Monson: Should BYU's Bronco Mendenhall stay or go?
A report comes out that Bronco Mendenhall is a contender for the Colorado coaching job and the response here is, maybe he'd give it more consideration than you'd think.
The notion of the only coach anyone has ever heard cite the story of the Stripling Warriors and other Mormon scriptural accounts in the context of playing college football heading off to the most liberal campus on the planet makes for a good laugh. Captain Moroni doesn't play in Boulder.
But there are decent reasons for Mendenhall to take a look at the Buffs, or some other team.
Foremost among them: He doesn't look happy at BYU. He looks â¦ twisted.
That's a subjective observation, but Bronco has been the coach in Provo for eight seasons now and he's had his successes, most of them earlier in his time there. He's always said he wouldn't be a lifer, like LaVell, and he backed that when he turned down a five-year extension before the 2011 season, opting instead for a three-year deal.
Back then, it seemed as though Mendenhall could call the shots at BYU for as long as he wanted. He had turned around the mess Gary Crowton left behind and won a good number of games.
But he rarely seemed seems completely at ease in his role as BYU's lead dog. That, too, is subjective. When Mendenhall first arrived, as Crowton's defensive coordinator, he acted more like a football coach. He was animated and wild-eyed, calling for his players to embrace his defensive philosophy of "complete disruption."
He said back then: "I hope the defense is a reflection of my personality. If I'm not passionate or energetic out there, how can I expect the players to be? â¦ How can the coach not be emotional and disruptive? I'm kind of saying to them, 'Follow me.' "
These days, Mendenhall's passion is buried five layers deep. He has the general demeanor of a stake president, not a football coach. He looks conflicted and sometimes comes across as awkward, not just with fans and reporters, but also with his players. One of those players recently described Mendenhall as "an odd duck."
Odd can work. There's no script for how a coach has to be, but he should be real. At BYU, Mendenhall tries to be what he thinks his bosses want him to be, when he should just be himself.
How a coach thinks is a different matter. It's one thing for Mendenhall to crack on BYU fans, saying the level of their criticism is equal to their education. It's another for him to make stupid decisions. That's been a problem for him this season, and in seasons past, from his decision to go for two at Boise State to tying his team's fate to a mediocre quarterback. Even his assistants have criticized some of his moves. That's all been chronicled, as has Mendenhall's tendency to beat lousy opponents and lose to good ones.
But the frustration that has emerged this season, when the Cougars had their best defense ever and great talent at receiver and running back, and still finished only 7-5, has reverberated into the coach's inner sanctum. He says he doesn't pay attention to commotion surrounding his program, but that, of course, is a lie.
When high-powered boosters and thousands of fans stir that noise, Mendenhall is fully aware. So is Tom Holmoe. And there is dissatisfaction. Mendenhall's judgment has been questioned. No matter how much he says otherwise, that dissatisfaction and questioning bugs him in a big way.
The man who once was confident and comfortable enough to turn down that five-year extension because he wanted to keep his options open might now not be so confident and comfortable.
He's a good coach. His record is glossy enough still to draw the attention of suitors. Maybe now isn't a bad time to take advantage of the moment. Making $2.5 million a year over a five-year period, after making less than half that at BYU, might secure his financial future and give him flexibility.
Mendenhall always said he wanted to teach. Altruism is a lot more attractive with a portfolio a few million dollars deep making sure those exotic surfing trips are still affordable. On the other hand, perhaps money doesn't motivate the man, and that's extraordinary and honorable, too.
Either way, it's clear Mendenhall isn't garnering the appreciation from BYU football and its supporters that once washed over him. If he thought he might leave it behind after the 2013 season, when his extension expires, 2012 might be just as good a time to duck out down a back alley.
They probably don't know Captain Moroni from Captain Kangaroo in Boulder. But Mendenhall can find another hero Captain Morgan? to wave the flag there.
Gordon Monson hosts "The Big Show" weekdays from 3-7 p.m. on 1280 AM/97.5 FM The Zone. Twitter: @GordonMonson.