This week Bronco Mendenhall made a huge mistake with his plan to have the team wear either Tradition, Spirit, or Honor on the backs of their jerseys instead of names. I’m not going to explain why it’s OK for a fan to not only disagree with the coach of the team they love, but to think that perhaps a minor brain injury could best explain his actions. You can read that here.
I get that when Bronco took the job as head coach his predecessor had all but blindly ignored those three principles while running the program into the ground. Bronco felt he had to rebuild the team using those three as the foundation, and the engine that would drive everything the team did. I applauded the idea then, and I still do. But this latest idea was bad for a couple of reasons:
First and foremost, Bronco didn’t discuss this with the team beforehand. This could have gone so differently if he had called a team meeting and proposed the idea in a forum where players could have brought up concerns, and then let the coach explain his vision and reasoning behind it. He could have gotten the team onboard, and they would have been united in purpose. Instead Bronco springs it on them as a surprise on the day of team photos. Players didn’t even have a choice about which of the three principles they would wear.
It also makes Bronco look out of touch, with his team, the media, and the fans. This split the team from their coach, and the media could tell. If there’s a story you don’t want during fall camp while getting ready for the season, it’s that the coach and team aren’t on the same page. He obviously didn’t take into consideration what the reaction from fans and the media would be. Bronco’s never hidden his feelings about the fans (he doesn’t care what we think), but this seems to me like it was a decision made inside a vacuum.
My biggest problem with it, though, is that Bronco is the head coach of a football team with one of its toughest schedules in a long time. The season opener on the road against UVA is in 3 weeks, and then we face Texas in our home opener. As a fan I want him game planning how he’s going to beat Texas, and how he’s going to use the Virginia game to fine tune the plays and schemes he’s going to use. Yes, I know you should take it each game at a time and not overlook any opponent. It’s Virginia, and I REALLY want to beat Texas. If you told me tomorrow that losing to Virginia on the road by 3 would guarantee that we’d beat Texas at home…I’m not sure I’d have a problem with that. The point is that I don’t want Bronco worrying about what’s on the back of the player’s jerseys. I want him focusing on the only thing that matters right now…putting the best team possible out on that field each and every week.