What is at stake in the decision confronting Bronco Mendenhall

Douglas C. Pizac-US PRESSWIRE - Presswire

As BYU coaches face a difficult choice, can they learn from history? Can BYU fans?

In the decision whether or not to permanently promote freshman quarterback Taysom Hill over injured senior Riley Nelson, there is a dynamic at play that BYU has experienced all too often in recent years. To their credit, BYU coaches are desperately trying to learn from history in order to avoid creating this dynamic again. Whether or not they succeed will likely determine if they keep their jobs.

Many BYU fans currently feel strongly that Taysom Hill is the better quarterback. They may be right. BYU coaches, however, are considering the consequences if they make Hill the official starter and he then loses several games in a row while Nelson is standing on the sideline healthy after having lost one game - to TCU - at full strength. The impact of losing is why the team and fanbase turned on Jake Heaps and ate him alive, and contrary to what fans believe, Hill is capable of losing - particularly to the teams coming down the pike.

Those who think Heaps was a special case fail to recognize the same thing is happening to Nelson right now. Exactly one year ago, he was the player everyone called for to replace Heaps (whom, ironically, we called for a year earlier, because of his "superior physical skills"). They will turn on Hill too if he is not ready for the job, and BYU will have thrown another rare recruit to the wind because of their inability to learn from history.

To their great luck, BYU hasn't yet run out of talented quarterbacks, but eventually they will, and there will be no silencing the calls for Bronco's job. This is BYU's third straight year of QB failure. The only question remaining is whether there will be a fourth.

Is Hill ready for the job? I honestly don't know, but I am confident what will happen if he is not. That is why BYU coaches should make this decision very carefully. Frankly, the coaches are lucky to have Riley's health situation to bail them out, just as in 2010, when his injury settled the controversy in favor of Heaps, but also just as in 2010, that won't last forever. Eventually, they will have to make a very difficult decision - one in which they might lose either way.

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