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Guest commentary: What Bronco Mendenhall could learn from Pete Carroll

By Jake Hadlock

For the Deseret News

Published: Thursday, Feb. 27 2014 10:35 a.m. MST

Brigham Young Cougars head coach Bronco Mendenhall smiles during the win over USU during NCAA football game in Logan Friday, Oct. 4, 2013. BYU won 31-14.

Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News

Pete Carroll and the Seattle Seahawks won their first Super Bowl in franchise history this year, bringing pride to all Emerald City sports fans throughout the nation. The Seahawks are unique in many ways, and I believe Pete Carroll is what allows that uniqueness to flourish. I cannot help but draw comparisons to our very own Bronco Mendenhall at BYU and what he might be able to learn from the newly minted world champ coach.

First of all I would like to say I am a Mendenhall fan and supporter. I believe he is a great man and a very good head coach who is in a tough and unique situation at BYU. He faces problems regular college football coaches around the country simply do not have to deal with, whether it be the Honor Code or juggling a roster in constant flux because of missionary service. However, as a human being like us, he has weaknesses and can learn from others’ success. Here are some things I believe Mendenhall could learn from Carroll.

Be likable

A recent poll by ESPN showed Carroll being voted as the most popular coach in the NFL, and the coach that players would most like to play for. In the NFL where the best players get to pick and choose where to go in free agency, this counts for a lot.

In college football, I believe this counts even more. Recruiting is the lifeblood of college football programs and it takes elite talent to win games. Players always speak with respect in regards to Mendenhall as a coach, but would he be one of the top 10 coaches a college recruit would like to play for? Would he even be in the top 50? I’m not so sure, as most high school athletes might rattle off names like Nick Saban or Urban Meyer if asked.

Let players be who they are

Carroll has always been known to let his players be who they are, whatever that may entail. Whether it is the soft-spoken, humble Russell Wilson or the loud-mouthed, cocky Richard Sherman, Seahawks players know they aren’t expected to fit into a cookie cutter mold. An attractive quality in a leader is knowing that they want you to be who you are in order to maximize your potential, whether that person is a boss at work or an NFL head coach.

Mendenhall may have less wiggle room in this case because of the sponsoring institution, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and the Honor Code of the university, but if Mendenhall had a reputation of allowing players to truly be who they are, regardless of background, I believe this would help attract more big-time recruits.

Have a powerful defense

Carroll brings a great defensive mindset to his teams, and his defense is what has allowed his teams to win, and win big. His players are fast, hard-hitting and disciplined. This is where I see a lot in common with Mendenhall.

Seattle doesn’t lack an identity — it is affectionately known as the “Legion of Boom” and the team with the best defense in the NFL. When casual fans think of BYU, they think of the BYU of old — the innovators of the passing game and West Coast offense, a place that was coveted for the top offensive recruits in the nation. Could today’s BYU develop a new reputation in the college game as “the place to be” for the best defensive players in the nation? With his past success and great defenses, Mendenhall has the power to make BYU a household name for defense.

Make the media like you

Carroll is delightful when interacting with the press. Watch an interview and it is clear the press likes him because of his humor, enthusiasm and positive attitude. In response, the Seahawks get great coverage and benefit from their media coverage. He is active on Twitter and is often found praising the “12th Man” of Seattle, which endears him to the diehard fans.

Mendenhall’s relationship with the media is less than stellar. He often comes across as gruff, short, odd, distant and out of touch with the fans. I do not believe this is who Mendenhall is, yet this is how fans and media who don’t personally know him perceive the man. It would do wonders for him and for the program if he improved how he interacted with the media and made a better effort to appreciate the passionate fans BYU has.

Are these small things really what separate a coach like Carroll from a coach like Mendenhall? Legendary coach John Wooden said, “It’s the little details that are vital. Little things make big things happen.” If BYU really wants to achieve the goal of another national championship, it needs the talent pool and a dynamic leader who can take them there. Successful people learn from other successful people, and I believe Mendenhall can take the necessary steps toward becoming one of the great college coaches in football.

Twitter: @jakubhadlock

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