Hidden blessing amidst Frost’s failure in Nebraska is the return of Mickey Joseph

It’s the end of (another) mistake.

The Scott Frost coaching chapter in Nebraska officially closes Friday at Kinnick Stadium in Iowa City. How will it be remembered?

I won’t look back on it as a total disaster. Not a total bust.

There was a blessing that came out of the whole mess.

Nebraska was reintroduced to Mickey Joseph.

Joseph’s second act in Lincoln was memorable. It was a treasure. A hidden gem.

Joseph came to NU in 1988 as a national honoree, the Gatorade Player of the Year. He ended up starting nine games at quarterback in his four-year career. A freak leg injury limited his senior year.

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As I recall from that 1991 season, my freshman year at Nebraska, Joseph was a popular player with the fans and media. He was replaced by Keithen McCant to open and rarely played.

I didn’t get to know MJ until last spring when he arrived on the scene as a key taker to rescue Scott Frost.

Joseph returned as a celebrity assistant, a home hire following his successful run at LSU. An ace recruiter. Mentor for young people. Tough love motivator. Difference maker.

Since I spent a lot of time with him in the spring and saw him among the players, I understood why he was such a great recruiter. There is a genuine quality about Joseph. He is related to everyone.

While Joseph is not a dynamic personality, he has an understated confidence and aura. He puts you at ease. People want to be close to him.

In that way, he reminds me of Barry Switzerland.

Joseph came here as something of Frost’s savior, whether he’s recruiting transfers to NU or exuding a leadership vibe. And fans hoped his penchant for holding players accountable would carry over to the entire team.

We never heard from Mickey, because the assistants weren’t allowed to talk. Until the assistant became the interim coach.

So Joseph stood in front of the microphone twice a week. And I think a lot of Husker fans fell in love with it.

They liked his bravado when he got off the bus first at Purdue in a black suit, black shirt, and red tie. They were partial to her no-apology and accountability messages every week.

And they saw him as the underdog, and everybody loves a loser. Especially when he’s played for scarlet and cream.

But after a game-one debacle against Oklahoma, NU played tough and appeared more focused under Joseph. The defense played better. After four years of tagging along, they faced off, for goodness sake.

Throw in wins over Indiana and Rutgers and you had a debate between those who wanted an established head coach and those at Team Mickey.

Five consecutive defeats deprived the campaign of air. So having some game management choices, quarterback selection, etc.

Joseph isn’t expected to get the job, but that doesn’t detract from his impact on the team and program in 2022.

He was the right man at the right time for NOW.

This season could have gotten ugly, could have ripped at the seams. It didn’t happen.

Joseph caught the attention of the team. They played for their coach. That might be how it’s supposed to work. And maybe Joseph gets credit for acting more like a head coach than Frost ever did.

Joseph Factor was, even with a weakened team, they always competed and there were some matches where you thought, well, maybe…

In his own way, Joseph not only embraced Nebraska football, but he reminded a few people what he loved about Husker football.

It was never going to work. As a job candidate, Joseph was an interim head coach of a team with too many flaws to count. He was set to fail against that program.

And I still insist that Joseph would have had a better shot had he not been interim manager. And he was a high-profile assistant coach with a reputation for recruiting talent and a national title ring.

You cannot request a new head coach to retain certain assistant coaches. Every head coach has his boys, the ones he trusts to do what he wants.

Especially when an assistant manager is already popular with fans and players.

But I think keeping Joseph on the next staff would be the right thing to do, play smart.

He’s a seasoned guy who attracts recruits, including those of the transfer type, and then connects. It’s a bridge to the locker room. And a bridge to the community, the fans, the high school coaches.

If he sounds like a head coaching candidate, I say not yet. Joseph could use some seasoning, some lessons in how to run a big schedule.

Joseph as a capable and effective assistant who could one day learn and possibly take over the program? Absolutely.

The one thing the 2022 season has taught us is that Joseph is a great guy to have in the program.

I won’t remember much from this season. There have been no memorable matches, unless one comes along on Friday.

I will remember thoughtful conversations with Casey Thompson, the pride and struggle of Garrett Nelson and Travis Vokolek. And the spirit of this overwhelmed group that became a better team after losing their coach.

This happened because of Joseph. He came back and was a difference maker. He’ll have his choice of landing spots. Hope you stick around.

Tom’s pick: Iowa 21, Nebraska 10.


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