In the void left at the foot of the Wasatch Mountain range by Bronco Mendenhall's sudden departure for the greener pastures of the University of Virginia, BYU Cougar fans, many of whom had called for Bronco's ouster, are left scrambling for ideas for a replacement for BYU's successful, if taciturn coach.
Mendenhall was a polarizing figure for BYU fans. While he compiled a record of success no BYU coach outside of LaVell Edwards exceeds, his tenure was also plagued by a maddening tendency of falling just short of true greatness. This tendency to collapse when on the verge of great success, exacerbated by the success of the rival Utes under former BYU National Championship winning linebacker Kyle WIttingham, caused many BYU fans to reactively tweet "fire Bronco" after any move that they felt frustrating by the former Cougar coach.
For better or for worse, that vocal section of the fan-base now has their wish, and Athletic Director Tom Holmoe now faces the unenviable task of sifting through the extremely limited pool of active Latter Day Saint coaching talent to find Bronco's replacement.
There's a chance that his search takes him outside of the college coaching ranks, about eight hundred miles North and West, to Renton, Washington, where the offensive coordinator of the defending NFC Champion Seattle Seahawks, Darrell Bevell fits the bill. Ignore your instant knee jerk reaction to his controversial play call at the end of Super Bowl XLIX, which many fans and pundits believe cost the Seahawks back to back rings, and let's look at the facts.
Bevell might seem like an odd fit at first for many Cougar fans. After all, here is a guy who has spent the last fifteen years as an assistant coach in the NFL, first with Green Bay, then Minnesota, and then the Seahawks, where he has helped develop one of the NFL's premier young quarterbacks in Russell Wilson and won a Super Bowl title in 2014.
While he hasn't been a head coach at any level, Bevell certainly knows success, as he was the assistant quarterbacks coach with Green Bay and Minnesota during the Brett Favre years for both franchises. In fact, he's no stranger to quarterbacking himself. He was a successful high school quarterback in Scottsdale, Arizona before heading to Norther Arizona University, where he left on his two year LDS mission to Cleveland, Ohio. After his mission, Bevell joined the Wisconsin Badgers, where he was named the starting quarterback in 1993, and went on to lead the Badgers to a Big Ten championship, and a Rose Bowl berth, where they defeated UCLA 21-16.
His resume is looking pretty good. Rose Bowl championship as a player, Super Bowl championship as a coach. He would definitely provide the splash hire that many BYU fans want, and the cachet with the recruits. And while he is an NFL offensive coordinator, many critics of his play calling (which include a plurality of Seahawks fans), believe that his affinity for gadget plays, bubble screens, jet sweeps, and the read option would translate much better to the college game.
Throughout his career, he has shown an ability to work with quarterbacks of differing talent levels and abilities, and has learned from Pete Carroll, who is a master of designing a system that fits his personnel, rather than forcing his personnel to play to his system. Under Bevell, the Seahawks have been the top rushing team in the NFL, rushing for 9,285 yards.
He's also helped develop Russell Wilson, who's shaping up to be one of the truly great dual threat quarterbacks in the history of the league, a la Steve Young. Take a look at BYU's rushing output without Taysom Hill, and then remember that during Bevell's tenure, the Seahawks have consistently had one of the worst offensive lines in football, yet they have been able, through design and execution, to field a dominating rushing attack. And also remember, that prior to becoming the Offensive Coordinator for the Seahawks, Bevell also designed the offense of the Minnesota Vikings around Adrian Peterson.
That's right, Darrell Bevell has designed offenses around arguably the two best running backs in the NFL over the past ten years. He could definitely do quite a bit with what the Cougars can bring to bear, especially if they bring back Jamaal Williams and Taysom Hill next season (that's a big if, however).
Now, the biggest case against Bevell is that aside from not having ever been a head coach, he hasn't coached in the college ranks since 1999, where he was the wide receivers coach at Connecticut. It's definitely a question whether or not he has ties to be able to recruit, but he's got at least one thing going for him in his resume for recruits to look at, and he does have ties to the Midwest, and to Arizona, both areas with sizeable LDS and non-LDS talent. If he is able to build his staff correctly, he should be able to make up for any gaps that he has.
In order to see how NFL coaches without college experience can be successful, one only has to look to Jim Mora Jr. of the UCLA Bruins. Mora hadn't coached in college since he was a graduate assistant at the University of Washington under the legendary Don James. However, Mora has had success at UCLA, going 37-15 over four years. So there is definitely a precedent for coaches to come to the college ranks from the pros, and have success.
In conclusion, while Bevell seems like a long shot and may not be many fans' first choice to coach the Cougars, he definitely has the resume to back it up if he were hired, and is no stranger to success, despite the fact that he's a convenient scapegoat for any time the Seahawks lose a game.
Hiring Bevell could give the Cougars new life next year, especially with the bevy of weapons that potentially return, and he would find a way to best fit his system to the personnel that the Cougars have, which is a must, given the difficulty of attracting top tier talent to BYU. In the unlikely scenario that the Cougars do hire Bevell, both parties would be set up for success.