Iowa vs. Nebraska, 11.29

Nebraska head coach Scott Frost walks the sidelines as the Huskers play Iowa on Nov. 29 at Memorial Stadium. Content Exchange

Things I know, and things I think I know: 

You perhaps have noticed over the years my tendency to be patient with Nebraska head football coaches -- a softy, you might say.

It's something other than softness.

The patience is rooted in my youth. I was 10 in 1976 when then-Husker head coach Tom Osborne was under fire for being 8-3-1 in the regular season. I thought it was ludicrous. I still felt that way in 1990 as a senior journalism student at NU when Husker fans grumbled loudly at the end of a 9-3 season. And so on. 

One positive byproduct of Nebraska's immense struggles in recent years is Husker fans no longer will take nine-win seasons for granted.

At least I hope it's a byproduct.

"I think there has been some adjustment in expectations," Osborne said Sunday. "I still think Nebraska fans' expectation level is pretty high, and that's not a bad thing because to some degree it makes you better. On the other hand, people have to understand this is a little different deal here than at Ohio State or Alabama or USC, just because of population density." 

Some Nebraska fans to this day will shout you down for bringing up the state's low population as a hindrance for the program. But many Husker fans probably are more willing to accept the notion, especially in the wake of three straight losing seasons and four in the last five.

By the way, I called Osborne in part to get his thoughts on the death of former Iowa head coach Hayden Fry, who died Dec. 17 at the age of 90. But because I hadn't spoken with Tom in a few months, I wanted to ask him about Nebraska head coach Scott Frost, who's 9-15 in his two seasons in charge at NU, including 6-12 in the Big Ten. 

Osborne -- one of Frost's foremost mentors -- of course emphasized the need for patience as Frost builds the program the way he sees fit. Osborne also praised his former quarterback's even-keeled temperament in the face of adversity. Maintaining an even keel under the circumstances is easier said than done.

"I mean, this is what you do, it's your livelihood," Osborne said. "It's not like you're running General Motors, where people might see some of your results, but you don't have everyone sitting in the stands evaluating you every week. Social media certainly hasn't made it any easier. But Scott's intelligent, and he's balanced."

Losing takes a toll. So do the job's long hours. I saw the impact on Frost when we met for an interview Nov. 8. 

"Plus, when you have two little kids," Osborne said, "it doesn't allow for a lot of sleep." 

* Fry's death is certainly something worth mentioning in our neck of the woods, as he'll always be a beloved figure in Iowa for the way he transformed the Hawkeyes from a perennial losing football program to a consistent winner.

Fry was hired as Iowa's head coach in late 1978 and held the job for 20 seasons. Osborne was 3-1 against Iowa as the teams played four straight years from 1979 to 1982. The Hawkeyes beat the Huskers 10-7 in 1981 in Iowa City, the year Fry's squad scored a shocking 9-7 win at Michigan and closed the regular season with a 36-7 thumping of Michigan State that gave the Hawkeyes a tie for the Big Ten title and the league’s berth in the Rose Bowl.

In all, Iowa shared three Big Ten titles and went to three Rose Bowls under Fry.

"I recruited against him and remember he was very good -- he was pretty smooth, and he had a lot of slogans," Osborne said.

Fry, who grew up in west Texas, brought a unique personality to Iowa City. Following an easy victory, he was known to proclaim in a deep drawl, "Wal-l-l-l, it was sorta like a porch picnic."

When speaking of an obvious fallacy, he would spout, "That dawg won't hunt."

"Interesting guy," Osborne said.

And an excellent coach. An icon in Iowa. RIP. 

* Speaking of interesting guys, the world will watch now as New England quarterback Tom Brady contemplates his next move. Maybe it'll be retirement. Nobody asked me, but I would be very surprised if the 42-year-old walks away from the NFL now. He has said he wants to play until age 45. What's more, his white-hot competitive streak likely dictates that he won't want to end his career on a such a down note. 

His last pass was picked off and returned for a touchdown in New England's 20-13 wild-card round loss to Tennessee on Saturday.

Brady's an unrestricted free agent. If he's going to return to New England, the Patriots' front office will have to come up with ample money but also give the quarterback some personnel help -- for instance, a big receiver or two on the perimeter. 

Adrian Martinez surely can relate.

* I asked Osborne about Brady's situation and something predictable happened. 

Tom immediately switched the conversation to Tennessee running back Derrick Henry, the NFL's leading rusher this season. The 6-foot-3, 238-pound athlete rushed 34 times for 182 yards against the Patriots in a gorgeous and memorable display of power running. 

"I don't care where you are, if you can run the football and keep the ball away from somebody else, it's a big deal," Osborne said. "He's a great player. It's unusual to have a guy that size with that kind of speed.

"He was kind of wading through guys like they weren't there."

* A confession: I've been to more NBA games this season (Grizzlies-Nuggets on Dec. 28 in Denver) than Nebraska women's basketball games. 

Looks like that better change fast. 

Amy Williams has her team off to a 12-2 start (2-1 Big Ten). However, as of Sunday, the Huskers were just 68th in the NCAA RPI.

So, plenty of proving to do.

* RIP, David Stern. The former NBA commissioner helped created an incredible game experience at arenas throughout the league. Even a random game in Denver in December feels like a big event, what with the music and big screens and, yes, the incredible talent in the league.

I had zero complaints. Except maybe the music could be turned down a notch or two. LOL.

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