You have just finished a movie and you are conflicted.
You knew going in the lead was a mediocre-at-best popular actor with limited skills but good looks and charisma. You thought there was a decent supporting cast, a good screenplay and a great director.
You expected to be entertained, but not see an epic.
As the movie progressed, however, your expectations changed. It turned out the supporting cast was amazing, and the plot-line was spectacular. It had action, drama, heart and intrigue. And the popcorn was out of this world.
But the lead character was not just mediocre. He ended up being downright awful. He was so bad that his looks and charisma couldn't make up for it. Like John Travolta in Be Cool (the Get Shorty sequel, 2005). Or Ben Affleck in anything (1996-2012, except Argo).
And the director kept mucking things up. Weird edits, confusing scene changes, and timing that seemed to be constantly just off, all led you to become frustrated with the film despite the substantial strength in the underlying script and supporting cast.
After the movie was over, you ended up entertained, just as you expected going in. But over the course of the movie, you saw the potential for an epic, spoiled by a bad lead and bad directing. Like Spartan (2004).
Even though your original expectation was met, you still ended up disappointed and upset.
BYU Football 2012: A season of contrasts and gaffes
This year's version of the BYU football team is much like that movie experience. Coming into the year, most realistic fans expected this team to be gritty and hard-working, but ultimately not talented enough to do better than 9-3, pegging 8-4 as a probable record outcome.
No big deal. That would have meant a couple wins against BCS teams, downing the Utes before they drop out of the series, and a trip to San Diego to beat SDSU on its home field. Look to the future.
Going into three likely Ws to end this season, the Cougars are 5-4, on track for that 8-4 finish. But fans aren't happy about it. Nor should they be. Because as the season progressed, fans saw the potential epic this season may have been, spoiled by very poor quarterback play and even worse coaching decisions.
As a result, the 8-4 expectation set in August is no longer the bar the team should be measured against. Rather, it is the actor-and-director-spoiled potential that this season will ultimately be graded upon -- and rightfully so.
A stellar supporting cast and excellent setup
It's not up for debate: this BYU defense is tremendous. It might be the school's best ever. They're tough, they're big, they're stingy and they're a blast to watch. They have been the storyline all season and have quite literally stolen the show.
Let's also not underplay what a great backdrop this season's schedule has become. With three current top-15 teams on the schedule, a rapidly emerging Utah State program, and Pac-12 and ACC teams in the mix, it was a plate of opportunity for a Cougar team with a defense that could/did keep it in every game.
This year's slate had the potential to launch BYU into the national spotlight, if not for what turned out to be a talentless lead actor and inept directing, which led to a loss to a bottom-dweller Pac-12 team. Need I say more?
Bad Acting: Riley Nelson's limited skills and bad winging
It became clear as the weeks went by that Nelson simply isn't a good quarterback. Fans understand now why he was a breath away from playing special teams in limited situations.
But alas, despite throwing pigeons (ducks would be a welcomed improvement), he somehow found his way to the starting QB role, and after a decent performance against one of the worst defenses in the country in Washington State, he struggled the rest of the way.
Partly due to injury? Sure. But his limited physical skills aren't his biggest flaw. His continual lapses of football reason led to devastating turnovers in key places. Just ask Boise State. Or Cody Hoffman.
Sure, he's gutsy and fearless. Charismatic, and without pretense.
But he's a lousy passer and a worse decision-maker. And even his grit became a liability, causing him to tell coaches he was game-ready when he was a fraction of his mediocre 100% with a back injury.
Then he started talking. And talking. Calling out fans for questioning his decisions. Criticizing those who were critical of his awful play. In the end, he's become one of BYU's worst quarterbacks in history, and one whose heart is quickly being overshadowed by what his pie-hole is adding to the script.
Bad Directing: Bronco and Doman's comedy of football errors
To a large extent, you can't blame Riley for being sub-par. It was a continual string of bad-coaching decisions that even put Nelson in that spot. Like Cohen Brothers bad.
For starters, Riley isn't a D-1 quarterback in a program like BYU's. To fans, at least, it appears he got and kept the job due to his likeable-ness. Bronco seems to have an unnatural, unwavering devotion to Riley that landed him in the starting QB role-where he never, ever should have been. At New Mexico or Wyoming? Sure, he'd be the Big Man On Campus. Not at BYU.
But that's not the worse of the directing fuax-pas. Playing Nelson against Utah and Boise State with the injury he suffered was downright criminal, especially after seeing what Taysom Hill was capable of. A fully-healthy Riley Nelson playing is tolerable. A severely injured Nelson in the game is just plain unacceptable coaching.
It's like a director keeping Keanu Reeves in a handsome-leading-man role after his face is mangled in a cat fight (which is surely the kind of fight Reeves would get in). All you're left with is a really bad actor (Bill and Ted's Excellent Adventure notwithstanding).
If only that were the end of the coaching miscues that killed a decent season. The list of bad directing by Bronco Mendenhall and Brandon Doman is as long as Riley's honor-code-violating hair. It's all the more frustrating because, under Bronco, BYU is supposed to be smarter and more disciplined than the teams they face. This year's Cougars are neither.
And worse, the coaching failures have made BYU something it hasn't been since the 70s: Offensively impotent. We're the Chicago Bears of college football.
The list of coaching blunders includes:
- Blowing timeouts through disorganization leaving you without them when you are against the ropes on game-ending drives
- Calling plays for passes which Riley Nelson isn't capable of making
- Continually making stupid plays which lead to devastating penalties--especially personal fouls
- Injuring Taysom Hill on what should have been a kneel play
- Going for a two point conversion when you have no timeouts
- Failing to attempt a kick to tie the game against Notre Dame
- Poor clock management in late-game situations
- Failing to help Nelson by calling quick strike plays earlier in the season
- Letting Riley speak to the media after losses
Nobody is leaving the theater satisfied this year
In the end, most fans' original expectations will be met with a probable 8-win season and a trip to San Diego. But nobody will like it because everyone watching knows it should have been better. Oh, and they lost to Utah, the only team in major CFB with a worse quarterback than BYU.
Fans thought they had a Keanu Reeves movie with a good screenplay, great supporting cast and James Cameron directing.
What they got was even better-than-expected supporting actors and script, but 2012 Adam Sandler is directing and a drunk Russell Brand got the lead.
You can follow Ryan on Twitter @SportsGuyUtah