It's Nebraska week here at OTE, and in honor of that, I've been made an editor in order to publish our point/counterpoint article. That's an amazing amount of faith being granted to me by the guys that run this site.
The crew at CN raised a couple of hot issues for the upcoming season - Bo Pelini's temper and quarterback Taylor Martinez' ability to be a leader. I hope the point/counterpointing below stirs some discussion.
Point: Bo Pelini's sideline outbursts and treatment of the media are a serious problem for Nebraska football.
Jon J: If you want an example of why Pelini's sideline demeanor is a problem, go back to last season and look at the Texas A&M game. It's one thing to have your coach on national television clearly spitting multiple f-bombs into his star quarterback's face, but it's another thing entirely when the coach becomes so angry at what is happening around him that he forgets to coach the game.
And that is exactly what happened in College Station. Pelini got so bent out of shape screaming at officials that he ignored what was happening with his football team. Pelini doesn't need to become as stoic as Tom Osborne, but he does need to make sure his tirades are no longer an issue.
We're all well aware that Pelini has this "me versus the world" mentality. That may work with his players, but it is wearing thin on the media and, as an extension of that, the fans. Don't tell me that the online job posting for an offensive coach is for an intern. Don't flat out deny that Martinez skipped the walk-through after the A&M game. Just don't. Don't shovel bullshit to your fans. Would it kill Pelini just to say "no comment" or "I'll get back to you on that"? Here's the deal with reporters: it's a give and take relationship. Throw them a bone and they usually have your back and let some other things slide.
Now, does this include every message board and rogue blogger that has "inside information"? Of course not. Pelini would...and has to some extent...driven himself crazy trying to quell all of the rumors.
There will always be detractors and gossip mongers. There were before this whole Interwebs took off and there will be when we have flying cars (a personal dream). He needs to deal with the mainstream. Say what you want about the media (and much has), but they have a job to do. Yes, they're supposed to be objective, but they're also people and they get pissed off and frustrated. To paraphrase the immortal words of Dr. Evil: "Throw them a frickin' bone over there."
Counterpoint: Pelini's behavior isn't that bad, and if the media didn't ask so many stupid questions he probably wouldn't look as irritated as he does.
Mike: The concerns about Pelini's behavior are magnified because Pelini is under the microscope; technology is cheaper than ever and more games are televised, so networks have more ability to devote a camera to Pelini on the sideline than his predecessors. Could Pelini do a better job of managing his emotions? Absolutely. But Pelini shouldn't change who he is: a passionate coach who pretty much talks straightforwardly. Let's compare him to Bill "doing an exceptional job" Callahan, who would rarely, if ever, answer the question that was asked. So a stupid question would get an off-topic response.
Point: Taylor Martinez must become more of a leader in order for Nebraska to have success on the field in 2011.
Jon J: Heading into this season, this seems to be a big issue with Husker fans. I'll admit that it wasn't for me until I read an interview with Cody Green a couple days ago in which he mentions this bit about Taylor Martinez:
What is your relationship like with Taylor Martinez?
"Taylor just kind of keeps to himself most of the time. He's quiet and doesn't talk too much."
I don't think anyone can argue with the prediction that Nebraska's defense will keep them in every game during the 2011 season. Given that, the offense doesn't have to be one of the best in the nation for the Huskers to be successful. On the other hand, the offense can really screw things up, especially if it remains a turnover machine like it was last season. Bottom line - the offense must be better.
It doesn't matter whether you're a quarterback, managing a group of programmers, or leading a church group - good leaders have to be good communicators in order to be effective. People are looking for direction from you, and when it comes to football, they're going to be looking for leadership on why things are or are not working.
You might attribute Martinez' behavior (keeping to himself) to being a prima donna, but I think that'd be wrong. He might simply be shy. That's wonderful if you're a wide receiver, not if you're a quarterback. You're expected to lead, ala, communication. That can't completely come from the sideline. There is too much going on on the field, and sometimes someone in the huddle must settle things down or stir them up. Martinez is going to have to get over his shyness in order to be more effective.
If nothing else, perhaps we could avoid a repeat of last season's rampaging angst and made-up rumors about Martinez.
Counterpoint: Martinez was a first-year starter last season. How much of a leader did anyone expect him to be?
Mike: We're talking about a redshirt freshman. Nobody expects a redshirt freshman to be a leader. And let's make it clear, the problem with Martinez last year wasn't "leadership", it was his ankle. Nobody said boo about "leadership" when he was running up and down the sideline in Seattle and Manhattan. Nobody said boo about "leadership" when he was carving up the Oklahoma State secondary like a hot knife through butter.
Now, if you want to argue that Martinez needs to round out his game so it's not 100% dependent on his blazing speed, fine.