Every time a student-athlete decides to enter the transfer portal, or opt out or do whatever best suits him individually, I'm not going to make a lot of assumptions about what the head coach is or isn't doing right with his program at large. Making those sorts of assumptions is ignoring what's going on in the world.
Here's what's going on in the world: A transfer portal was created to help facilitate the process of players leaving programs for other programs. A portal — tell me you don't love that word — needed to be created because players are leaving programs across the country in increasingly large numbers. The last I heard, there were more than 1,400 players in the portal, including 130 from Big Ten programs, or 9.3 per school.
Here's what else is going on in the world: The NCAA at some point is likely to enact a one-time transfer exception, meaning transferring student-athletes can play immediately at their new school. That'll only increase the number of departures.
Someday soon, perhaps someone will explain to me how a transfer portal (and eventually a one-time transfer exception) is helping college football. Think about it. How is it really helping? I'll wait for your response.
I do know that a transfer portal and one-time transfer exception give players an easy "out" if their coaches actually are requiring them to compete for a starting job, or pushing them hard to be their best. Heaven forbid.
This is not necessarily to suggest McCaffrey jumped in the portal because he was averse to competition with 27-game starter Adrian Martinez and freshman Logan Smothers and whoever else. McCaffrey, a redshirt freshman, perhaps has perfectly legitimate reasons to bolt. You have to respect that.
There's awkwardness in this story, though. By waiting for the spring semester to begin Monday before making his exit official, McCaffrey ensured he'll receive his full grant in aid, including a stipend of around $1,600 per month, even though he's not even in Lincoln. Frost will bite his tongue on that part. The McCaffrey family is royalty in American football. It probably would be unwise to make life difficult for them.
Man, this stuff can be messy if you overthink it. So I'm not overthinking it.
I'm also making it a practice to judge these matters on an individual basis.
Kade Warner fell far down the Nebraska receiver depth chart, and Will Farniok takes a deep back seat at center. They'll search for better situations elsewhere.
This is the world we're in. Robinson had his own reasons for leaving, reasons that had absolutely nothing to do with playing time. In transferring to Kentucky, Robinson can be closer to his mother, who has health issues. What's more, Robinson wanted to find a program that better highlighted his skill set and therefore improve his NFL Draft stock.
If McCaffrey's making decisions based on his future NFL Draft stock as a quarterback, then he's getting bad advice from someone. With development, he perhaps can become a good college quarterback somewhere, perhaps even a starter, but at this point, McCaffrey becoming an NFL quarterback seems a far-flung notion.
He completed 48 of 76 passes this season (63.2%) for 466 yards and a touchdown, with six interceptions.
Martinez started the remaining four games. If McCaffrey was going to re-win the job, he was going to have to earn it throughout the offseason. He likely would've again pushed Martinez, and perhaps NU coaches eventually would've had to make a decision. That sort of competition can be beneficial to the principals as well as the entire team.
Such competition also might require a redshirt freshman to be patient and wait his turn. Nobody's saying McCaffrey lacks patience or didn't want to compete. But you wonder because, well, he bolted.
You also wonder because his brother, Dylan McCaffrey, opted out of the 2020 season in mid-September while remaining enrolled at the University of Michigan until late last week, when he finally entered the portal. A 6-5, 220-pound senior, Dylan McCaffrey had been competing for the starting job in the preseason with Joe Milton and Cade McNamara but reportedly fell behind in that competition.
It's difficult to know exactly why two McCaffreys each chose a similar path. You can make all the assumptions you want. You can even use it as evidence against Frost (and Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh) if you choose.
You won't catch this college football fan doing that, though. In this day and age, with players leaving programs frequently, it seems irresponsible to lay blame on and/or judge coaches every time a high-profile player makes an individual decision.
Let's face it, the notion of "team" often takes a back seat in these discussions.
It's the world we're in.
Photos: Our favorite staff images from the 2020 Nebraska football season