First, let's dispense with the notion that should Nebraska win against Colorado , which based on the Huskers' performance against Kansas State seems likely; we even need to ask whether or not Nebraska should go to a bowl. Tom Osborne already said they would go, and based on the fact that it's doubtful the conference will have more than eight teams qualify with six wins, eight being the maximum number the Big 12 can send to the post-season, it seems almost a given.
The idea, though, that Osborne would be better served not having to worry about the bowl, taking that time to instead work on the coaching situation, is, I believe, a false one. I don't believe the fact that Nebraska playing in a bowl would have any bearing at all on what coaching changes are made and when.
I think there is a serious worry amongst Husker Nation though. I think it has to do with idealism versus what many may see as a frustrating reality:
Turner Gill is simply not the right guy for the job.
For a state so bent on tradition, Gill fits the mold of what they want in that you have a Nebraska guy, a gridiron legend and an icon to all who follow the big red. He's also by reputation: a player's coach, certainly an upstanding individual, a family guy and he truly cares about emphasizing the student-athlete rather than just the aspect which makes an impact on the field.
But just how good of a coach is he? Is he the guy who can take this program back to where people are at least comfortable with the product on the field?
No offense to the MAC, but it's the MAC, and Gill's major accomplishment last year, his first year as the Head Coach, was highlighted by a win over Kent State, the first team Buffalo has beaten with a winning record since joining the conference in 1999. In addition, the four wins Buffalo has this year have all come against teams currently sitting on losing records, combining for a won-loss total of, 17-25.
I know the argument; it's Buffalo , Rome wasn't built in a day and in many of the games they lost they were still somewhat competitive.
The thing is, we aren't talking about Gill going from Georgia to Nebraska , where expectations are pretty similar. We are talking about the former Husker QB and QB coach going from a place where expectations are somewhat modest to a place where they are extreme.
Just ask Bill Callahan
And while we are at it, throw on there that Gill wouldn't be taking over a program sitting pretty, coming off a brilliant run of titles, whether it's national or conference. He would be taking over a team which is arguably in the worst shape it's been since even before Bill Jennings took over the squad.
I know some people who have thought very positively about Gill, because he identifies with Nebraska people; he understands the culture and knows how to relate to the fans.
My response to that would be: who cares?
I seem to remember many fans saying of Bill Callahan all the way up to the Ball State game, that they loved how he talked, found all the big words interesting and all that high-brow coach speak was pretty cool. It's amazing how just losing games and in humiliating fashion can make those very same people talk about the very same thing and say that now that it just annoys them.
No matter what world you live in, this is sports and your character, your popularity and even your worth, at least from perception, isn't defined by your understanding of the fans. It's winning. If you win, and we have seen this too many times to count; you will be excused for just about anything and everything. If you lose, you could be the Pope and people will still be sending you hate mail.
What Tom Osborne is faced with is a challenge to say the least, and based on the expectations which surround just his return to the program, it could be impossible. But there's little doubt that the person he hires and the people they hire are going to have to be a homerun.
Now, I know there's no way you can predict any of this. You can only put the people in place who you think give Nebraska the best foundation for success. And that's what we are talking about here; building a foundation for the future. Is Gill that guy? If we are talking about Nebraska potentially having to hire an established Head Coach, does Gill's almost two-year experience make you giddy about the upside?
Think about it in these terms: If you can just for a second, forget that Gill was ever at Nebraska , because let's face it, in the grand scheme of things it doesn't matter. He never played, starred, won and coached for the big red. He never lived in the Husker state. He is just a guy from Texas who is in his second year at Buffalo.
What does his relationship with Husker fans have to do with winning national titles? Most of his recruits are going to be from outside of the state. What does your familiarity with him have to with beating Texas or Oklahoma ? If Bill Callahan had been able to do that, we wouldn't even be having this conversation right now.
I'm not saying that there isn't a certain amount of legitimacy to someone who can relate to their fan base. I think that it is definitely a good thing to know your customer, for a lack of a better way of putting it.
But if I go to the local watering hole and order a Long Island Iced Tea, I don't really care if I like the bartender, though, it will help his tips if I do. And I am not really concerned if he flips bottles or if he can pour the vodka, rum, triple sec, gin and tequila, simultaneously. I care how it tastes. I care how much it costs, and it wouldn't hurt if the place wasn't a complete dive. But even if the place is lined with gold, the drinks are almost free and the bartender is so nice you want to adopt them, if the drink doesn't taste good, I'm not tipping them, I'm certainly not ordering another and I am probably not going to come back.
Sentimentality works great for conversations in the living room, but around the water cooler, it's serious talk about what it's going to take to get Nebraska back to where everyone thinks it should be.
Can Gill do that?
I'm not so sure.