Bronco Mendenhall holds one of the best career win/loss records in the country, and as a head coach, he has led BYU to bowl games in all of his eight years. He is a stellar defensive coordinator, and has assembled one of the best defenses in the country this year.
Unfortunately, for me and many other Cougar fans, it is simply not enough.
Mendenhall will continue to win games and lead BYU to bowl contests. They will get 10-win seasons and consistently find success. But with a goal being a BCS bowl, the Cougs will never get there with Mendenhall at the helm.
He is focused on placing football as fifth on a list of priorities; he views the sport as an extra activity.
Bronco Mendenhall has a knack for leadership and grit in players, but that should never blind his ability to see talent. For example, we all love Riley Nelson as a person, but on the field, he’s a turnover machine.
Bronco should not be starting him without giving James Lark a chance to take a few (or more) snaps. Nelson consistently chokes in big contests, and has thrown 12 interceptions in nine games. I highly doubt he’d be starting at any other university in the nation with those kind of stats.
Personally, I think the whole “Bronco-Riley” relationship is a bit creepy.
As a coach, you shouldn’t say something along the lines of “leadership oozes from every pore on [Nelson’s] body”, or get choked up when reflecting on having to bench a struggling Nelson in the Boise State game. Mendenhall surely starts Riley because of his leadership traits, and shouldn’t.
He needs to play athletes because of their skill set, not their personality.
If you had the chance to watch either the BSU or San Jose State games, it was hard to ignore that Riley was obviously hurt. He was incapable of barely moving in the latter, much less leading BYU to a comeback win. He should have been benched in the second quarter in favor of James Lark, and that ignorance falls straight on the shoulders of Mendenhall.
Bronco Mendenhall is great at turning a “nobody” player into a star.
For example, Ezekiel “Ziggy” Ansah showed up at BYU wishing to run track, and Mendenhall saw his raw talent. He turned him into a football player, and now he is a potential NFL first-rounder. Bronco loves walk-ons; they are a magnificent part of his program.
Sadly, the truth is that he doesn’t know what to do with teams that are bursting with talent. Defensively, he does a great job of showing the athleticism of his linebackers and defensive backs, but on offense, he and Brandon Doman aren’t doing a great job.
Cody Hoffman is one of the best receivers in the west, but they can’t get the ball to him with a bad QB. Jamaal Williams is a great running back and is loaded with potential, but he is not yet capable of carrying the team.
Bronco Mendenhall is a great fit for a team and fanbase that wants to be good, but not great. If BYU wants to return to the national power it once was, he is not the right guy to be at the helm.
So, the real question arises—if Mendenhall is going to go, who will take his place?
If the change took place during the regular season, Lance Reynolds (BYU’s Assistant HC and TE coach) would act as interim. If the swap happened during the offseason, there is a wide variety of options.
First off, at defensive coordinator, Southern Utah University’s Ed Lamb shouldn't be overlooked. A head coach at the FCS level, Lamb has led the T-Birds to triumphs over the No. 1 team in the land, Eastern Washington, along with Big Sky Conference leader Northern Arizona this season.
He served as a defensive coordinator at Idaho in 2003. A graduate of BYU, he also coached linebackers for the Cougs in the year 2001. He likely won't leave Cedar City in the very near future, but Lamb is surely one to keep an eye on.
At head coach, a viable option could be current Philadelphia Eagles coach Andy Reid. He is on the hot seat, and as a BYU grad, he may want to return. He knows how to lead a team, and has had success at the highest level of football.
At this point, I’m sure many Cougar fans are fine with picking up anybody to act as head coach. We will have to wait it out, but with a little effort, I’m sure that the fanbase could draw somebody notable into Provo.