With his team sitting at 7-5 at the end of the regular season two months ago, two tasks had to be on BYU coach Bronco Mendenhall's mind as his team shuffled on the bus after a win over New Mexico State in Las Cruces, N.M.
No. 1, he needed a bowl win. No. 2, he needed some kind of wow factor to restore confidence that BYU’s offense could return to some semblance of its former glory.
Mendenhall got the first, a dramatic fourth-quarter defensive gem in the Poinsettia Bowl to finish with eight wins in 2012. It remains to be seen if he’s put his program on its way to accomplishing the second task.
Re-hiring Robert Anae as offensive coordinator could be considered a surprise to many. It was an unusual move to say the least; it did signal a move toward discipline, execution, toughness and a stronger offensive front.
With the departure of offensive line coach Mark Weber, receivers coach Ben Cahoon and running backs coach Joe DuPaix, and retirement of longtime staffer Lance Reynolds, the 2012 offensive staff is essentially gone, creating a clean slate for 2013.
Yes, I know the status of Brandon Doman is unknown. But if the interviews of Sacramento State’s Paul Peterson and former BYU starting QB Max Hall as possible quarterback coaches are any indication of Doman’s place on the staff — he actually doesn’t have one.
These are all kinds of wow factors.
But the biggest wow factor of all would be if former Heisman Trophy winner and Hall of Famer Ty Detmer found himself on Anae’s staff.
This would be a long shot, but not because Detmer isn’t capable. It is well known that most of his 14 years in the NFL were spent tutoring quarterbacks, including Brett Favre. But would he be interested in coaching Division I football?
If Detmer had a great desire to coach in the NFL, he’d have done so years ago and would have had no problem finding a job. Same thing with a Division I college coaching position. If he was motivated to jump into that circus, he’d have done so by now.
Detmer is currently enjoying his life, freedom and the low-profile of coaching a small Texas high school near Austin. He’s got his 2,000-acre hunting ranch, pickup truck, guns, fishing holes and peace. He would never give all that up for an 18-hour-a-day NFL assistant coaching job that left him with no family life.
In reality, it's hard to imagine Detmer giving up his current life to coach at BYU either, unless he was extremely compelled to do so.
On the other hand, if BYU told him his alma mater really needed him and made the right case and he felt comfortable with who he’d work with, he might step forward and accept a whistle, BYU gear and an assignment.
Detmer would not chase or pursue it. That isn’t him. In my opinion, he’d see the hullabaloo over him as a distraction to the current staff and head coach. He doesn’t have in-depth relationships with members of the current staff, although Mendenhall/Anae’s hiring of his former teammates, Garett Tujague and Mark Atuaia, softens that equation.
In 2010, BYU had a chance to court Detmer and did not, although I thought it a no-brainer at the time and opined so. This time, that mistake won’t be repeated for a quick in-house hire.
Detmer would solve myriad public relations issues for BYU football. He'd sooth bruises of some donors. All the departed — DuPaix, Cahoon and the retired Lance Reynolds — and the potentially departed — Doman — had popular pockets of fan support. On the likability scale, they moved the needle. Detmer buries it.
Detmer might be one of the school’s most-beloved players of all time. Imagine him as a recruiter on a home visit, pairing up with Mendenhall, total opposites on the personality spectrum. Bronco is serious in public; Detmer is a prankster and teaser in private and it can creep into his public repertoire in the style of the deadpanning LaVell Edwards.
You’d wonder if Mendenhall would want to hire a coach who might need to be recruited. He likes his assistants eager, hungry and like bridesmaids who scream down the isle shouting, “Marry me, marry me!” Thing is, Detmer’s lifestyle is where Mendenhall wants to be, and he’s said he wants that sooner than later. Mendenhall understands how protective Detmer is of this because Detmer is living Mendenhall’s ultimate goal.
On the other hand, Mendenhall, I believe, has given Anae total control over who he assembles to coach BYU’s offense.
So, where does it all stand?
In my opinion, Doman will not be on the coaching staff and BYU will leave no stone unturned in pursuit of his replacement as QB coach. That includes trying to lure Detmer to the negotiating table and having a serious talk with him before making a final decision on Peterson, Hall or whomever else Mendenhall/Anae have or will interview.
I say, that is under way.
In mounting a serious inquiry to Detmer, Anae, Mendenhall and athletic director Tom Holmoe can then report to deep-pocketed boosters, alumni, staff, administration and the BYU Board of Trustees that they truly did due diligence in the matter of rebuilding the Cougars' offense.
Getting Detmer may be futile, however. He's very happy now.
It appears that was the game plan since the team flew out of San Diego on the theme "organizations are perfectly designed to get the results they do." That night, BYU’s defensive touchdowns won the game.
How big of a wow factor have we witnessed so far? I'd say it's been about a 7 on a scale of 10 with Anae and his first two hires. Now that he's added Aaron Roderick from Utah on Wednesday, I'll raise that to 8 or 9, and things are not finished. If Detmer comes onboard it is a 10.
Detmer will be in the presence of all kinds of BYU people Friday in Houston where LaVell Edwards will be given the Bear Bryant Award. Gifford Nielsen, maybe Marc Wilson, John Beck and other BYU greats, including BYU athletic brass will be there.
They might put a rush on Detmer, but he's pretty elusive.
Dick Harmon, Deseret News sports columnist, can be found on Twitter as Harmonwrites and can be contacted at [email protected].