Open Letter to Nebraska Football Fans: What did you expect?

Sep 16, 2023; Lincoln, Nebraska, USA; Nebraska Cornhuskers head coach Matt Rhule during the fourth quarter against the Northern Illinois Huskies at Memorial Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Dylan Widger-USA TODAY Sports
Sep 16, 2023; Lincoln, Nebraska, USA; Nebraska Cornhuskers head coach Matt Rhule during the fourth quarter against the Northern Illinois Huskies at Memorial Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Dylan Widger-USA TODAY Sports /

Dear Nebraska football fans,

I didn’t think I’d have to write this letter so early in the season. I had it saved for November…or maybe January.

But here we are. It stinks being here, right?

It’s not even halfway through the Nebraska football season. And some of you think Matt Rhule should be fired.

(Don’t believe me? Just search “Matt Rhule” on Twitter/X, find a post, and scroll through the comments. You’ll find that sentiment aplenty.)

Some of you think Nebraska football should be 4-1. They could be, definitely. But could is much different than should

Some of you think Marcus Satterfield is the problem.

Some of you are questioning how much players want to win.

Some of you think the Nebraska football program should be shut down (okay, those are probably Russian bots on Twitter/X, but still).

It’s five games into a brand new era of Nebraska football. And I have to ask you: what did you honestly expect?

I was at the Spring Game and it was…uninspiring to say the least.

And whether you liked the hire or not, with Rhule, we all knew what we were getting. As a reminder:



Those were the records of Rhule’s first years at Temple and Baylor, respectively. Nebraska already has 2 wins. Look! We’re ahead of schedule!

The Nebraska football house needed a complete renovation

You knew that Rhule was a “program builder.” That’s what Husker athletic director Trev Alberts set out to find. It’s what the majority of Husker fans wanted, too.

Building a program is often like renovating a house. Putting a coat of paint and moving the furniture around can fool people who stop in for a few minutes. But to make a lasting impact, sometimes you need to gut the whole thing.

I don’t know, nor do I claim to know, all that’s going on with Nebraska football behind closed doors. Only the team knows.

Here’s what you and I do know. Matt Rhule has changed just about everything in the program from an external perspective. The entire philosophy for the team has changed (think: body blows vs. fast fast fast). The offense is playing for their third offensive coordinator in as many years but it has a clear identity. There are over 40 new players on the roster. There are only 11–ELEVEN!–seniors on the entire squad.

What did you expect?

Matt Rhule wants to build a team that revolves around elite line play. That’s what, he says, wins games. Yet on the offensive side of the ball, other than transfer center Ben Scott, the entire offensive line has been the same since 2021. The same line that has struggled since 2021. Who the line coach is hasn’t mattered. Some single players have improved (I’m looking at you, Bryce Benhart). But as a unit, it’s been tough sledding for 2+ seasons.

What did you expect?

Then there’s the whole thing of six straight losing seasons. We all know losing is a disease. As contagious as the bubonic plague. It’s not easily remedied.

Even Rhule said this week it’s his job to teach them how to win. It’s hard to believe winning is possible when you’ve been a part of losing for so long. Most of the players on this team have never experienced a winning season. Think about that for a second.

What did you expect?

What this season was always about for Nebraska football

These aren’t excuses. They are reality. Harsh realities that Matt Rhule has to overcome. It’s what he’s paid a bagillion dollars to figure out.

But fans often don’t like to live in reality. We like to live in a dream world where everything gets fixed by the end of the third quarter despite evidence to believe otherwise. We live in a world where we think if we fire the offensive coordinator after the fifth game our problems will get solved.

Friends, like any season, this first season for Nebraska football under Matt Rhule should be judged as a whole.

So if you’re freaking out and think the season is lost because Nebraska got manhandled by Michigan, you have another thing coming. Take a breath.

This season was never about catching Michigan. It’s about learning to compete with and beat—gulp—the Illinoises and Wisconsins and Iowas of the world.

And we won’t know if this team can compete and win until we get there.

I know you hate that. You have a right to hate that. I get it. But please, for the love of all things Bob Devaney, don’t be that Husker fan.

This is where we are. (Repeat it to yourself a few times.)

Trust Matt Rhule’s process

Maybe you were fooled when Rhule said off handedly this spring “Why can’t we win now?” Maybe he shouldn’t have said that. Then I think, well, he’s a coach. What’s he supposed to say? “Yeah. I’m thinking 3 wins this year. Tops.” Heck no! His job is to inspire confidence in his team, motivate any way he can.

The truth is Nebraska is who we thought they were and the road back to who they used to be won’t be, can’t be, a quick fix. There have been definite areas of improvement already. Still, old habits die hard (like that losing habit).

Take heart, dear Husker fan. With the way Matt Rhule is building this program, once we’re back, you’ll know it, and it won’t be a flash in the pan. It will be built to last. I know it’s been a LONG time. And it hurts. No one’s saying it doesn’t.

I can’t think of a better way to encourage you than what Rhule has already said he tells his team. When you’re faced with adversity, you don’t give up and try something new. You double down on what you know and do. You trust the process.

You and I will never play a down for Nebraska football. But let’s trust the process, Husker fans. I know it’s hard. It sure is a lot easier to call for people to get fired after 5 games on social media. But in the end, it’ll be worth it.

In all kinds of weather,