With all this speculation and opining about Mendenhall's future swirling, I have given some though to it and wonder if the best move for him would be to the NFL.
Would he stay at BYU as long as LaVell Edwards?
Would he take another head coaching job at a Power 5 Conference school?
No and probably not have been his answers to these two questions. If he takes another head coaching job it would be at a school that offers something unique; in other words, has a greater mission, like one of the service academies.
Mendenhall has also gone as far as to say when he is finally done coaching he would like to work in a capacity of an educator. Kind of like how he has the opportunity as a coach to mentor his players.
A few years ago, Mendenhall made some waves by sharing the statistics from an NFL report that revealed 70 percent of players who played at least three years in the league ended up bankrupt, divorced, substance abusers, or disabled.
This is reason number one why a job as an NFL assistant coach might make a lot of sense for Mendenhall. It would put him in a prime position to mentor a group of people who have been identified as "at risk." With his long history in football, he will be able to relate to them pretty well. He can help them prepare for the future while still playing and keep an open door for them even after they are gone.
BYU is well known for having a "more mature" team. A majority of players have spent two years post high school out in the real world as missionaries learning about new cultures, the real struggles of life that families face, and working to spread hope and happiness through the gospel of Jesus Christ. Many of them marry within a year or two after returning from these missions and start having children while still playing for the Cougars.
Some college football coaches struggle to make the transition from college to the NFL ranks because they aren't used to coaching players who are older and have moved on to the family rearing stage of life. Having dealt with the team composition he has at BYU, Mendenhall would probably make the transition well. He would know how to earn the players' trust and treat them like the men that they are.
The second major reason Mendenhall may be better suited for the NFL is how his teams perform on the field.
At the center of the debate whether Mendenhall should stay at BYU is the slow start his teams have almost every season. Beginning a season with a 1-2 record has happened more often than not. In college football, it is important that teams start the season near peak level. To gain national respect and be in contention for a championship, teams have to play at a high level from September to December.
As BYU suffers early season losses, Mendenhall has to resort to rhetoric of "working to reach our full potential" as a way to keep the team focused and fans interested. Let me say it again, in college football, teams need to enter the season at or near their full potential if they are going to be one of the nation's best. Mendenhall has not been able to do that, but, to his credit, he does get them to play to their full potential by season's end. The NFL model is much better suited for coaches like this.
The way the NFL is set up, it is the teams that are playing the best at the end of the season that have the best shot at winning the Super Bowl. In the last decade, several Wild Card teams have made their way to the the Super Bowl and even won. Those Wild Card teams usually finished the season playing their best football of the season. Getting to the playoffs has been more important in recent years than regular season record.