Dreams die hard - welcome fans, to the real world

The biggest mistake that Tom Osborne ever made as head coach for Nebraska was win. Well, he didn't just win, rather he won so much,that it became literally habit. A habit though, that Husker fans got used to, relishing the bowl games every year, the national ranking each season and accolades galore. The big mistake though, was when he won 3 national titles in 4 years and fielded some of the greatest college football teams of all time. Now, Husker fans think that can happen again.

I wondered myself. After Tom Osborne retired I actually sat and wondered how long before the next national title came. Would it be the next year or maybe the year after that or if I am a bit of a pessimist, maybe somewhere around 2000 Nebraska will see another Sears Trophy in the ole case.

Do you have any idea how ridiculous that sounds?

What Tom Osborne did should have been impossible. What the tenured coach accomplished probably should have stopped at title one. Nobody actually expects back-to-back titles, at least nobody with any common sense, but to win three titles in a total of four years?

Impossible.

And, it's not like he did that scraping by game after game, winning with a little luck here and a whole lot of luck someplace else. Outside of a miracle in Missouri, Nebraska won most of their games in one fashion - dominating.

One year, one indomitable year, Nebraska rolled through their competition like tumbleweed on a wind-swept plain. Never letting up, throttling everyone, finishing the year off by stomping the number two team in the country by an eye-popping 38 points.

Again, impossible.

Tom Osborne didn't raise the bar, he put it on a plane that doesn't look like it will ever land.

The only thing that's ridiculous about such an incredible amount of success is the fact that fans actually got used to it - were accustomed to beating everyone relentlessly. The 30+ point victories, the home win-streak, the bowl games, the gaudy number of wins, etc. so on and so forth. Husker fans got used to something that most fans in this era of football couldn't relate to at all.

So, after a brief tenure at the head coaching position by Frank Solich that saw Nebraska actually endure a "disaster" of a season where NU didn't win more than they lost, the collective of crazies for the Big Red yelled out ‘we want change'.

They got it and probably more than anyone bargained for in the form of not just almost an entirely new staff, but one composed of people that weren't dyed in the wool Husker fans, former Husker players or coaches that grew up amongst the Big Red.

To add salt in the open wound, they brought in a new offense that is as far from what Nebraska was just recently doing as the "fun n' gun" is from the "Wing T".

Coach Bill Callahan brings an NFL mind-set, NFL experience and an NFL pedigree in some of his coaches to one of the greatest amateur football programs around. Now, all he needs is time.

Time for what could be the big question though as what does the average Husker fan truly expect?

Callahan's credentials are impressive as his stint as a head coach in the NFL where he led a team to the Super Bowl which was preceded by double-digit years at the collegiate level. Experience he has, an attention to detail - totally ingrained within his psyche and like any good coach, his best motivation is himself.

He won't stand for anything but success. "You either feel pressure or you apply pressure." Callahan said at Big XII Media days. "I apply pressure."

Callahan might not acknowledge the kind of pressure that surrounds him and truthfully, they probably can't exceed that of his former boss, the notorious owner of the Oakland Raiders, Al Davis.

There is pressure though, the kind that would make most coaches cringe, some coaches wilt and all coaches know that failure isn't an option, it's what is stated at the bottom of your exit interview when you are relieved of your duties.

We come back again, however, to defining what failure is. For Steve Pederson that replaced a 9-3 coach, he's committed himself to sticking with this guy through thick and thin. Considering the almost cartoon-like coaching search that ended up with Bill Callahan taking the job, Pederson is literally obligated for the long haul.

Husker fans though, that's a different story. Forgiving? Yes. Understanding? Yes, but their memories still linger back to the somewhat recent history of teams that all others truly feared.

They want that back. Who wouldn't? The problem is, some actually think it's possible. They can honestly sit there, think about three national titles in four years, a 60-3 record over five and wonder just how long it will take before Nebraska is back there again.

If you are waiting, I suggest you don't hold your breath.

Bill Callahan is a capable and driven competitor. He's put together a staff around him that he believes is as equal to what he brings to the table and that's good news for Nebraska. There's a real chance that Callahan can bring a national title to Nebraska. However, it's going to take time.

And, when one national title comes, more than likely it won't spin into another one the next year and another one maybe two years after that. Those days are done, what Nebraska achieved almost unthinkable and expectations for a spoiled fan-base should be brought back to normalcy.

You'd think that would have happened in recent years, but oh how the memory lingers. How the NU fans think that it's only a matter of time before the Big Red is throttling all in their way.

When the "West Coast" offense came to Nebraska, Husker fans bristled initially, thinking that they would now be like everyone else. At one point Nebraska was anything but.

Times have changed. That Dynasty but a lingering memory of dominance practically unheard of.

Nebraska isn't like anyone else though. They might yet win another national title within the next three years. They might once again regain a mantle of being ranked amongst the top ten year after year. They might yet once more take the mantle of a team that if you don't bring your "A" game, you'll definitely come out with a loss and even if you do, you might lose the game anyway.

That infamous "run" though? That five-year stint of almost total dominance? The three national titles in four years?

It's not happening. I don't consider myself a pessimist by saying it. I consider myself someone that has finally seen just how impossible what Tom Osborne and company did was. There's a reason that, that run was so unique. It's hardly ever been done through the over 100 years of college football history.

It's doubtful it will ever be done again.

Consider yourself fortunate that you have a coach like Callahan at the helm. His success will come because he expects and works for nothing less. Level your heads, however, when you define what success is. This isn't the mid to late-90s.

And, it won't ever be again.

Steve Ryan can be reached at SteveRyan@bigredreport.com or 402-476-5006


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