Bronco Mendenhall, as every BYU fan knows, has generated several buzz words or phrases that get thrown around the program like a frisbee. Today, I'd like to talk about accountability.
Accountability is a word that people so relate to Bronco, that there is even a YouTube video titled "Bronco Mendenhall - Accountability."
The story of Bronco abruptly learning the meaning of accountability when he was abandoned by his parent for three weeks to pick up horse poop is the exact thing that initially endeared Mendenhall to the Cougar faithful. A decade later, fair or not, the "Bronco Folk Tales" and their values are wearing out their welcome.
But as time carries on, these anecdotes become less like lovely stories that engender affection, and more like deflections from evaluating football performance. As if to say, "Bronco is a really great guy, how dare you worry about losing something as silly as the Miami Beach Bowl?!"
This trump has been played countlessly to disarm fan outcry.
Curiously, the only person held accountable for 2014's 8-5 campaign was the demoted Nick Howell.
BYU football is currently on the longest stretch without a post-season AP ranking since the Cougars first did it in 1977. (Remember, only the top 20 teams were named prior to 1989.)
That stat is relevant because it is a standard that has been set by Bronco Mendenhall. Vanquish The Foe's Brett Hein wrote a great piece about Bronco Mendenhall's inability to reach the standard he has set for himself. 10-win seasons, a post-season top 25 ranking, and winning a bowl game. Remember, these standards are Bronco's. They haven't been unfairly thrust upon Mendenhall's program by raging lunatics on message boards, weirdos on Twitter, or prominent overly-ambitious boosters. These standards have been touted by Bronco personally.
10-win season. Post-season top 25 ranking. Win the bowl game.
Over the last two seasons, Bronco hasn't achieve any of his goals.
Over the last five seasons? Thank heavens the Cougars beat college football titans San Diego State (thanks KVN), Tulsa (thanks Riley), and UTEP (thanks Heaps) in the Poinsettia, Armed Forces, and New Mexico Bowls respectively. Otherwise, Bronco would be a wholesale failure by his own healthy standards since 2009.
Don't balk at what those 5 years mean. They represent half of Mendenhall's tenure.
All this brings me back to Nick Howell. Howell is just the latest casualty in what has become a new Cougar football post-season tradition: the christening of scapegoat.
Howell is this year's fall guy. It wasn't just fans calling for Howell's job, Mendenhall himself symbolically demoted Howell against Boise State mid-season as he took over play calling responsibilities. As a result, Boise State scored a season high 55 points on the turmoil-surrounded, rudderless Y defense.
Name me a bigger sitting duck than being a defensive coordinator under Bronco Mendenhall. Nobody should ever take that job again. It took seven games for him to give a vote of no confidence for Nick Howell.
This isn't to say that the demotion wasn't justifiable. Perhaps it was.
If Bronco Mendenhall doesn't have faith in the abilities of someone, a change should be made. After all, what good does it do to cross your fingers and wait it out when your gut tells you to move on?
It would be one thing if it was an one-off occurrence, but it is not. Since 2009, several people have been program patsies. Sometimes the schlemiel was named by fans. Sometimes it was identified by Bronco. Frequently, it was both.
Jaime Hill, Jake Heaps, Brandon Doman, Mark Weber, and Nick Howell. All victims of failure to reach Bronco's standards. Most had a much shorter leash than 5 years.
Each scapegoating has rendered Bronco's message on accountability to be toothless.
When the coaching staff get together, do they realize that in 12 months one of them is going to be fired or demoted? Do they wonder if they are next?
One can only hope extreme naïveté concerning this scapegoating issue rules among the assistant coaching staff. Otherwise, BYU Football has a culture of excuses and self-preservation -- which, ironically, was a huge problem Mendenhall faced when he took over in 2005 and how 'accountability' became a BYU football buzzword.
Now suppose 2015 doesn't yield a 10-win season, a post-season Top 25 ranking, or a bowl game victory -- failing the Bronco standard for the 3rd straight season. Perhaps it would finally time for accountability to reach Bronco's doorstep.