrast in styles. It’s sorta like Miami-Boston all over again, only San Antonio is much deeper than the Celtics. I think it goes seven games. And I think King James wins his second ring.