The reports swirled, the stories were ran and people held their breath. Perhaps they still are, the ‘official' announcement having not been made, but everyone knows it's about to happen, Nebraska has finally gotten their coach. Almost 40 days and nights, this has been an issue bitter to the tongue, but now Husker fans can put a name to place or in this case, a position and know that it's finally a done deal. Now, everyone has to see what happens next.
If you were to go strictly by Callahan's last year with the Oakland Raiders, you would either be scratching your head right now as to his being hired for the head job at NU or even saying to yourself ‘what the', figuring this was the last ditch effort for Pederson as he tries to salvage what little of a decent reputation he has left.
Callahan's last year with the Raiders was anything but the bountiful existence the NFL is supposed to be. His own players calling for his firing, talking about having to be restrained from physically harming him and one certain future Hall of Famer citing Callahan as the principle reason for the Oakland Raiders' almost cataclysmic decline, going from a Super Bowl appearance the previous year to just 4-12, the Raiders amongst the worst in all of the NFL.
That is old news though, this is today and today brings Callahan back to the level of play that he saw for most of his coaching career. Starting out as a G.A. at Illinois, the former Raider coach spent time there, stints at Northern Arizona and Southern Illinois before ending his collegiate days under Barry Alvarez at Wisconsin.
Through that time, Callahan garnered a reputation as being one of if not the best offensive line coach in all of college football. Fitting then I would say that he now finds himself head coach at a place that has been know for years as "Lineman U".
The significance behind the hiring of Bill Callahan is several fold, but I'll just point out some of the more obvious ones that will have a dramatic effect initially.
No Bo: Callahan is in and that means Bo is out, but will he be totally out? If ego reigns supreme, Pelini is probably already looking for houses in possibly Norman or somewhere in Big Ten country. If it doesn't, Pelini could stay on in his original capacity, this time though with more than likely a contractual guarantee of the head coaching position should Callahan go back to the NFL, an nice name like Asst. head coach and a pay raise to boot.
Having been the head coach, knowing all the players wanted you as the head coach, the fans cheered more and more at the thought of you driving the bus and even recruits backed you from California to Florida as THE man for the job, would you willingly stay had that job not become yours?
There's no doubt about the Pelini pride and I am sure that the coaching serve to an extent was a bit of a slap in the face to the former interim H.C., motivation it would seem points Bo on the road to bigger and better things, but we can only hope that if Callahan does offer him the job as D.C., Pelini continues to keep his roots planted squarely in Lincoln.
The Players: More an extension on the Pelini issue, many rumors were abound as to what players would do if Bo wasn't named the head coach. Transfers, uprisings, you name it, people were saying it of the drama that would ensue following a possible hiring of someone other than the interim head coach.
Will they follow up with that now that someone other than Bo is the official guy in charge? Chances are, most of what you heard is idle posturing if only to try and strengthen the case of Pelini for the job.
From what players like Adam Treu and John Parella, both former Husker and current Oakland Raiders have said of their former coach, players will warm to Callahan despite what some have said. Though he's a matte of fact sort of guy with a very simple philosophy, he's as fair as he is firm and if benching Tim Brown will tell you one thing about this man, he'll bench anyone if he doesn't think they are getting the job done.
Players will adjust. They always do. They are young and though in a situation that Nebraska hasn't seen since pre-Devaney, the fact that NU does have a man in charge means the players can start to warm to the idea. It takes time like all things do, but eventually, it will be business as usual.
The assistants: Who stays, who goes, that is the question. Out of the current NU staff, how many will be retained if any at all. With Callahan's experience on the offensive side, you can assume that a complete facelift will be done there. And, if Pelini isn't sticking around, you might very well see the same thing on that side of the ball as well.
In the end, perhaps Scott Downing is the only one standing because even though Callahan might replace him with some other TE coach, when it comes to recruiting, Callahan is going to need all the help he can get. Three weeks to go before signing day, the head coache's renowned work ethic will be tested sorely until L.O.I. day is complete.
Recruiting: What do you do? Who do you call? Where do you go? Who are we looking at? All these questions and more will confront Callahan probably about five minutes after his press conference accepting the position is over.
Commits to call, recruits to visit, players to still try and get to visit Nebraska and this guy has just three weeks to do it. You thought the coaches last year played catch up, that will seem like nothing compared to the mountain Callahan must climb now. You mix that in with having to interview current assistants, prospective assistants from the outside and oh yeah, finding a place to live, that's more than a few irons in the fire.
What recruits will want to know is what Callahan is about, if their scholarship is still good, their commitment is still honored and if they haven't pledge to NU as of yet, if Nebraska still wants them at all.
This late in the game, Callahan simply can't go into the film room and start going over who he has, potentially has and still might want to get. It's damage control time in that he simply has the time to go to those that Nebraska has now and keep them in the fold, go to those that Nebraska has recruited the heaviest and try to get them back in and maybe, just maybe he'll have about three days to figure out if there is anyone else that they can get amidst what's left of those who haven't decided where they want to go.
All in all, the dog and pony show that Pederson will no doubt want to have for Callahan and for himself as well will simply have to wait. All the fans and boosters that will want to get to know the head coach through a variety of interviews, they will simply have to wait.
If fans, boosters or anyone that has any vested interest in the success of the football program want what's truly best for it in the end, until the day after letter of intent signing day, everyone will leave Callahan all but totally alone. During a time where people want to become familiar, you'll probably see less of the new head coach than any point between his firing at Oakland and his arrival here.
As with any good or bad side perceived of any hire, what you conclude is solely based on perception. Callahan's collegiate career aside, his professional tenure notwithstanding, the measure of the man as THE man will not be known anytime soon or for that matter, years to come.
One thing is for certain though and something we have become quite accustomed to here. The fans will eventually embrace the new head coach. Some will even brag about all the good things his resume' states. By the Spring game, throughout the Summer and into Fall, the excitement will build behind Nebraska and another new era for the Huskers.
Then, he'll lose a game.
Depending on when that happens, that will have a great effect on the national perception and local perception as well. If he loses immediately, Pederson is a buffoon, even more than previously thought and Callahan was vastly overrated. If he wins, especially with next year's schedule, confidence will build, well, right up until he loses.
That's life in Lincoln, the way of the Nebraska fan and the opinion on Callahan will be far more accurate this time next year vs. what we see now. History is always our most accurate teacher.
What is history now is much of what got Nebraska most of it's illustrious history over time. The embracing of this new coach is literally and figuratively the embracing of a new direction. As long as the wins come however, fans will find their way to the seats with the hallowed walls of Memorial. And, that's the bottom line. You win, you are king of your castle, but if you don't, you'll be looking for the back door.
Bill Callahan, welcome to Nebraska.
Steve Ryan can be reached at email@example.com or 402-730-5619