Rebuild or Reset?

One of the things that always ticked me off about the fanbase is how we would change our expectations and/or narrative based on who was at the helm. For those who didn’t want Riley, he never had a chance. Each loss was an indication of how bad he was and each win was a “well that should be expected.”

It’s one of the tougher things to do I believe, and I tried to be delicate with it as not only were some of the past guys on the staff what I would consider friends, but i’ve not only had beers with them i’ve been to Vegas and other destinations. But I didn’t think it was out of bounds to call out things that I was hearing or seeing and say “this could be an issue, may be something to look out for” such as our S&C, no special teams coordinator, etc.

We had some media member go completely off the rails and go after a radio host last week for telling him it’s absolutely a rebuild. He had a ton of points that he tried making on why it wasn’t a rebuild. For context, here is the interview:

I’m just blown away at the irony, we will go into how wrong some of these points are here:

The defense returns a ton of starters”

Sipple somehow was talking about how Rhule has “10 returning starters back on defense” and “maybe even 11 if you count a spot starter.” Huh? Didn’t we graduate Feist, Nelson, Tannor, and Mathis? That takes you to 7 right there. Is he doing fuzzy math to prove a point? Let’s just dive into how many starters Frost had returning during his rebuild, and how many Rhule has returning in his season that we shouldn’t call a rebuild according to him. I grabbed the Akron game depth chart and took guys that were slated to start that game, and for some reason I couldn’t find the Northwestern depth chart so I grabbed the North Dakota one and put who we have returning in 2023 for Rhule.

2018 returning starters offense (8) – Morgan, Jaimes, Foster, Conrad, Farmer, Farniok, Ozigbo/Wilbon, Spielman
2018 returning starters defense (8) – Akinmoladun, Stoltenberg, Davis, Young, Gifford, Jackson, Neal, Reed

2023 returning starters offense (6) – Prochazka, Corcoran, Washington, Brown, Thompson, Grant
2023 returning starters defense (8) – Robinson, Reimer, Henrich, Gifford, Newsome, Hill, Buford, Farmer

So Frost had 8 on each side of the ball, for 16 total. Rhule has 8 on defense, but only 6 on offense. Further, what does returning starters even mean for a team that hasn’t been to a bowl game in 6 years? Nebraska under Frost had 4 wins, 5 wins, 3 wins, 3 wins, 4 wins. That’s awful. And we’ve talked at length on this site before that when a really bad team has returning starters is that even a good thing? The guy saying this is a rebuild even mentions it in his season preview for 2018, where he says this:

Nebraska’s manageable nonconference schedule could provide a measure of comfort. Akron’s defense was abysmal last season, so those nine returning starters isn’t necessarily a positive for the Zips.

https://journalstar.com/sports/huskers/sipple/steven-m-sipple-frost-s-qb-comments-reality-check-but/article_ab53542d-ae9f-5603-a8bd-d06d69f28f06.html

Oh… so 9 starters returning on a defense for Akron that played for a conference title and a bowl game in 2017 wasn’t a positive at all? But our “10 or 11 starters for Rhule” that haven’t sniffed a bowl game or conference title game in 6 years plus is a positive and that’s why it’s not a rebuild for Rhule? You can see how i’m already mad at the narrative being pushed.

Ya but we were getting blown out when Frost took over, we are in close games now!

So this one is always tough for me, and he went at length about it to the Peterson. We are literally arguing which losses are better. How far removed are we from being an average team when this is the battle cry? And is it really better that we had a one score loss against Northwestern where we were their only win on the season? Is it really better that we had a one score loss to Georgia Southern? Riley had one score losses to Oregon and his Go5 team. Frosts roster got blown out by Oklahoma, Michigan, and Illinois. Riley got blown out by Ohio State, Penn State, Iowa, Wisconsin.

Look, i’m not trying to argue that we played more competitive games with Riley than Frost, I think anyone with eyes can see it. But to land on us being one score loss champions means it’s not a rebuild I don’t get it. So we “lost better” so it’s just a reset not a rebuild? If trajectory was up, why did our coach get fired then?

It’s an insult to the players to call it a trainwreck and a rebuild

This is the one I don’t understand at all. We’ve already gone over how Sip himself during the Frost tenure considered it a rebuild. Why do Myles Farmer and the other guys he mentions deserve more respect than Luke Gifford, Jerald Foster, Tanner Farmer, Cole Conrad, Stanley Morgan, Matt Farniok and multiple others who we absolutely said the same thing that Josh Peterson was trying to say that he got blasted by Sip for? Him standing up for the guys in 2023 but not doing it for the 2018 team really pisses me off.

The double standard just boggles my mind on some of these things.

“How can you say they can go to a bowl if it’s a rebuild?

This is the one that really makes me scratch my head. Ok, so since a host thinks that we may have seriously upgraded at the coaching position and that we can now get to a bowl game because we’ve always had the talent, that means it’s not a rebuild? Well Sip, you called Frost’s job a rebuild in this article:

Once upon a time, when almost all of us nodded in agreement that Frost faced a long rebuild, maybe even seven years, many of us didn’t factor into the equation that we live in a society in which patience is in short supply.

https://www.aberdeennews.com/story/sports/2021/02/07/steven-m-sipple-frost-plows-through-rugged-winter-amid-criticism-from-even-ex-teammates/43594779/

Yet you not only predicted bowl eligibility for 2018, but a possible 8-4 record:

https://journalstar.com/sports/huskers/sipple/steven-m-sipple-frost-s-qb-comments-reality-check-but/article_ab53542d-ae9f-5603-a8bd-d06d69f28f06.html

So just so we are clear, rebuild was fine for Frost who could get to a bowl and possibly 8-4, but not for Rhule? I heard it a ton everywhere, “Frost is worth at least 1 or 2 more wins a year due to how much better of a coach he is.” Come on, why can’t the standard be the same for both coaches? Why does a narrative always has to be pushed?

The Roster that Rhule inherited is so much better!

Is it? Again, Frost inherited kids that went to 2 bowl games out of 3 tries. Frost had kids that had 9 wins just two years prior in 2016. Rhule is inheriting a roster that has never seen a bowl game. Frost took over a team that had 19 wins the previous 3 seasons, Rhule is inheriting a team that had 10 wins the prior 3 years. Further, Frost inherited a 2017 team talent composite of 29th. Rhule is inheriting 24th. At best that’s a wash. So I don’t buy this one at all.

https://247sports.com/Season/2017-Football/CollegeTeamTalentComposite/

Have we forgot that Rhule is bringing in 40 new players this season and is hiring close to 50 new staff members?

Rhule is bringing in 40 players between transfers and signed recruits/JUCO guys. That’s half only 2 or 3 players away from 50% of a scholarship roster. Further, Rhule is putting the finishing touches on things, but another 20 staff members were added to the directory last week:

So not only does he have to REBUILD a team on the field to get to a bowl game, he is rebuilding the entire infrastructure of North Stadium. He let go of a ton of long term people from up there to bring in his own crew. That’s a completely different animal than roster spots. While i’m not sure it is as difficult, having everyone work together and pulling in the same direction is going to take some time.

Close to 50 new staff members and 40 new players before we get into spring transfer season which could bring even more transfers our way? Ya, i’d say he’s rebuilding some stuff up there, not pressing reset.

Conclusion

Look, I get it… Frost and his staff gave unbelievable access to guys like Sipple and other media members or message board admins. So i’m sure they feel a bit like they need to defend what was going on and what is left over. What’s always driven me nuts is how we play one side for how we feel about someone, and another side if there’s a bit more negativity.

I got so mad at Sipple when in 2021 he was on radios stating how Frost just needs more time, the “B1G adjust to us” will work it’s just a “bigger rebuild than we thought.” But Hoiberg, who started at Nebraska later than Frost, absolutely had to change what he was doing to be successful here. I just didn’t understand it. Why blindly tell everyone this isn’t a head coach issue or philosophical scheme issue for one coach, but it absolutely is for another coach with less time?

Rebuild comes in different forms so i’m sure that’s where a lot of the arguments come into play as it’s a bit subjective. But whatever you called Frost’s situation prior to the 2018 season and during his tenure, Rhule has that situation and then some. We haven’t seen a winning season since 2016, and we got so bad since then that we have someone talking about which losses are better to defend “rebuild” vs “reset” to a radio host. That’s how far we’ve fallen. So again, since Sipple said this at one point:

Once upon a time, when almost all of us nodded in agreement that Frost faced a long rebuild, maybe even seven years, many of us didn’t factor into the equation that we live in a society in which patience is in short supply.

Guess what? This would be year 6 of the “possible 7 year rebuild” for Frost. Can someone answer me that if he is still in the middle of the possible rebuild timeline for Frost, why it isn’t a rebuild for him? If things are looking up, why was he fired then?

It just really gets under my skin that we were willing to give a guy “close to 7 years” to right the ship based on who he was, but we start drawing battle lines for expectations for Rhule when he isn’t deserving. I’m a guy that always wants the best for Nebraska no matter if the coach and staff are guys I drank beer with, or if it’s who we have now where I basically have no connection. But my expectations won’t change based on who is running things, which seems to be lost on some people. I’ll hang up and listen.

Join us on Wednesday when we go over the two polls I posted on my Twitter and give my thoughts on them:

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13 thoughts on “Rebuild or Reset?

  1. Your spot on, because of who our last coach was, most people give a hard pass with the HOPE he could turn it around.. After hearing things, he wasn’t ever going to turn anything around.. That being said, yes this is a huge rebuild with the hope he can pick off enough games to get to a bowl.. I’m hoping, not expecting anything really outside of improvement. fishbowl hot garbage….

    1. I really am hoping we get to a bowl in year 1 with Rhule, the schedule is more than manageable. But we have no idea what our deficiencies are or how big of an uphill climb this is until after the spring.

  2. Yeah I think a lot of the conversation around this stuff for media outlets is off-season fodder. Hard to find any media with a lot of bias ingrained nowadays.

    I have opinions and bias just like anyone if a coach will work out or not, but I always have a timeline of at least 2-3 years before I’ll really assume what direction we’re headed in. I think 2 years is fair for players on roster to see improvement and playing time, and I give 1st year of recruiting a pass, like this year I’ll assume we maybe had to stretch on some kids.

    I have some faith that Rhule CAN turn it around quickly, but there’s still a lot of unknowns with incoming recruits and how transfers will pan out.

    As an aside, I remember at the end of the year checking some CFB scores and noticed Northwestern’s record was like 1-11 or whatever it was. I was like, were we really their ONLY win. Yeah, that’s bad.

    1. I pretty much give any coach until year 2 to get to a bowl game. Year 1 can be difficult for a myriad of reasons. With that said, when Frost didn’t get there after 2019, I gave him season 3 and when we were the only ones practicing and everyone else wasn’t due to the pandemic, and we still only won 3 games and got upset multiple times, I jumped head first off the bandwagon.

      Rhule deserves two years without scrutiny. Any expectation on year 1 I feel does people no good. But by year 2 we should be able to get to a bowl game for sure.

  3. I would tend to argue any coach that brings in an entirely new staff (let alone organization) is a rebuild. New coaches, new system, new players. I wouldn’t be surprised if Rhule and company make is look more like a reset than a rebuild but he is still laying a foundation. For some reason with Rhule I’m confident he will do well. Mainly because he has articulated his vision and you can see it being executed whereas with Frost it was more hope that he would get it turned around as I no idea what was going on behind the scenes. You never know how it will all translate to wins and losses so I hope we have some patience.

    Would love to know your thoughts on the new S&C as I know it was something didn’t sit well with you the last go around.

    Thank you for these posts, your insight is sorely missed on the other board.

    1. I think you’re right, pretty much any coach coming in for a fired one and not someone that got promoted to a bigger job is rebuilding in some form or another. How “easy” they make that look may dictate reset or rebuild.

      So far things look good from what i’m seeing on social media and from what people are saying around town and some players. I don’t know these guys just like I knew what was going in with previous staff. But they look to be sprinting more in the highlights, they are doing front squats which the previous regime though were ridiculous. With that said, a few of the guys I follow and respect have never really been fans of Rhule and his S/C stuff (Campbell wasn’t his main guy) and I haven’t been able to figure out where that was from.

      Miss everyone over there. It’s a shame a differing of opinions led to my cancellation but it’s the world we live in I suppose.

  4. Great post. Perception is such a key here. Riley was perceived as a guy that couldnt win, so every win he got was lucky, every loss he got was proof he sucked. Frost was perceived as the next TO. So very win he got was proof we were on the way and every loss we got was someone elses fault or reason. Riley was a better coach than SF but never really got a good shot at it and was thrown under the bus with Diaco. I wouldnt say riley was the right hire obviously but it shows how the media or fans “perception” of the coach influences what they say, write or feel. Riley was a way better coach then he was ever going to have a chance to show. Frost was horrible but always got the benefit of the doubt. Why? Percepction

    1. For sure, perception and I would also say the other thing is if you’ve vocally put out there what you think is going to happen or a prediction, you almost would rather see it proved right than be wrong and see success. Kind of human nature a bit I suppose.

      1. Yep, that human nature part is definitely valid, I can admit I’ve seen that in myself. I’ve had debates some college QBs would pan out in the pros, me believing they ‘wouldnt work out’. I found myself sometimes rooting for the teams those QBs would play a little bit even though I didn’t necessarily have anything against those QBs. Wasn’t some hatred or anything, but realized deep down a part of me just wanted my take to be to be right.

        Sounds petty, but I feel like most people that will happen to, to some extent. The hope is you can be objective enough when the opposite turns out to be true, but not always easy for people to do that

  5. Great post. It’s too bad most of the Nebraska media members are a cancer to our program. I don’t have anything to compare it to, so maybe that is the case everywhere, but man do ours stink.

    1. I think there’s just so many covering Nebraska now (including me) that they have to try and separate themselves. Even worse if they get a personal relationship with one they feel the need to defend at all costs.

  6. There’s another factor at play here: Many Nebraska fans don’t want bad news. This was especially true during the Frost years. Many sports journalists didn’t want to tell the fans that their native son from central casting wasn’t up to the task and disparate treatment given to Frost and Riley proves it. The same folks who wanted to “burn it down” after Riley’s last year of a .500 tenure were making excuses for Frost until the South Alabama loss–for a coach who won 16 games in 4 years. Personal relationships with head coaches don’t lead to objective journalism, but neither does a fan base that doesn’t want to hear that their baby is ugly.

    1. I think that’s spot on. I hate to keep harping on this, but remember when all of the stuff came out about how Frost was doing so poorly behind the scenes? People started killing the media saying “If you knew this and didn’t say it, it doesn’t make it better now.”

      However, I literally got kicked off a message board for (in my opinion) subtly saying there were things that needed to be fixed for him to have success here. Even when Clester had his son choose elsewhere I tried telling people it was more about what was going on in Lincoln and not necessarily his hate for the program. I quickly got the boot.

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