I'm not taking a side on Bo Pelini-Tommie Frazier. Well, not unless "settle down" constitutes a side.
You'll likely recall that Frazier tweeted out some considerably negative thoughts in the aftermath of Nebraska's collapse against UCLA, including a recommendation that the entire defensive coaching staff be fired. Such is Frazier's right, privilege and job. He's not only a beloved Husker legend but a sports radio personality in Omaha, Nebraska.
When asked about the statements during the weekly Big Ten teleconference, Pelini dismissed them in rather Pelini-esque fashion, saying "if he feels like that, so be it. We don't need him. That's a shame."
That's all that numerous analysts have needed to begin a "Pelini vs. Frazier" narrative. To single out any one would incorrectly characterize this as an isolated decision. It's an overall media tendency, one that's too irresistible to be completely immune from, and it's going to lead to a lot of substance-free coverage in the coming days.
Count me out. I don't care about this burgeoning storyline. Do. Not. Care.
On the list of problems facing Nebraska football, whether a former player says something negative about a game or the coaches ranks about ninth or 20th or 87th. That's a program with some systemic problems, not the least of which is a changing demographic picture in America — one that does absolutely no favors to a program located in the middle of Nebraska. Smaller picture: Pelini is in only his fifth season as a head coach. Smaller picture: Nebraska lost most of the starters from an already troublesome defense and is in the process of breaking in a new set of personnel. Smaller picture: UCLA is pretty freakin' good.
So given the struggles Nebraska faces, there's a lot of work that need to be done inside the program, and Pelini obviously would prefer to focus on them, because he is a head coach in the middle of a season, and that is what coaches do in the middle of the season. So when Pelini says "we don't need" Frazier, he's not picking a fight or telling Nebraska fans their history isn't important or whatever. He's trying to dismiss the controversy, not foment it. Pelini's just not very good at it.
From a purely operational standpoint, Pelini is right. Nebraska's football program — at least, the part that Pelini controls — does not need Frazier to conduct its day-to-day business. Frazier's not a coach or an otherwise integral part of the program's operations. Long-term, obviously Nebraska's program needs the support of its most beloved and visible historical figures, and it's extremely unlikely that Pelini or any other coach would dispute an idea like that. But Pelini was quite clearly trying to convey the idea that Frazier's comments were unfortunate but unimportant to him, and that's pretty much what a head coach ought to be saying in this instance, isn't it?
Maybe Pelini could have used some more tact, but for a guy like him, tact requires forethought, forethought requires caring, and caring requires attention. Heading into Week 4, right after a disappointing loss, that's probably not where Pelini wants his attention to be. Again, this isn't to take Pelini's side; I'm calling him a tactless boob. But he's a tactless boob with his priorities in order, and that's why I just can't muster a damn to give about this new controversy.
It's okay to think there's a story here. Nebraska's a historically great program that's at a bit of a crossroads. Its coach, who just a couple years ago was hailed for righting the ship, could find himself on the hot seat if things don't improve. What's more, former All-American and title-winning quarterbacks don't often call for half of the assistant coaches at their program to get canned (if you thought the Texas situation was bad, imagine if Manny Diaz's firing had been preceded by Vince Young hanging him out to dry). These are all notable things!
What's far less notable and far less constructive to fans' understanding of the situation is to try to turn a poorly worded, off-hand attempt to dismiss the situation into some looming schism in Lincoln. I'd rather talk about the substance of Frazier's statement than a two-sentence response from a coach after someone asked him about it.
In fact, I'll start: Frazier's right. Maybe the defensive coaches shouldn't go now, but current DC John Papuchis is in over his head, and the Nebraska defensive line hasn't performed up to its considerable potential since Rick Kaczenski joined the staff a couple years back. There has been a steady stream of NFL-caliber talent going through that program, and that hasn't changed. Obviously this is a coaching issue, and being that Pelini's bona fides on that front are pretty unimpeachable as a championship-winning defensive coordinator, it's time to look a little further down the line.
Now let's talk about that.