September 9, 2008

Really? Someone thought this would be a question that has any relevance?

Wannstedt was asked on Monday’s Big East conference call what qualities were necessary to become an NFL coach and whether he had any interest in returning to the league where he was coach of the Chicago Bears and Miami Dolphins and won a Super Bowl as the Dallas Cowboys’ defensive coordinator. “No, I’m done after this,” Wannstedt said. “I’ve had enough.”

I suppose it isn’t about him returning to the NFL as a head coach. That’s never going to happen. Still, to be asking Coach Wannstedt about anything related to coaching in the NFL given the way he’s been coaching at Pitt, seems a bit of a stretch.

Another highlight from his weekly media phone call is that he thinks the team has room to improve. Ya think?

“The exciting thing about this is that we’re probably about 60 to 70 percent of where I believe in my heart we should be as a football team, and that’s exciting,” Wannstedt said. “If we were sitting here and we had played as well as could have and never turned the ball over and we were 1-1, you’d say to yourself, ‘Jeez, is this it?’ But our team has such a long way to be able to grow.”

Oh, grife. He’s sticking with the turnovers are the thing theme. The part that has me most worried is that what I saw on the sidelines of the Bowling Green game did turn out to be true.

The biggest improvement between the first and second week, Wannstedt said, was how his team handled adversity. Pitt led 17-14 against Bowling Green at halftime and never scored again. The Panthers were up just 10-9 over Buffalo but controlled the second half.

“In Week 1 at halftime, everybody’s looking at each other and the look was worth 1,000 words,” Wannstedt said. “Basically it was, ‘How can this game be close?’ And we go out and we press and we turn the ball over.

“This week we were only up one, but there was a lot of energy in the locker room and a lot of excitement to get out there and play the second half and not really look at scoreboard.”

And, um, where were the coaches in all of this? Especially in the first game. Apparently not reaching the players. Not getting them to just play. Instead, I guess Wannstedt feels/felt the players need to figure these things out for themselves. Wannstedt was just there as some sort of Yoda-figure, “Yinzeselves figure it out you must.”

No, seriously, what is the role of the coach in these situations? This seems to be the spot where the coach who trumpets his experience at all levels of football would be at his best. The guy who recruited these kids. Someone who (at least in hindsight/revisionism) is saying he could see their confusion an doubt. What’s his accountability, responsibility? And most importantly, what the hell was he trying to do about it in that game?

I know, I know. It’s done, it’s over. Let it go.

So naturally that lackluster win over Buffalo was an important thing, and the Bowling Green loss will be treated as a blessing in disguise. Right?

“I would say, without a doubt that because we got beat by Bowling Green, we came to the realization that we’ll get beat again if we don’t go out there and play for 60 minutes,” Wannstedt said at his weekly teleconference yesterday. “We haven’t proven that we’re a good football team yet and we’re just trying to win a game. The interesting thing is, if we had come out flat in the opener, you could say, ‘OK, they were reading the press clippings,’ but that was not the case. We came out and we were hitting on all cylinders, and then when we hit some adversity, we didn’t respond the right way.”

It also helped that Buffalo isn’t that good.

Obviously, it’s a little late to be recapping what the articles said on Sunday. Everyone has read them. So, here’s just the list of game recaps.

* McCoy has a big day — Post-Gazette.

* Pitt rebounds — Tribune-Review.

* No style points, but a win — Washington Observer-Reporter.

* Pitt gets past the Bulls — Johnstown Tribune-Democrat.

* Pitt and McCoy return — Erie Times-News.

* Second half keys Pitt — AP wire story.

* Buffalo took a lot of penalties — Buffalo News.

* The Big East sucks — Joe Starkey

* Pitt isn’t dead yet — Ron Cook

Okay, now I’m not saying that there were expectations that Pitt might actually lose that game. I am noting, however, that both Pittsburgh papers sent a columnist to the game, and papers further out in the region that often use stringers or AP feeds went with sending their own reporters. Even with the Steelers playing on Sunday.

For. Buffalo. To. Cover. Pitt. Playing. A. MAC. Team.

That’s one way to get the media coverage. Be so inconsistent and disappointing that the media has to be there so they can write the obituary.

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