BYU football: LaVell Edwards’ leadership style featured at convention

They brought him back.

It’s been four years and a couple of weeks since legendary football coach LaVell Edwards passed away. Some of the first sports figures to show up and offer condolences were Kansas City Chiefs head coach Andy Reid and former Super Bowl MVP Jim McMahon.

This weekend at the American Football Coaches Association’s annual convention, held virtually, conference hosts featured the coaching philosophy of the BYU legend.

It was a timely look back at how Edwards decided he needed something new and different to compete in football and how that philosophy became the bedrock of what we see in the West Coast offense, the Air Raid offense and other offshoots of a passing revolution that began in 1974.

In his honor, grandson Matthew Edwards, now an analyst for Bronco Mendenhall on the University of Virginia football staff, shared some of his grandfather’s philosophies on Twitter.

Good timing because Hall of Famer and Super Bowl MVP Steve Young went on BYUtv this past week saying the 2020 Kalani Sitake team actually returned to its Edwards roots in its 11-1 season. Let it fly.

It worked. It was fun. And productive.

“After Virgil Carter left we got away from throwing the ball …” said LaVell Edwards of his mid-’60s QB when he was an assistant coach under Tommy Hudspeth.

The grandson cautioned, “Remember coaches, if you believe in something, stick with it! Don’t go away from it for whatever reason, be true to what you believe will help you win!”

Continues LaVell: “I had been coaching for 18 years, and had been associated with a winning record four of those years. We had to change the image and the way we thought about ourselves. We might as well because nothing else has worked. No matter who they’ve had out there.

“If you are a have-not, you better start thinking a little out of the box. You better start being a little bit creative, you better start thinking of some new ideas.”

LaVell then emphasized the importance of having a philosophy based upon who you are, that you might emulate traits in others but certainly you don’t want to imitate them.

He said he was always amazed by offensive coaches who have a first-and-goal at the 3 and then run three run plays and make a yard and a half. “They want to go for it on fourth down. ‘I just know we can make it.’ Well, what have you done the other three downs?”

Edwards then said something that proved symbolic to the 2020 team.

“If you cannot develop trust with those that you work with, it’s just not going to happen. You’re not going to be able to get it done.”

Now switch back to Steve Young.

The former 49ers QB was ecstatic about what his alma mater did in 2020. Because of the pandemic, the rescheduling, the pressure on the team and the results, he made the claim, in his opinion, it may have been the greatest BYU season ever.


That’s what Young believes, if you put the season in COVID-19 context.

Then Young served up a ghost in talking about what now offensive coordinator but then passing game coordinator Aaron Roderick did in 2020 with Zach Wilson and his weapons.

“I’m ecstatic. I am overjoyed. You know, I’ve been arguing for it for a long time, that BYU needs to be related to its past, because we can use it as a tool in recruiting in pregame speeches for how people see us.

“I said, even if we lose throwing it around, we still are BYU. It’s like the Pittsburgh Steelers and defense,” he said on ‘BYU Sports Nation.’” “There’s very few places in football college or pros, where you have an image that you can hold on to, and use, and it’s in its past, they use for all the really cool purposes.”

Young said Wilson had a lot of talent around him.

“Just look at the tight end (Isaac Rex, 12 touchdowns). The people around Zach just blossomed because he was calling plays that allowed for that full measure of someone’s creation. It’s like spiritually, like people want to see how good they can be. I love that he gave people an opportunity.”

In the ACFA presentation, Edwards’ words prophetically put in perspective another issue of today, coaching salaries.

This past week a former BYU quarterback under Edwards, Steve Sarkisian, used the massive treasure chest of the University of Texas, the biggest in college sports, to hire away Alabama’s special teams coach to join him for $1 million a year.

That’s more than many offensive or defensive coordinators make in P5 programs. This, in an atmosphere where all Division I athletic programs are on the brink of financial disaster.

Nobody begrudges coaches making as much money as they can. But really?

The Texas buyout for Sarkisian’s predecessor, Tom Herman, was $24 million for him and his staff. Texas A&M just bought out Jimbo Fisher for $54 million.

Said Edwards back in 2000, “I worry about the contracts. It bothers me that we can find the money to pay a lot of big bucks (for coaches contracts) but we can’t find the money to give our players $100 for laundry or whatever else. And I’m afraid that this gap is widening.”

Finally, in the life of coaches who spend almost 18 to 20 hours a day at their job, coach Edwards believed there was a balance needed in dividing their professional and family time.

“My family, and my wife, meant every bit as much to me as this great game of football. I do believe we can get it done a whole lot quicker than a lot of times we think we can.”

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