I’ve been critical of Scott Frost.
Much to the chagrin of Nebraska fans, I haven’t liked everything of seen from someone who they hoped would be Tom Osborne 2.0. It’s not just the fact that his preseason Heisman Trophy candidate quarterback regressed as a sophomore and Nebraska missed the postseason for the second time in as many seasons under Frost.
It was that Frost seemed set in his ways. I wasn’t a fan with how he handled the Maurice Washington situation in Osborne-like fashion before he finally kicked the promising tailback off the team at season’s end, nor was I on board with Frost repeatedly treating his postgame press conferences as a forum to say that “he needs players who will actually buy into his culture.” (Frost said after the Iowa loss that he “inherited a team with a weak confidence.”)
But really, I wasn’t a fan off something Frost did from the jump.
While visions of the 1990s played out in the minds of Husker fans after he was hired, I was baffled at the fact that Frost essentially brought over his entire UCF staff to Nebraska. He’s not the first coach or the last to do that, but especially for a UCF defense that had issues playing in the AAC, I thought — and still think — that he should’ve gone outside his own circle more with his staff at a big-time program like Nebraska.
After that aforementioned Iowa loss, I wrote that Frost needed to finally get mean and make some tough decisions on his staff. And while the defensive staff was the main source of that discussion, I thought that Frost had decisions to make on both sides of the ball. That meant not being so set in his ways.
All I have to say is, it’s about time.
I tipped my cap to Frost when I saw this tweet last week:
— Brody Miller (@BrodyAMiller) January 17, 2020
The initial response was, “wait a minute. Nebraska doesn’t have an opening on staff.”
Correct. It didn’t.
Well, not until it was announced soon after that the Huskers “mutually parted ways” with offensive coordinator Troy Walters. Put the pieces together and yeah, it appears that Frost was hoping to land Joseph and fire Walters. Ultimately, Frost went back to his circle and brought former Washington offensive coordinator Matt Lubick on board to fill Walters’ position. Lubick worked with Frost on Chip Kelly’s staff at Oregon.
To be honest, I have no idea if Lubick will be the straw that stirs Nebraska’s drink. But what do I like about this move? That Frost was actually willing to make it.
There’s been speculation about the Joseph offer. According to the Lincoln Journal-Star’s Steve Sipple, there was never an offer and that the parties hadn’t had any contact.
I’m skeptical of the speculation.
What could have easily happened was Frost saw an opportunity to hire someone who not only had Nebraska ties, but also played a part in fueling the historic LSU offense working alongside wunderkind Joe Brady. If Joseph accepted Frost’s offer, simple enough. But if Joseph rejected it, Frost could run it back with Walters and nobody would ever know. That second scenario didn’t quite play out, though.
Who knows what was said behind closed doors. My guess is it’s not a coincidence that Walters and Nebraska “mutually parted ways” after that story came out about the Joseph offer. If Walters wanted to leave, he could’ve done so a month ago. Why leave now if there wasn’t actually an offer made to Joseph? Both parties save some face by saying that they “mutually parted ways.” Walters doesn’t look like he was fired and Nebraska can deny that it failed to bring another former Husker quarterback to resurrect the program.
While it might not have been the best look for Frost to publicly whiff on hiring a rising assistant, I’d argue that the end result was still a positive one.
Frost finally picked his head up and said “I might need some help.” Who knows what sparked that a month and a half after the season ended. Was it simply watching LSU torch Clemson in the College Football Playoff National Championship? Perhaps. It was a short 5 years ago that Frost was leading an offense in that game.
A lot has changed for Frost and for college football since then. We’ve seen elite teams change their offensive philosophies with a sitting head coach.
Besides LSU finally switching to the spread and winning a national title in the first year of the new system, proud programs with successful head coaches like Georgia, Michigan and Penn State all overhauled their offenses to get with the times. Even Urban Meyer saw Ryan Day’s success calling plays during his 2018 suspension and turned the offense over to the young assistant (Day actually just announced that he may give up some play-calling duties next year). Dabo Swinney hasn’t been Clemson’s play-caller amidst this incredible 5-year run, either.
Frost, however, is still calling the plays for Nebraska. At least that’s the current plan. Who knows what the reported Joseph offer entailed as far as play-calling duties. Were they offered? Or did not offering them prevent Joseph from coming back to Lincoln? We don’t know.
What we do know was that Walters was “the lead voice” in Frost’s ear. Now, at the very least, he’ll have a new lead voice in his ear with Lubick on board. Whether Frost is willing to get more outside help with that — something he needs after a 9-15 start with an offense that ranked No. 72 in scoring — is a different discussion. After all, Osborne was the team’s play-caller when Nebraska was winning national titles left and right (he even called plays as an assistant on Bob Devaney’s staff that won national titles in 1970 and 1971).
Frost isn’t Osborne. It’s also not 1997 anymore. The game has changed significantly and so have the duties of a Power 5 head coach. Frost knows that, though his actions sometimes make me question if he fully believes that.
He might’ve secretly thought that the awkward Joseph/Walters situation was a bad look for him. To me, though, it’s a sign of progress. It’s a sign that someone who has come off too set in his ways is, in fact, starting to get out of his own way.
So far, Frost’s way isn’t yielding the results that he — or anyone in Nebraska — was hoping for. Because of the faith that Bill Moos continues to show in Frost, there’s still time to change that.
Maybe, just maybe, it’ll start with a move like this.