Nebraska Football: Why Joseph’s comments about the QB race should worry Husker fans

Nebraska Cornhuskers quarterback Chubba Purdy runs for a touchdown (Dylan Widger-USA TODAY Sports)
Nebraska Cornhuskers quarterback Chubba Purdy runs for a touchdown (Dylan Widger-USA TODAY Sports) /

While Nebraska football head coach Mickey Joseph hasn’t ruled him out just yet, it seems extremely unlikely that Casey Thompson will be able to go against the Michigan Wolverines. Thompson was injured in the Cornhuskers game against Illinois and didn’t play against Minnesota. After both Logan Smothers and Chubba Purdy have seen action in both games (though one has seen more action than the other) there’s still a big question about who will get the start against the Wolverines.

The problem with there being a big question about who should start is that it doesn’t feel like it should be this difficult. Yes, of course, Nebraska football coaches are getting a better look at how Smothers and Purdy look in practice. Perhaps they’re seeing something they don’t feel they can trust in those practices.

Interim Nebraska football head coach Joseph has basically said as much. In his Tuesday press conference he went out of his way to say that Smothers has to practice better.

"“He understands that. Logan is really going to attack this week trying to be a better practice player. That’s his goal this week.”"

I understand why coaches have to make how a player practices one of those things that feels like the most important thing. It’s hard to say anyone has earned a job if their competition practices poorly but keeps getting the start. The problem is that even if Purdy is executing better in practice, he looks like a different person when defenses are coming at him for real.

Purdy, quite frankly, looks like someone who shouldn’t be on the field. Joseph has admitted that as well. After the Minnesota game, he said that the transfer quarterback, who is Mark Whipple’s hand-picked get, wasn’t seeing defenses well. Joseph also said that Purdy was getting a bit too shaky when he faced pressure.

The big issue, as Joseph puts it, is that he believes that Purdy is the better thrower. He admits that Smothers is the better runner. The problem is that after one and a half games, Purdy hasn’t looked like he does much of anything all that well. While Smothers hasn’t been lights out (he completed just 5-of-10 passes against Minnesota) he’s looked like the guy who is able to take a breath and really take in what’s going on in the game around him.

At least in his limited playing time, he’s even looked like the better passer. That includes a pass to Trey Palmer that should have been caught and that might have allowed the Nebraska football team to tie the game in the fourth quarter.

Quite simply, it just feels confounding that Joseph is still playing the “I don’t know who’s better” game with these two. This also doesn’t feel like some game where he’s not wanting Michigan to know who will start. The interim head coach really seems to have a problem picking the starting quarterback for Michigan.

Nebraska football quarterback decision is rather obvious

What should really concern Husker fans is that Joseph still seems to be deferring to offensive coordinator Mark Whipple, who would very obviously prefer to start Purdy. That’s been obvious since Illinois when Joseph said that Smothers was going to start the second half, only to see Purdy play the last two quarters.

There was a similarly strange longer leash with Purdy against Minnesota, and while the offense didn’t roll when Smothers was in, it looked like it was running a bit smoother. And that’s not just my opinion. Joseph said after the game that he should have put Logan in sooner and let him play more.

Having said that, why isn’t the job simply Smothers’ this week? It’s worth pointing out that if he struggles, Purdy could always come in. There isn’t a need to name a starter and stick to them for the entire game. They didn’t last week.

The Nebraska football team needs Joseph to show that this moment isnt’ too big for him. It’s an important decision for sure but it doesn’t feel like it’s this hard. And it feels like he’s shrinking from the moment and hoping one of his backup quarterbacks seizes the moment. That seems extremely unlikely.