The 2010 football season is turning out to be one of the most interesting seasons I can ever remember.
BYU has seen it all this season: A top 25 ranking, a horrible downturn, the ultimate rock bottom, and then a turnaround that might just send us to a bowl game for Christmas.
It all, in my opinion, hinged around the firing of Jaime Hill.
I liked Hill when he was brought aboard the good ship BYU. I thought he did a great job with our defensive backs in 2006. In 2007 Hill was named Defensive Coordinator, but Bronco retained playcalling duties. In 2008 Bronco let Hill call plays and then earlier this year Hill was fired.
Since the firing, BYU's defense has totally changed its identity. They stiffened up, particularly against the run, and started playing with fire and enthusiasm. The predictable BYU defense that lost us four straight games was gone, and now BYU's defense is the unquestioned strength of the team.
(Incidentally, I would love to press the restart button on this season. With Bronco at the helm, and not Hill, I think we beat Air Force, Utah State and Nevada.)
I love the job Bronco has done with the defense. His hands on approach, and his desire to "recapture the hearts and minds" of his players, has paid huge dividends. Clearly, he is a good coach.
Or is he?
This is the question I'm struggling with right now. It's obvious that Coach Mendenhall has a big impact on his team. In just one week he orchestrated a turnaround that will likely send us to a bowl game. But if Mendenhall is such a good coach, how come he didn't see the downward trend before it was too late? How did he let Jaime Hill ruin the defense in the first place?
I have a buddy, Fabian, who complained publicly about the fact that Mendenhall never spent time in the defensive meetings, and spoke openly about it. He bemoaned how Bronco never really managed his coaches, preferring instead to allow them the freedom to do their thang. He called it a bad strategy.
It turns out Fabian was right all along. Bronco should have had his finger closer to the pulse of BYU football. Mendenhall's goal is to create a solid program from which he could walk away without any missteps. This year proves we haven't quite arrived there just yet. We still need Bronco's careful guidance.
So yes, Bronco is a great coach. We all know that, and we've seen it first-hand this year. But he made a big mistake. He lost touch with his team, and it nearly cost us a season.