Scott Frost Presser 11.1 (copy)

Coach Scott Frost speaks during a press conference at Memorial Stadium on Monday, Nov. 1, 2021, in Lincoln, Nebraska. 

Something notable happened in relation to the Nebraska football program on Oct. 12, 2021. Something that, in all honesty, was vastly underrated in the discussion surrounding Nebraska head coach Scott Frost’s future with the program. 

Three days after Nebraska’s 32-29 loss to Michigan on Oct. 9, ESPN senior writer Andrea Adelson released an in-depth feature about the state of the Husker football program, featuring quotes from Frost and Nebraska athletic director Trev Alberts. Alberts spoke at length about recent program-wide instability, challenges about his first few months as athletic director and, most importantly, Frost’s future.

Asked directly whether or not Alberts felt Frost could lead Nebraska football forward, the Huskers’ first-year athletic director said the following.

"I do. I'm proud of Scott. Scott's working really hard, and I've seen Scott grow and mature. The reality is none of us are finished products. If we get everybody operating from their position of strength, we're going to be pretty good. I'm not sure administratively we always were helpful in that area, and that's my job,” Alberts told ESPN. 

In hindsight, backing off of that nationally published stance after just a month and a half would’ve been a less than ideal look for Alberts’ regime. Combine this with the fact that Alberts and Frost appeared on a podcast together in the days before the Michigan game, and it’s incredibly apparent that the two luminaries of 1990s Husker football enjoy working together.

In a move now illuminated by hindsight, Alberts held a similar tune in a press release on Monday, reaffirming his support for the Huskers’ much-maligned head coach and confirming Frost’s return — albeit on a restructured contract — in 2022.

Alberts noted the frequent discussions he and Frost had during the season, which Frost has confirmed in multiple press conferences this season, and that he’s seen “incremental progress” in enough key areas to justify Frost’s return. Even as Nebraska inches closer towards a historically poor season, Alberts’ assessment of the team’s play can definitely be deemed accurate.

However, as I’ve hit on in multiple postgame columns this season, something had to change. Firing Frost was one option, but not the only option. It would be foolish to run things back in 2022 with the exact same coaching staff, and Nebraska flashed glaring, weekly lapses within certain units that needed instant correction. 

That suddenly though? Well then. It appears that both Frost and Alberts mean business, capping one of the most significant days in recent Nebraska football memory by firing four offensive assistant coaches. 

“I appreciate the work and sacrifices these men have made for the University of Nebraska and this football program and wish all of them well,” Frost said after parting ways with offensive coordinator Matt Lubick, offensive line coach Greg Austin, running backs coach Ryan Held and quarterbacks coach Mario Verduzco on Monday. “They are all men of outstanding character and good coaches, but as we strive for better consistency and execution, we needed fresh ideas and voices on our offensive staff.”

On the surface, both the decisions made and the timing of them make complete sense. Nebraska enters a bye week this weekend, a time when Husker assistant coaches will be spread far and wide recruiting. Going through that process with assistant coaches and a head coach who would just be fired in two weeks would’ve made no sense and ultimately done more harm than good. 

That’s why, undoubtedly, Alberts and Frost chose Monday to announce staff-wide shakeups and also why Alberts chose yesterday to announce Frost’s return. Even if the Huskers look awkwardly shorthanded on the sideline against Wisconsin and Iowa — spoiler alert, they probably will — each of the personnel decisions make sense.

Junior quarterback Adrian Martinez’s development (and, for now, the development of his understudies) has failed to materialize, the Huskers’ scoring offense ranks No. 65 nationally, Nebraska’s running back room is in constant flux and Nebraska’s offensive line is one of the most sack-prone units in college football. 

There’s something I just can’t shake though. All of Nebraska’s coaching moves were necessary, yes. Season-to-season change was desperately needed, and that change was delivered.

But with a defense needing to fill holes at key positions before 2022, several long-term questions about skill positions offensively and, most importantly, a brand new offensive coaching staff, what exactly does incremental progress look like next season?

Nebraska’s schedule is significantly lighter next season, a schedule without Ohio State for the first time since 2015, but does feature games against Oklahoma and road tilts with Michigan, Wisconsin and Iowa. Frost has yet to defeat the Wolverines, Badgers and Hawkeyes since being named Nebraska’s head coach, a fact further muddled by his 4-15 road record.

The Huskers’ schedule also features a Week Zero game against Northwestern in Ireland. While Nebraska handled the Wildcats extremely easily this season, the Huskers looked extremely unprepared in their Week Zero matchup against Illinois in August and are just 1-3 in season openers under Frost. 

Reaching a bowl game certainly has to be the expectation in 2022, and getting to seven or eight wins probably has to be, too. Even then, though, if those expectations aren’t met, I’m still unsure if Alberts parts ways with Frost following the 2022 season if the Huskers go 4-8, 5-7 or barely scrape bowl eligibility at 6-6.

No, Monday’s news said something greater. For better or worse, Alberts appears locked in to a multi-year commitment to give Nebraska’s former national championship winning quarterback one final opportunity to resurrect a once proud program. 

It’s extremely difficult to picture a situation in which a new coaching staff and a new crop of players at skill positions meet expectations immediately. It’s very difficult to get a new system and new ideas up off the ground from day one; the series of articles and commentary about getting Nebraska running under Frost following former coach Mike Riley’s tenure illustrates this. 

However foolhardy, nearsighted and a sign of extreme loyalty, though, Frost’s mulligan begins in 2022.

“There’s not a lot of empirical data out there to suggest that this will work, let’s be honest,” Alberts told the Omaha World-Herald and Lincoln Journal Star on Monday. “But I also think, if there’s a decision point — whether it’s football or anything else, you know, Scott’s a brother, he’s a Husker and he’s a Nebraskan.”

If Monday is any indication, it appears that Frost might not be going anywhere anytime soon. 

sports@dailynebraskan.com