Joe Santoro: Why isn’t Matt Mumme Nevada's head coach?

Former Nevada assistant coach Matt Mumme shown against Utah State. (Photo: David Calvert/Nevada Athletics)

Former Nevada assistant coach Matt Mumme shown against Utah State. (Photo: David Calvert/Nevada Athletics)

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There is one elephant-in-the-silver-and-blue-room question left unanswered after the Jay Norvell-to-Colorado State fallout last month.
Why isn’t Matt Mumme now the Nevada Wolf Pack’s head football coach?
Didn’t Mumme want the job? Didn’t the Wolf Pack beg him to take it? If not, why not? Nothing surrounding the Norvell Nevada Nuking makes sense even to this day. But the fact that Mumme followed Narcissist Norvell to Fort Collins like an obedient puppy dog is at the top of that nonsensical list of head-scratching events.

Matt Mumme


Mumme would have been perfect for the Wolf Pack. First of all, with Mumme, the Air Raid, as well as recruits and veteran wide receivers and quarterbacks, would have stayed at Nevada where they belong. But that didn’t happen and Nevada, almost overnight, is now a program without an identity.
The program that flourished with the Pistol and the Air Raid for the majority of the last two decades now has an entry level, unnamed offense run by untested coaches and players. Try selling season tickets with that. But that’s where we are right now with the Pack. The clueless Wolf Pack allowed Brian Polian and his Chris Ault cancel culture mentality to abolish the pistol and now it appears they let the Air Raid to simply walk out the door like Lassie following Timmy on a hike in the Colorado mountains.
Mumme as the Pack head coach would have ignited the listless Pack community. Mumme, after all, is everything Norvell isn’t. The son of Hal has a dynamic, friendly personality and wit, as well as a wild, devil-may-care football mentality that would have appealed to Pack fans from Verdi to West Wendover.
The Pack probably wouldn’t have won a ton of championships under Mumme – the Air Raid never lets championships get in the way of a good time – but it would have been a ton of fun. Mackay Stadium with Mumme in charge would have been an adults-only Disneyland. With Mumme as head coach right now, the Pack would not be starting over from scratch. They would still have an identity. They wouldn’t have been gutted by a mass exodus of recruits and veteran players. The last five years would not have been wasted.
Why wouldn’t Mumme want to be the Wolf Pack head coach? Isn’t he tired of Norvell, a guy with no offensive creativity of his own, stealing all the credit for his offense, an offense that his father Hal gave birth to three decades ago? Wasn’t he upset that Norvell pulled the play-calling responsibilities from him a few years ago at Nevada?
The Air Raid is not Norvell’s offense. Oh, yes, he talks about it like he created and designed it. But Norvell has never created or designed an offense in his life. The former defensive back has built a career on the backs of the west coast, spread and now Air Raid creative minds. Mumme at least comes by his offensive credentials honestly as the son of Hal. Yes, Hal stole his offense from BYU (all football coaches steal from each other) but Hal made it his own and took it to wild and crazy (a Mumme family trait) levels. Matt also would have made it his own at Nevada, something he was never allowed to do with Norvell in charge.
That’s why it is strange that Mumme wanted to continue his Norvell bodyguard duties at Colorado State. Norvell has already repeatedly told everyone that he will call the plays for the Rams. You’d think Mumme would have had enough of protecting Norvell from falling in an abandoned well.
Mumme has often said that he loved coaching for the Wolf Pack and getting to know former Nevada coach Chris Ault, the father of the Pistol. He repeated all those stories recently when meeting the Colorado State media. “When my father and I were in New Mexico State and we played in the old (Western Athletic Conference) against Nevada and we had to go up against Coach Ault, we hated it,” Mumme said two weeks ago. “We hated hearing about the Pistol offense probably as much as they hated hearing about the Air Raid.
“Years later, after I separated from my father, I found the advantage of using the pistol in our offense. I did it for four years at (Division III) LaGrange (as head coach) and really loved it. So when Jay called me to go to Nevada it was like, ‘Oh, my gosh, this is a dream come true. I learned the Air Raid from my dad and now I get to learn the pistol from Coach Ault.’ I had an opportunity to get to know Coach Ault and he’s a big fan of mine and I’m a big fan of his.”
Mumme should have realized last month was his opportunity to separate from Norvell. It was his chance, with Ault nearby, for him to fully blend his Air Raid with Ault’s Pistol and turn it into his own creation, a true Air Pistol. He could have shown the world that he was indeed a head coach with a brilliant offensive mind and not just an overgrown kid with his dad’s old playbook.
Give Norvell credit, though, for admitting he needs Mumme far more than Mumme needs Norvell.
Norvell, of course, hasn’t said as much and never will. But he didn’t go to Colorado State without Mumme, did he? It’s doubtful Norvell would have even gone to Colorado State without Mumme. Do you think Norvell would have wanted to be at Colorado State and have to go up against a guy at Nevada (Mumme) who was running his offense better than him? Without Mumme, Norvell would have simply been a cliché-filled head coach with a bad haircut and a poorly-run offense.
Knowing Norvell, he probably then would have hired a soon-to-be 70-year-old Hal Mumme to be his quarterbacks coach and human Lassie. Hal, who would coach your fantasy football team if you wanted him, would have jumped at the chance. Now that would have been fun to watch. Matt in Nevada putting up 600 yards through the air while running the ball four times a game and Norvell at Colorado State with a 70-year-old former head coach at Valdosta State, McMurry and Belhaven now coaching his quarterbacks.
Norvell would also never admit that Carson Strong got him that Colorado State job. Strong, who will play in the Feb. 5 Senior Bowl and hopes to be an early-round NFL draft pick in April, carried Norvell the last two-plus years. If Strong didn’t turn out to be one of the greatest quarterbacks in Nevada history, Norvell likely would have been fired last month and would have been left trying to catch on as a wide receivers coach during the holidays.
Norvell also never mentions the middle of the 2019 season when he thought Malik Henry, not Strong, was the future of the quarterback position at Nevada. Henry started two games for the Pack, got quickly kicked off the team because, well, that’s what he does, and spent this past spring as a backup quarterback for the Frisco Fighters of the Indoor Football League.
Take Mumme and Strong away from Norvell and he, too, likely would have been coaching in the Indoor Football League last spring.
Norvell, though, did tell the Colorado State media recently how much he appreciated what Strong did for him at Nevada, especially this past year when he played every game on one good leg.
“He played every game last year injured,” Norvell said. “I told him a story about Dan Marino, playing against him when I coached with the (Indianapolis Colts). They introduced Marino before the game and he had a huge brace on his knee and he couldn’t walk. He just hobbled out there like he was John Wayne and he beat us on one leg. Carson did that all this year. He wasn’t healthy. I just have so much respect for him.”
Norvell also compared Strong to current Cincinnati Bengals head coach Zac Taylor. Taylor was Nebraska’s quarterback when Norvell was the Cornhuskers’ offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach (2004-06).
“It’s interesting, the similarities between Carson Strong and Zac Taylor,” Norvell said. “It’s a joy to coach a quarterback when he has the same mindset you have. I love football and can’t get enough if it. Zac was that way and that’s the way Carson is.”


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