It's been said that the typical U.S. president ages two years for every year in office.
Scott Frost surely can relate.
Look back at Frost in early December 2017 when he was introduced as Nebraska's football coach. If you're a Husker fan, chances are you remember that day well, if not vividly. He had the fresh look of a young man — age 42 at the time — who was ready to take the Big Ten by storm. As former Husker athletic director Bill Moos told a packed auditorium at Memorial Stadium back then, Frost was "the premier young coach in America."
Fast forward to mid-November of 2021. Frost's story at Nebraska is a remarkable one, and not for the reasons most of us expected. He once had the look and feel of a lead dog in a pack of rising head coaches. Now, he clearly ranks outside the top 10 among head coaches in his own conference — he's no higher than 12th. Now, a sense of desperation envelops his program. Frost himself doesn't project the feel of desperation, but he nevertheless finds himself in extremely rocky waters.
Since Monday, when Frost fired four members of his offensive coaching staff, his introductory news conference in 2017 has been rolling through my cranium.
Moos told those packed into the big room that "this is a celebration, a celebration of bringing one of our own home, a favorite son."
Fast forward to this season. Nebraska is 3-7 overall and 1-6 in the conference. Even so, I'm always a bit taken aback by the level of fan vitriol directed at Frost. It gets ugly. Then again, if the program asks fans to get invested, then they have the right to be able to say, "This is what I think is good, and this is what I think is bad."
Frost's record at Nebraska is 15-27 overall and 10-23 in the Big Ten. If Husker fans feel a level of confusion, who could blame them? I mean, nobody scoffed in 2017 when Moos told all those people in the big room, "I believe Scott was everybody's first choice (for head-coaching vacancies), and I got the pick of the litter."
The crowd erupted with applause.
The reaction was warranted, too. Right man, right time.
That's what virtually everybody believed. Think about how we regarded Frost in 2017 — as a young gun with a cutting-edge offense, as a dynamic play-caller entering his prime. Fast forward to the present. He basically just fired himself as the play-caller, and he seems open to the idea of significantly changing the offense. In fact, he plans to turn over the offense to a new coordinator — his third coordinator since taking over the program.
Three coordinators, one starting quarterback.
If your head is spinning, I'd completely understand.
I go back to an interview with Tom Osborne in 2017 when he said of Frost, "He's about as well-prepared as anybody could be for the Nebraska job."
Something that tends to be forgotten is Osborne not only called plays on offense for Nebraska's national title teams of the 1990s, but also for Bob Devaney's championship teams in 1970 and 1971. How many coaches can say they've called plays for five national title teams?
So, yeah, I listened closely to Osborne when he drove home a point that surely resonates with the portion of the Nebraska fan base that misses the days when the Huskers routinely beat the brakes off opponents physically.
"You have to develop a culture where there's a mindset, a commitment, a mentality of being physical," he said.
Along those lines, there's at least one part of this discussion that shouldn't make your head spin at all. That is, football at its core is about blocking and tackling. In that sense, Frost has gotten it half right. Nebraska's defense is a rough-hewn unit. It possesses good to excellent talent, but it's not supremely talented in that there are zero projected first- or second-round NFL picks. Even so, it's a unit that plays well together, rallies hard to the ball, and most would say it's consistently physical.
Meanwhile, hardly anyone would say that about the offensive line, in part because it isn't always asked to be physical. Which explains why in addition to a new offensive coordinator, the Huskers soon will have a new offensive line coach.
Based on Frost's comments earlier this season, nobody should be surprised.
“Right now, we talk all the time about playing with a desire to excel and no fear of failure, and you can talk that all you want, but I want to see (the offensive linemen) come off the ball and rip it and strike people and run and create some seams for the running back to go through,” Frost said in late September. “Right now I’d rather have a miss doing that than getting on guys and not moving anybody. I don’t want to see running backs take the ball and have a wall of people in front of them. We need some crease runs; that’s going to open a lot of things up. And we need to protect better."
Protect better? I've seen mud fences protect better.
So, Frost is in the midst of revamping his offensive staff. He needs to hit a home run. My guess is he'll hire a coordinator with a wealth of experience. In terms of importance, the offensive line coaching position ranks a close second. I've been saying since Sept. 18, when Nebraska fell 23-16 at Oklahoma, that the offensive line has played a lead role in holding back the program.
It's just one of myriad issues, though. Back in 2017, did anybody envision this level of struggle in Frost's program? Anyone?
Once a lead dog in the nation's coaching pack, Frost now faces long odds in his bid to right the Big Red ship in 2022.
The inherent discomfort of the situation already feels intense, enough to accelerate the aging process of any coach.