Hayes: Awkward silence provides another reason to question Scott Frost's competence, commitment
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.”
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.
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 — 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.
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.
“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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
“It’s time to do it, and the pressure doesn’t change.”
Like that’s some badge of honor.