Exploring Coaching – Bronco Mendenhall

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Yesterday, I shared some thoughts about coaching from The Little Book of Coaching by Ken Blanchard and Don Shula.  Today I am sharing how I feel Bronco Mendenhall stacks up against the advice in the book.

Bronco Mendenhall

BYU Head Coach Bronco MendenhallConviction-driven – Does Bronco have conviction? Sure he does. I don’t think any of us would doubt that. But does he truly love what he is doing? Everything? I can honestly say I don’t think he does.  I take no issue with his desire to not be a lifer like LaVell Edwards; that much is fine. But they way he treats the media and more importantly, the fans, makes me believe he doesn’t fully embrace being a coach at BYU. We’re a “peculiar” breed as BYU fans, but I don’t think as a collection that we’re nearly as uneducated as he might believe we are. Can he change? Who knows?  I think he could, but it would be hard.  Will he change? I can say never, but if “never” were a destination, he might be waiting at the customs counter to get in.

Overlearning – “The manager who has an organization full of individuals who operate on autopilot has no need to direct them because they are able to direct and monitor themselves.” I feel as though this describes exactly the opposite of Bronco. Case in point, at the end of the Utah State game. It shouldn’t have mattered at the point of the last play of the game when Taysom Hill got hurt. In that situation, it should have been so well-understood by Mendenhall, Brandon Doman, and Hill, that taking a knee was the correct play in that situation. Instead, Taysom Hill busts up his knee and was lost for season.

Audible-ready – Which leads me to my next point; Bronco is not audible-ready. When was the last time you saw a BYU coaching staff make an adjustment in the game or at half-time that put the Cougars in a better situation to win? Bronco has stated time and again that he plans his game plan and that because he’s put the time into it that it is the best game plan for that game. I feel as though being audible-ready would include acknowledging that Idaho and Notre Dame are not the same opponent and that one game plan would not be acceptable against both teams.

Consistency – I feel consistency might be the one term here that truly defines Bronco.  He is nothing if not consistent; even at the detriment of the team sometimes.  But disappearing from the preparation of the whole team just to focus on one aspect of the same game is not the most effective way to lead.  How can he catch the mistakes that are showing up in the games (i.e. poor offensive line play, poor quarterbacking decisions, and awful play-calling at the wrong times) if he isn’t there to catch them in practice and blow his whistle to make them run it again? His one consistent mantra of late seems to be, “If the offense ain’t working, then release them and invite them to apply again.”

Honesty-based – When he took over the BYU football team in 2005, he was juxtaposed against Gary Crowton. He was refreshing, honest, straight-forward, and a welcome respite from the dark days we had all endured.  He quickly earned the respect of the staff, the players, the admin, and the fans.  However, in the past few season, it seems as though disdain for the fans (and the admin) has crept into his demeanor.  His dealing with this Riley Nelson issue these past three seasons really feels like he’s been nothing short of dishonest with himself, the team, the media, and the fans.

Don’t let this cause you to think I’m not a Bronco fan; I am.  Is spite of the challenges and deficiencies I described above, I think he came to Provo at the right time and did the right things. His work within the construct of our defense has been nothing short of magnificent. And if my world were perfect (and I know I probably speak for 99% of all BYU fans) he would be our defensive coordinator forever.  But he won’t, and as such, he will continue to be subjected to criticism of his coaching style.

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