As you are all well aware by now, today the Huskers announced the hire of former Oregon State coach Mike Riley. As with all things social media, this was met with swift reaction covering the entire emotional spectrum. Many people, especially “Bo-lievers”, have reacted negatively to this hire. This article will set forth a few reasons everyone needs to take a chill pill and let all of the dominoes fall into place before hitting “send” on that angry tweet or Facebook status.
Read this article, think about the “big picture”, and I hope that you will come to the same conclusion I have after hearing the news: the more you think about it, the hire of Mike Riley makes sense for Nebraska. If nothing else, take a page out of Aaron Rodgers book and R-E-L-A-X.
1. The entire coaching staff is yet to be determined.
This needs to be stated first and foremost. I believe, like many other fans, that Pelini’s biggest downfall was his choice of offensive and defensive coordinators. It was obvious from the outset that Nebraska was going to hire somebody with significant head coaching experience and not hire another coordinator.
I’m a firm believer that a coach is only as good as the staff around him, and there are still a lot of big name coordinators available that could bolster this staff and completely change how we view this hire. Judging this hire before the entire staff is unveiled would be a mistake.
For what it’s worth, I’ll throw this out there. One of the popular rumors floating through the rumor mill was that the Huskers would hire Jim Tressel as head coach and hire Scott Frost as Offensive Coordinator/“Coach in Waiting”. Many people absolutely loved the idea. To stoke the rumor fire, Scott Frost’s dad mentioned that “Scott knows Riley well” to 10/11 news. The hire of Riley doesn’t rule out the same scenario, but the Huskers would be hiring a head coach free of any NCAA restrictions.
It’ll be interesting to see who Riley surrounds himself with at Offensive and Defensive coordinator. If he is able to bring in Scott Frost and a big name defensive coordinator (all rumors and signs point to Ed Orgeron from USC), I’m guessing that people’s opinions of this hire will change drastically and many angry tweets/Facebook statuses will be immediately deleted.
2. Mike Riley’s record is a poor measuring stick
Many “Bo-lievers” are quick to point out Riley’s 93-80 record as the head coach at Oregon State. This statistic, when viewed in isolation, is extremely misleading. Because Bo-lievers have pegged 9 wins as a magical indicator of success, let’s take a look at this: since 1893 (yes, 1893), Oregon State has seven 9-win seasons. Mike Riley has coached 4 of those. Now it’s my turn to cherry pick statistics. Nebraska has 43 conference championships in the history of the program, zero of which were won by Bo Pelini.
People also are quick to point out his losing record in the NFL. You know who was “successful” in the NFL? Bill Callahan. You know who “floundered” in the NFL? Nick Saban. Success (or lack thereof) in the NFL doesn’t provide much of a measuring stick for college coaches.
Edit: I don’t know how I overlooked this yesterday, but Riley inherited a San Diego Chargers team that drafted Ryan Leaf prior to his arrival. It’s tough to be successful with that train wreck as the “future” of your franchise. Even if you choose to blame him for playing Ryan Leaf (which I imagine was a decision made for him by the GM and front office), a look at the 1998 NFL Draft will show you that the Chargers passed on numerous pro-bowlers and Hall of Famers, any of which would have helped the franchise immensely more than Ryan Leaf.
One surefire way to judge the quality of a coach is to see who else has pursued him. Mike Riley has been pursued by Alabama and USC, two top-tier programs who have just as high of expectations as Nebraska. USC pursued Riley to take over after Pete Carroll, a solid indicator that he is an excellent coach with the ability to lead a top-tier program to success.
3. Intangibles & Recruiting
All who are familiar with Mike Riley love him. He is described as “an extremely likable guy”. This in and of itself is the polar opposite of Bo. Even if Nebraska doesn’t take a gigantic leap forward under his guidance, I’ll take a coach that doesn’t leave me cringing with his temper tantrums on the sidelines. Furthermore, I’m sick of Bo Pelini playing the “us against the world” card. It was Bo’s go-to motivational technique. From looking at many of the player’s tweets after the news broke, it was pretty clear that he had them brainwashed that the fans and media were enemy #1 and everyone outside of that locker room wanted them to fail. This couldn’t be farther from the truth. Nebraska fans are insanely loyal, and if there’s anything we’ve learned in the past few days, the fanbase as a whole is extremely passionate.
What I wanted more than anything out of a new coach was this: somebody who will embrace the fans, embrace the tradition and high expectations that come with the job, and conduct themselves with class. I believe Nebraska has found that in Mike Riley.
The more I read and learn about Mike Riley, the more I like him. Recruiting today is different than it was 25 years ago. These are players that grew up in the age of social media and participation trophies. These players have a hard time connecting to a hard nosed coach with a bad temper. Even with limited resources and a similarly disadvantaged location, Riley was able to send nearly as many players to the NFL as Bo Pelini from 2008-2014. Given that Riley will now be working with a much larger budget and recruiting players to a traditional powerhouse, I expect Nebraska to have much better recruiting classes than Pelini was able to sign moving forward. It is also worth pointing out that Riley has ties to Southern California and the South from his coaching and playing days. This surely has to be seen as a much better asset than ties to Ohio.
4. Don’t be a hypocrite
Most “Bo-lievers” were echoing a few talking points: “How will this affect recruiting”, “Bo just needed more time”, “Who will want to come to Nebraska after this”. Well, people, I hate to tell you this, but going on a social media rampage condemning the new coach before he has even arrived in Lincoln makes you a huge hypocrite. Recruits can see all of the dumb things you are tweeting. Don’t be a part of the problem you were rallying against days ago. Don’t preach “patience” then show none. You’re better than that. The ship has sailed, Bo Pelini is out and there is nothing you tweet or post to Facebook that can change that. What the players, University, and new coaches need is simple: your support. I saw a lot of people talking about being “true fans”, well now is your chance to prove it.
In conclusion, I think a lot of the “outrage” over this hire can be summarized as follows: Mike Riley wasn’t on the short list of Bleacher Report or the Lincoln Journal Star so people act like this was a terrible hire. Let’s be real here: most writers at the Bleacher Report are college kids doing it for free, and then the Journal Star just steals that content, posts a stupid poll, and gets people to argue in their comments section.
Change is never easy, especially after firing a coach who was successful by most indicators. That being said, I am proud of the University for not letting fear hold us back from pursuing excellence. It would have been much easier to retain Pelini and hope that things would change for the better. Instead of just “hoping” and “wishing”, we took the leap and have chosen that nothing short of championship caliber football will do. If nothing else, Husker fans should gain confidence from the recent hire of Tim Miles, who has done nothing short of completely transform Husker basketball since starting his tenure. He has shown Nebraska that we do not need to sell ourselves short and accept the “status quo”.
Judging Mike Riley before he is even formally announced is a huge mistake. I think that when all of the coaches are announced and the dust settles, Husker nation will be very happy. I have a lot of faith that there is a “method to the madness”, one that we haven’t had the opportunity to fully see at this point. Nebraska fans pride themselves on being “The Greatest Fans in all of College Football”. As I stated earlier, now is our chance to prove it.