Bronco gives thanks: Too nice a guy to be a football coach

Bronco MendenhallBronco Mendenhall didn’t make headlines with his comments on the media after UVA’s win over Virginia Tech on Friday, but he probably should have.

The reason he didn’t: well, he wasn’t Jim Harbaugh or Mike Leach or Nick Saban, complaining about questions after a loss.

He was … thankful?

“From my seat as the head coach, I appreciate your coverage, the chance to kind of partner with you,” Mendenhall said at the end of his presser, following the emotional 39-30 win over the Hokies that sent the ‘Hoos to their first ACC Championship Game in program history.

Maybe that’s what it was: a moment of weakness.

“It doesn’t always go well, but I think we’ve been treated fairly and accurately, and I appreciate that, so, thanks,” Mendenhall said.

And actually, no, it wasn’t a moment of weakness that had Mendenhall playing Mr. Nice.

I’m thinking back to Monday, Dec. 7, 2015, the day that Mendenhall was introduced to the media at an event at the John Paul Jones Arena.

The thing that struck me that day was Mendenhall walking out to where media members were seated and introduced himself, one by one, to each reporter and editor.

I’d never seen that before, in 20+ years as a reporter.

To be clear, I doubt he knows who I am, and if he did, he might be a little less than happy. Last summer, I gave Mendenhall a hard time for comments he made that seemed to be selling the program short, and as recently as a few weeks ago, I was hanging his offensive coordinator, Robert Anae, out to dry.

The coach did make it a point to defend Anae in an answer to a question about the role senior quarterback Bryce Perkins has played in the program’s turnaround the past two years.

“This era certainly doesn’t happen without Bryce at quarterback. I’ll also say I’m not so sure what happens without Robert Anae coaching him,” Mendenhall said. “The points don’t just manifest accidentally. Bryce has been used really well, and he’s responded really well and he’s been coached really well and developed within two years from how he arrived. I’m really impressed with the job (our staff) has done and the steady progress he’s made.”

That’s about as confrontational as you’re going to see Mendenhall.

I mean, come on, Dabo Swinney even complains after his team wins, which is all the time.

The closest Mendenhall came to complaining came in response to a question about the environment at Scott Stadium.

Somehow, the game was not only not a sellout, but wasn’t even close: the reported attendance, 52,619, is just short of 9,000 under capacity.

“For all those who attended today, I am grateful for their attendance, their support, and for what it looked like in Scott Stadium. I had a vision of what that could be four years ago, and today was as close as I’ve seen to what is possible at Scott Stadium,” Mendenhall said.

I take back what I said earlier: that’s as confrontational as you’re going to see Mendenhall.

In sum, thanks to those who came out, wish more of you would have been there, and to the media, thanks.

This guy is too nice to be a football coach.

Story by Chris Graham

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