Could Carl Crawford have saved Frank Solich's job?

May, 5, 2009
5/05/09
10:04
AM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin

Ah, what might have been.

Steve Sipple of the Lincoln Journal-Star had an interesting column this morning about Carl Crawford after the jet-quick Tampa Bay Devil Rays outfielder tied a modern-day major-league record by stealing six bases in a game on Sunday.

Some of us still remember Crawford as a speedy quarterback from his time at Jefferson Davis High School in Houston. He also was a signee for Nebraska before opting to turn pro in baseball, where he was a second-round draft pick for the Devil Rays in the 1999 draft.

Sipple caught up with former Nebraska coach Frank Solich, who remains convinced that Crawford was an outstanding football prospect.

How good?

Solich told Sipple that if Crawford had stuck with his commitment to the Cornhuskers, Crawford could have started at quarterback for the Cornhuskers.

That's likely not a reach, considering that Crawford was offered scholarships from schools like USC, Oklahoma and Florida. He also received a basketball scholarship offer to play point guard at UCLA and was an award-winning swimmer for his high school team.

Solich said that that Crawford's arrival would have led to the move of Jammal Lord to strong safety. And Solich adds that if Lord had played that position in college, he likely would still be playing there today in the NFL.

Of course, Crawford would have faced some long odds if he had opted for a college football career. The Cornhuskers had a couple of players in front of him at the position in 1999 -- Eric Crouch and Bobby Newcombe.

But if Crawford had showed the patience and the athleticism he now shows on the baseball diamond, who's to doubt he could have lived up to Solich's claims?

Imagine if Crawford had carried on the tradition of productive multi-faceted Nebraska quarterbacks Crouch, Scott Frost and Tommie Frazier who played before him.

"He was a complete kind of quarterback -- a guy who could throw the ball well but obviously had great running ability," Solich told the Journal-Star. "We thought he could really fit everything we wanted to do. In fact, his kind of ability would've allowed us to do a great number of things."

And would it be a reach to think that maybe Solich might still be coaching the Cornhuskers if Crawford had been as good as advertised at quarterback?

The Cornhuskers were less than two seasons removed from a trip to the BCS title game when Solich was fired late in the 2003 season.

Maybe his dismissal was inevitable, considering the Cornhuskers' slide during that time.

But if Crawford had played to his lofty expectations, he might have been able to have delayed Solich's fall from grace -- if not kept it from happening altogether.

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