We get a little big-picture and a little retrospective on this week's mailbag. Greg Smith, Jacob Padilla and Derek Peterson answer your Husker questions on football and baseball.
I hear conflicting takes on Erstad. Some say this (bad) year was a result of all the teams' injuries. Others that Erstad just isn't the greatest recruiter or coach (team typically plays from behind, etc.). You guys' take? (@thawildbunch)
DP: I have a take but it’s going to be boring and probably unpopular in this age of feverish coach-swapping. Leave. Erstad. Alone. We need to stop asking Bill Moos about his job status, stop stirring the pot and just let the dude coach. I like the way he goes about things and I like his honesty in the postgame. He knows what the problems are, the team just hasn’t fixed them or shown any kind of consistency. He won a Big Ten title a year ago and has had serious injuries to his pitching rotation. I don’t think that seat should be particularly warm.
JP: Part of it is definitely the pitching injuries, but Nebraska is also in the bottom five of a not-great conference in batting average and fielding percentage. Scott Schreiber is having an amazing year, but he’s not getting much help offensively outside of Jesse Wilkening. This team just hasn’t shown much resiliency. Injuries or no, Erstad doesn’t get a pass for a terrible year, and his lack of any postseason success makes it tough to look solely at last year’s regular-season title and think everything’s going to be OK.
DP: Not firing him isn't "giving him a pass." I'm a fan of staff continuity.
Maurice Washington. Do you know much about that? Is it a matter of overall GPA, or a matter of maybe not getting credit for all classes he's taken? I'm sure all of those different schools could make things challenging!! (@BCoffendaffer)
GS: It’s a matter of not having enough core classes passed to satisfy NCAA eligibility. Part of the issue has been all the school changes but Washington also became disengaged during his junior year when he was ruled ineligible at Oak Grove in California and let his grades slip. So the changing of schools doesn’t help because it disrupts your routine but passing the classes needed isn’t an issue solely because he’s changed schools a lot. He’s had a tough situation and is working to get to Lincoln.
Is it more important for a fan base to have realistic expectations or to expect only the best from their team? (@OJay10)
DP: Philosophical question, I like it. I just think it’s important to not get too attached to your expectation. I love the Oklahoma City Thunder. Every year since they’ve been in existence they’ve disappointed me, yet every new season I go into it thinking “This is the year!” That’s just being a fan. I’d like to think I would never criticize a fanbase for having unrealistic expectations because even then those “unrealistic expectations” are only inflating the win total by, what, maybe two games most of the time? If you were to tell me Nebraska’s going 12-0 or 11-1 this year I’d ask you to put the drink down, but anything else is perfectly reasonable, I think, from a fan because "fanatics" don't technically need to be reasonable.
GS: Great question. I would say have realistic expectations while expecting your team to be making progress. So for this Husker season, it’s realistic to expect a bowl game, improvement in overall effort and a team that will finish the season strong. On a personal level, I set my yearly goals for my teams a bit lower and hope for better. For example this year I wanted the Lakers to get 30-plus wins and have the young core improve. That happened so I’m happy. Eventually, they need to get back to competing for titles because that’s the expectation in LA. In my mind, a lot of this depends on what team we are talking about because expectations are different if the team has never won a championship.
JP: I think it’s important that a fan base holds the team accountable. The team can’t continue to make bad decision after bad decision and expect ticket and merchandise sales and overall fan support to remain the same. But at the same time, completely unrealistic expectations – and the vocal unrest that comes with the team failing to live up to that standard – does not create a healthy environment around a program. Hope for the best, but don’t expect it unconditionally.
How would you guys and how do you think the rest of Husker nation would be assessing the six months in for this staff if the head coach wasn't named Scott Frost? (@TheWeeksy)
DP: As a whole, everyone would be a lot more critical and a lot less willing to accept the “we’re better than we expected” comments. Frost has that respect.
GS: I personally try to have patience with new staffs no matter who they are so it wouldn’t change for me. For the fanbase, there would be a lot more questioning. Not because the staff has done a lot to deserve it but because people would be naturally skeptical of a new coach. One thing that Frost brings is instant credibility. So if he says something, the fans listen and accept it. I’m curious how long that lasts and if that ultimately helps the program.
JP: Greg is right about the instant credibility Frost brings. On top of that, had Nebraska struck out on its top target (Frost) and had to settle for another option, I think some of the fans would have started with a certain level of resentment or at least skepticism.
How well would Tommy Armstrong fit/play as a sophomore or junior under the Frost regime? (@md_schmidt)
GS: Athletically he would have fit very well. However, the issue with Armstrong during his time at Nebraska wasn’t his athleticism but his decision making. I don’t think Frost and Verduzco would have had the patience for the ups and downs that Tommy naturally brought to the offense. If they could coach that out of him then it would be a fun fit.
JP: I agree with Greg. The biggest reason that many of us believe Tristan Gebbia is a legitimate option to start this season despite not being a natural dual-threat quarterback is because he’s such a good and quick decision-maker. That’s definitely not Armstrong.