Questions Surround Nebraska’s Watson
By Paul Myerberg // Dec 31, 2010
Perhaps it would be best for both parties if both Nebraska and Shawn Watson parted ways, with the latter landing the open position at Miami (Ohio) and the former going in a different direction at offensive coordinator. This is a storm that has been brewing for more than a year, rocky turf whose roots lie in the vast juxtaposition seen between Nebraska’s offense and its defense during last fall’s 10-4 finish. A year ago, one could have said that the only factor preventing the Cornhuskers from reaching B.C.S. play was the uneven play seen on the offensive side of the ball; a year later, one could very well say the same thing.
One can’t help but stand at the precipice of the end of the college football season and look back, taking stock of the ups-and-downs that create a year in the life: for Nebraska’s offense, the roller coaster includes a superb first half, complete with a lopsided win at Washington, and the seemingly inevitable slide down, complete with a shockingly inept offensive performance against those same Huskies in last night’s Holiday Bowl.
You can explain away the slide by blaming the slide on nagging injuries suffered by quarterback Taylor Martinez, the once-invincible redshirt freshman who has looked painfully ordinary since November. When Martinez was healthy, he granted the offense a dimension not seen a year ago: excitability, for starters, with a taste of the unexpected.
For some time, Martinez looked like the type of athlete capable of lifting even the most pedestrian of offensive play-calling to another level. Once lower-body injuries limited his explosiveness, Martinez lacked punch — once he lost his first step and that top-end speed, the Nebraska offense was revealed to be what it might have been all along: pedestrian.
The play-calling isn’t strong. Shawn Watson is a well-regarded offensive mind, one who will someday — perhaps someday soon — be a head coach on the F.B.S. level; nevertheless, the lack of adjustments made over a number of instances in 2010 won’t do wonders for his resume.
One thing to keep an eye on: Watson is not responsible for which quarterback starts, does not have the juice to dictate to Bo Pelini whether a quarterback should remain in a game if he’s struggling. That’s Pelini’s call, has been, always will be, and Watson can’t be blamed if Martinez, for instance, isn’t back at full strength.
Question marks still surround the fifth-year coordinator. When given two clear truths, what should one believe? Is the offense we saw in September and October — the wildly successful offense — the true, Watson-run attack? Or is what we saw over the last five games the true story?
Better yet: where does Nebraska go from here? Can this program, one with national title aspirations, continue with the status quo? As noted, it might be better for all parties involved if Watson lands the open MAC position, one where he might find early success.
If that does occur, Nebraska and Bo Pelini could bury the past, avoid an ugly divorce and move forward. Mark Mangino’s name was bandied about earlier this week as a potential replacement should Watson depart, though one wonders how his personality would mesh with the staff currently in place.
Above all else, Nebraska — Tom Osborne’s Nebraska — has always been a place of trust, where it is extremely rare to see an assistant unceremoniously dumped. That same sense of consistency has been returned under Pelini, leaving one to believe that should Watson not nab the job at Miami (Ohio), he would be asked to return in 2011. That’s great for consistency, perhaps great for recruiting, but one continues to wonder if such a scenario would settle the questions surrounding Watson’s viability.
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Tags: Bo Pelini, Mark Mangino, Nebraska, Shawn Watson, Taylor Martinez
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