November 28, 2010

Finding The Words

Filed under: Coaches,Football,Wannstedt — Chas @ 12:22 am

Traveled home today. Lots of traveling around the last few days has kept me from having time to post (kind of obvious, huh?). I’ve had time to think about all of what I saw. Both yesterday and all season.

I think the worst thing, is that I can’t even muster the anger. I’m down. Despondent. Frustrated. Not surprised, though. It seemed that I checked out emotionally on the season before this game.

Bryan at PittScript has the summary of the media turning on Wannstedt. This, sadly, has been Wannstedt’s history with his headcoaching gigs. He has everyone willing/wanting to believe. He says all the right things. Appears to do all the right things. Everyone is charmed. Especially the media and decision makers. He’s so accessible. So likable. So genuine. You want to believe. They want to believe. You want him to succeed. They want him to do it. Everyone really does…

But it never happens. There’s always something that goes wrong. An injury. A weak link. A brain fart.

The fans start getting weary. They see it happening. They complain. Those who are in the media and in charge suggest that people are overreacting. That everything is in place. That Coach Wannstedt will get it done.

They ignore the fact that he refuses to admit that anything has changed in his 30+ years of coaching. The spread — a gimmick offense. A defense that relies on speed is still unique, innovative and a special advantage because other teams don’t do that. That offenses have to be low risk to minimize mistakes, and that the highest compliment that can be paid to a QB is that he is a “game manager.”

He’s nothing like a Chan Gailey or Al Groh. It’s different. No really.

It was all supposed to come together this year. All the near misses in previous years building to the perfect season. The depth. The talent. The coaching.

And then a season like this.

You know what makes all of this so depressing. So tiresome. So familiar?

…He discusses the arrogance of Wannstedt. It’s a good point, because when Wannstedt says the things, he tends to do in a congenial way. A manner that is disarming, but is rife with condescension. He talks of his experience and how he has his way of doing things and how they have always worked (and then hopes no one realizes he’s talking 20 years ago or so).

If you have followed Wanny’s head coaching career in Chicago and Miami, then you should know this is the choppy point. Last year, the fan support was eroding — and then forestalled by the WVU win — but the media was still with him. Give him more time they said. Why? Because Wanny is so darn likable. Everyone wants him to succeed who is in contact with him.

Then this season has started with more of the same. Guess what’s happening to the media backing?…

I wrote that over two years ago after the Bowling Green loss. Perhaps at the time that was reactionary. Like here (man, I was not happy with the first half of 2008).

I suppose that’s what it comes down to with Coach Dave Wannstedt. We all know it on some level. Some are comfortable with it. Others not so much. Still others frustrated, because they believed he might change and adapt.

Right now, I’m at the point where I acknowledge it. Wannstedt’s actions — playing those who he thinks knows the system best regardless of their talent and ability to actually execute, fearing mistakes to the point of paralysis on developing the talent behind the starters, preferring to hire coaches to whom he has the deepest ties to and won’t challenge his assumptions (classic groupthink), sticking with one system and game plan regardless of the talent rather than adapting the gameplan and system to the talent, and playing not to lose (and yes, I know I’ve left stuff out) — all say he isn’t changing.

I thought for myself that Wannstedt was capable of adapting. That while he would stick to his basic priniciples of what he believes, he could tweak and adjust things as a head coach at college. That Wannstedt would be Pete Carroll-esque with more than just having similar enthusiasm and energy.

Instead, it is rather clear that Wannstedt has followed the path of Al Groh and Chan Gailey. Playing somewhere around mediocrity.

Now it all just seems apt.

The real question for me, is does anything really change this year? We all know that Wannstedt is extended until the end of 2014. We don’t know what AD Pederson and Chancellor Nordenberg are thinking. We know they are all considered fairly tight, but they can’t be blind to the results and the likely fallout in ticket sales for 2011 and beyond.

Is this the traditional year where a couple assistants are sacrificed — DC Bennett and a random position assistant or two — to give Wannstedt one more year to prove that he can get this program anywhere near expectations? And almost as important — reduce any cost of buyout.

It doesn’t matter whether you are Auburn or Pitt or Michigan. To buy out a contract with more than a couple years, you don’t want to tap your athletic department fund. You want your big donors to help pony up the money to buy out the guy. To help pay for the next guy.

Are the big donors for Pitt ready to pay? Are they still in Wannstedt’s corner?

I don’t know the answers. I know what I think should happen. I know how I feel about it. But it’s not my money. It doesn’t get to be my call.

Seven years of Walt produced bowl games in 1997, 2000, 2001, 2002, 2003, and 2004. Wins in 2001 & 2002. Walt’s 2002 9-4 teams probably was better than Wannstedt’s 10-3 team last season because Walt played a much tougher schedule. Walt lost fan support in the much hyped 2003 season.

Comment by TonyinHouston 11.28.10 @ 6:11 pm

You know, come to think of it, I don’t think we qualify as mediocre. Mediocrity would be 7-5, 6-6 in the Big Ten, Big Twelve, SEC. 7-5, 6-6 in the Big East really qualifies as POOR!!!! Let’s do a re-take, and see who we’ve won against…

New Hampshire
Florida International
South Florida

That is really ugly. There isn’t one win in that group that you would be proud to say, “hey, we beat so and so”. Horrible, absolutely horrible!!

Comment by DAN 11.28.10 @ 6:15 pm

I wouldnt worry about the stache’s successor until he is actually gone. Lets save that for another day. The one and only thing that I think can keep Dave in place would be the financial issues of paying off his contract. There is no way he will resign and leave that money on the table. If Pitt wants him out they must step up and fire him or create a position within the AD for him.

Some great names have been mentioned though…we can dream…..

Comment by Coach Ditka 11.28.10 @ 6:16 pm

At least some positive Pitt news. Curtis Martin and Chris Doleman have made the list of 26 finalists for the NFL Hall of Fame. I would think Curtis is in no problem, #4 all time rusher, numerous awards and pro bowl appearances. Lots of other good players in the field of 26 including Jerome Bettis.

Good luck to the Pitt alum!

Comment by Coach Ditka 11.28.10 @ 6:27 pm

But I think we can still win the Big East if we win next week, and EVERYBODY ELSE IN THE COUNTRY loses.

So buck up.

Yes, I too was one who thought Wanny would adapt. Because he was in his third head coaching failure, and this time at his alma mater, no less, I thought he might at least try. And I have to admit, the last few weeks it has been mostly execution problems. But I think the whole team may have bailed after Notre Dame, not just me. And I think a lot of that goes back to the nothing-ever-changes futility of a Wannstedt-coached team.

But it IS nice to see the Pittsburgh media, largely Smizik, Zeise, and Cook, finally tell the truth. They’ve been little more than apologists for Wanny up to now. I guess the wind is finally blowing hard enough in the other direction that they feel they can safely stick their heads up out of the hole.

As for Wanny getting fired — I don’t know. This could just as easily be termed an aberration by the administration. Elite status is now, apparently, 9-3 and the Car Care Bowl, and Wanny can do that. Occasionally.

Well, I’ve lived through 12-0, and 1-11, and whatever our record is this year.

And this year, as always, HAIL TO PITT.

Comment by Spanky 11.28.10 @ 6:33 pm

Anyone who supports Wanny or the singing of Sweet Caroline should be imprisoned.

Comment by J-Maile 11.28.10 @ 6:39 pm

Any chance we can get a current basketball thread? The Panthers will likely move up a couple of spots in this week’s polls, and with the Vols’ win against ‘Nova, the December 11 game with Tennessee just got a whole lot more interesting!

It’s time to find a silver lining in the Pitt sports’ scene!

Comment by Lou 11.28.10 @ 7:18 pm

From Ziese’s Blog…all I can say is Sigh

And beyond that nobody really knows what Chancellor Mark Nordenburg is thinking but knowing him as I do and knowing what he values here is what he is likely seeing when he looks at this program: He sees a program that is run clean and free of scandal, a program that has won more games than it loses, a program that really has stressed academics and done a good job in that area, a program that has at least been in some big games in recent years and thus is competitive, it wins more games than it loses and it is a program with a coach who is an excellent role model for his players, who cares deeply about his players and who cares deeply about the university and stands for the right things. It is also a guy that the chancellor hired and a guy who the chancellor has said on many occasions publicly that he believes in.


Comment by DaveD 11.28.10 @ 7:21 pm

Golden is an interesting prospect. Jim Tressel came from Youngstown St. I think, to OSU, so the leap can be made successfully. There’s probably some ‘no name’ coach tearing it up at one or two sub-division schools now, so I hope people are doing their homework. Gattuso did do very well at Duquesne, so he’s earned serious consideration — if Wanny stays on, there will be so much disappointment.

Comment by Matt N. 11.28.10 @ 7:22 pm

Probably not.

Bill Parcells once said “you are what your record says you are.”

What is Pitt’s record under Dave Wannstedt for games of significance that are nationally televised in six seasons?

If Pitt doesn’t win the Big Least football conference this year when will it?

How many “self inflicted errors” does the team make week after week to lose games or make them closer than they should?

Is there any evidence that Wannstedt has the ability to “coach players up” or even be a “good game day coach” at any level? (the NFL or NCAA)

How many “good reasons” do we need to hear as an excuse for this team not to win games and when is the coaching staff held accountable for correcting them?

What has Dave Wannstedt done to improve the status of the program inherited from Walt Harris?

Why does Pitt evaluate Wannstedt’s performance differently from Walt Harris?

Pitt will never play for a national championship in football under the leadership of the Dave Wannstedt.

Besides his liability of not being a “good game day coach” it’s pretty obvious that he lacks the “killer instinct” of the elite coaches.

Does he ever publicly reprimand his players during the game for egregious lapses in fundamental football execution (Like a Brian Kelly type would)….in practice? (Maybe sitting them on the bench if that’s too harsh) If he does when are they corrected?

Can he not recruit “better players” after six years on the job?

In college football “style points” matter in a system without a playoff in which every game counts; even if Pitt were able to run the table (which will never happen) they would never impress the pollsters with the margin of victory under Wannstedt’s prolific scoring machine.

Let’s face it, Pittsburgh is a pro football city with burgeoning elite men’s college basketball program.

It’s pretty obvious that the Pitt athletic department is complacent with the football program as long as they contend in the Big Least football conference.

Just don’t try to “snow job us” with pre-season football ticket plans because you give the fan base no reason to “sell out” Saturdays at Heinz field.

As a Pitt football fan, I live by these rules:

1. Always expect to be disappointed, because you will be. If they’re ranked high, it’s because they’re overrated.

2. Realize that the Big East is a second rate conference.

3. Realize that Pitt is not going to be an elite NCAA FBS program.

4. Enjoy the memories of the mid 70’s and early 80’s; but understand that will never happen again.

5. Recognize the rich tradition and 9 national championships and know that it will never reach ten.

6. The only way Pitt will have a great coach is to be lucky enough find one on the rise. He’ll probably be gone in 4 years anyhow; may as well stick with Wanny for now.

7. Relax during tight games against meaningful competition THEY WILL LOOSE.

Comment by Vic Money 11.28.10 @ 8:28 pm

Comment by Tony In Harrisburg 11.28.10 @ 8:34 pm

Thanks, Chris. Appreciate it.

Comment by Carmen 11.28.10 @ 8:49 pm

Zeise is a coward and a Dave Wannstedt apologist. He needs to be reassigned as well. His writing is awful and his analysis is worse. I need a clean break from everything related to pitt football over the past six naseauting seasons.

Comment by Omar 11.28.10 @ 8:52 pm

Hate to say it but it might not be a bad idea for wanny to go after Randy Shannon as defensive co-ordinator. Short of getting fired this might give him one more year. Shannon can sure upmthe Florida recruiting!!

Comment by Pitt fan in Atlanta 11.28.10 @ 9:21 pm

Please say no to “Pitt” guys like Sunseri or even Austin who is simply not ready. Magino really didn’t do a great job at KU with one year as an exception and he’s got a chance at dying any day. Leach would be an amazing hire, but it’s not going to happen.

My personal recommendation is for Mark Helfrich, although we’ll likely not get him out of Oregon. Mark Whipple should be considered. Paul Petrino might be interesting as well.

Again, it might not happen, but to me there are WAY too many talented, innovative coaches out there to not make a dramatic change ASAP.

Comment by Frank 11.28.10 @ 9:46 pm

An old friend called me today from the Chicago area. He was chuckling because he figured I was fuming over the recent Wanny moves… he asked me if I remember what he told me that week we hired Wanny. I told him that I remembered, but was hoping he was a bitter Bears fan. Turns out he was right…

“The guy is so stubborn and arrogant…for reasons we don’t know? Maybe a rub off from Jimmy Johnson. He will ruin your program. You will come to despise him and want him to be run out of town. His words and actions will become so predictable, you will only laugh at how silly you were for not seeing it years in the past.”

Those words haunt me to this day…

Comment by Pauly P 11.28.10 @ 10:22 pm

Hey PaulyP, I remember my uncle telling me, “you just hired a loser”, and I was mad at him, because I was so excited DW was coming……

Comment by DAN 11.29.10 @ 12:47 am

I don’t think Wannstedt is going anywhere. Status quo, guys. Love it or leave it.

Comment by TonyinHouston 11.29.10 @ 5:37 am

Only an absolute blowout of Pitt this Saturday (Cincy winning by 3 or more touchdowns)could lead to forcing the issue to “kick Wanny upstairs”. He will be given another year to screw up what is left of our football team and then be dumped with one year remaining on the contract. Pitt would have only a $1.2m payout vs. $2.0+ if he is canned now.
Next year’s schedule could be an enormous disaster for Pitt with other teams showing improvement while we wallow in the Heinz Field mud with a weak O line, weak linebacking, a secondary that will be chasing passes over its head, a quarterback (Tino is #1 for Wanny)who just doesn’t have the talent to raise the bar and a coaching staff that should be at Ball State.
Oh, and don’t forget the seniors graduating that we will see playing on Sunday. What a mess!!

Comment by isnore 11.29.10 @ 7:14 am

Ooops, I should have included Baldwin who will probably head to the NFL. Baldwin has not had a spectacular year, however, given the O line, play calling and quarterback he is teamed with it is understandable why he appears to be in another world. I believe that in the NFL (probably a second round pick) he will have an attitude adjustment and become a player to reckoned with!!

Comment by isnore 11.29.10 @ 7:21 am

Paul Zeise article below sums it up.
link to
If you want an average uninspired football program that has little entertainment value and no real competitive relevence on the national stage, then Wannstedt is our man becuse his up side is that he has the University’s best interest at heart in “other” regards. So sorry, but the prime directive Wannstedt laid on the table when he showed up here 6 years ago was winning BE Championships while spouting the “I know what it takes to win National Championship” mantra. Well, he may know what it takes to accomplish the above, but Wannstedt has clearly demonstrated an inability to produce it. No hard feelings Dave, step aside and let the administration put somebody in there who just might be able to win some of those games that actually make a major college football program relevant. Those who initially defend Wannstedt and his performance end up coming full circle with the rational argument on why he should be replaced. Nough said, we new a new coaching staff for this program!

Comment by Dr. Tom 11.29.10 @ 8:29 am

Wanny has not delivered, period!

6 years, no Big East championships, no BCS bowl games, what direction has this program taken under Wanny?

Is it better, the same or worse since he has taken over?

All I have to say is that if I made statements to the people I work for regarding delivering specific goals and not achieve them I would be terminated.

I sure Wanny is a nice guy but sooner or later you have to deliver, he hasn’t, time for a change!

Comment by Lou Holtz's false teeth! 11.29.10 @ 9:06 am

Haven’t posted on here in a while, as Pitt football has sucked away my enthusiasm (and I was one of the supporters). I really don’t understand how a team can make so many mistakes. Fumbles, missed opportunities and bad play calls. I definitely think a coaching change should be made. And yes the people arguing with me before were right. When I’m wrong, I say I’m wrong.

Honestly, I don’t think it happens unless Wanny steps down. Yes, the team really underperformed this year. But here are the reasons he would be kept:

1. He graduates players and cares about academics. I know a lot of people don’t care about that on this board, but the person making the decision to fire Wanny does. And Pitt has been making a push to become a top academic institution.

2. Before this season, Pitt was arguably one play away from being Big East champions for two seasons in a row. And yes it was mistakes that prevented Pitt from winning the Big East. But the team was right there.

3. Wanny is still recruiting great. To have a top 15 class for next year on Rivals while being in the pathetic Big East is unbelievable.

This is not a defense at all. In my opinion Pitt was the more talented team in every game they played this year and should have lost a maximum of 2 games. I just think people on here are talking as if the program is in shambles and/or is worse off than it was 6 years ago, which is flat out wrong. In 2004, Pitt’s recruiting class was number 47 and in 2003 number 39. The past 2 years Pitt will have back to back top 20 recruiting classes. When Walt was here the Big East was still a premier conference, and recruiting should have been easier. I’m pretty sure it is easier to recruit in Florida if you are selling players on getting to play Miami (when they were still good) every year and being able to show how they missed out on you. Is Wanny a bad game day coach? Yes. Is he a bad recruiter? No. It is much easier to fix a talented team than to fix a non talented team.

If a change is made, the new coach should be expected to win at least 10 games.

While this season was a huge disappointment, Pitt should be ready to rock and roll next year.

Hail to Pitt!

Comment by XBlackMagicX 11.29.10 @ 10:11 am

Vic Money….you are hilarious. You used the words killer instinct and Brian Kelly in the same sentence….LOL…anyway..

Some of you have short memories. Wasn’t Steve Pederson re-hired AFTER Wannstedt was given a new contract? Pederson is/was not responsible for the hiring/re-hiring of Wannstedt. As some have said, that is Nordy’s call.

When Walt left, this team was pretty bad off. There was something like 3 DTs on the entire roster…I am not accepting mediocrity when I say that I think that this program is better off now than when Wannstedt took over.

The question is….is it worth blowing up to get rid of Wannstedt? It depends…I agree that hiring a guy like Mike Leach would would minimize the damage. But that would cost some serious cabbage.

Comment by George 11.29.10 @ 10:23 am

All this talk of who could coach…just find someone who has won games…Ohio State did that in Tressel….no one else would have even considered him and look at the program he has. YSU was winning and competing for championships and now Ohio State does the same. just a thought.

Comment by DRGAGS 11.29.10 @ 10:49 am

Some facts to throw in here.

DRGAGS: Tressel had been sought after before. Miami offered him the job before Butch Davis was given the shot in the late 90s. Well known and respected for his work. He had been quietly pursued by many teams because he recruited so well in 1-AA in addition to being a fine coach. The OSU job, was the only one he wanted.

George: partially correct on some facts. Wannstedt was hired by former AD Jeff Long. Pederson, though, did give him both extensions. The first came/announced just before the 2007 Backyard Brawl. Nordenberg obviously has a lot of say in these things, but Pederson pursued Wannstedt back in 1996 — something both sides have acknowledged.

You can’t cite lack of depth at one position as proof of being better off now versus the end of Walt Harris. Otherwise someone might ask you, how many actual centers (rather than converted) are on the team at the moment?

Comment by Chas 11.29.10 @ 10:58 am

Mike Leach needs a Job.

He was at 1.7 mill a year when he was fired @ Texas Tech he started there @ 1.2 mil. He is considered desperate to clear his name and get back on the field so he may take 1.2 million or slightly more again to get back in the game.

If our Offense put up 50 to 70 points a game we should see a substantial increase in ticket and licensed apparel sales that would more then make up the difference in salary.

People have not got behind this team because they break your heart and are boring when they win.

I’m sure that Nordy isn’t looking at Mike Leach and that some other school will pick this guy up and we will wish we did.

Comment by Tony in Harrisburg 11.29.10 @ 11:06 am

Pittsburgh TV announcing that TCU is moving to the Big East. News conference scheduled for this afternoon.

Comment by TampaT 11.29.10 @ 12:20 pm

Oops guess I should have looked forward. Old news. Sorry, Chas.

Comment by TampaT 11.29.10 @ 12:23 pm

As a Pitt fan for over 40 years, for all but about 10 of those, we have been always looking forward to being a great team next year. As someone noted above, we play our best football in the pre-season. What makes anyone think the same dumb mistakes, the same bad sideline calls, the same lazy pass routes, the same lack of strength and aggressiveness, and the same off season arrests won’t happen next year? These are all kids that Wanny recruited now. Great, he graduates players, and doesn’t break NCAA rules. That is a minimum for being a coach at Pitt – and at plenty of other Division I schools. As bad a coach as he is, he better, because that may be the only thing that keeps him around. By the way, Walt Harris ran the program the same way from that standpoint. And so will our next coach. That is the school, not the coach.

Comment by PO'd Panther 11.29.10 @ 2:34 pm


I am not sure if you were picking a position out of the hat…but don’t a lot of programs convert linemen to centers? It takes not only experience but a couple of years in the weight program to make a good center. I am sure that someone can cite examples each way but I never had a problem with converting other linemen to center. Now, I know that Pitt didn’t have many choices of linemen to convert to center….

And, for the record, if I had a wish/say-so in all of this, it would be for Wannstedt to accept the ‘Special Assistant to the Chancellor in charge of Football Related Alumni Relations’ position and for Pitt to go and get Mike Leach. But I will also go on record as saying that, if that were to happen, Wannstedt has left the program in better shape than when he took over. Obviously, none of his stated goals (then or now) were accomplished. But he didn’t (yet) run the ship in the reef. I don’t hold any animosity towards the guy.

Comment by George 11.29.10 @ 4:46 pm

Mike Leach is loving life in Key West and is available. Miami just fired their head coach. Coincidence?

Comment by 66Goat 11.29.10 @ 8:23 pm

You guys are delusional. Mike Leach? Are you kidding me? Why in the world would he want to come to Pitt? You act as if Al Golden would be moving up in the world if he goes to you guys. I have news for you, Temple is a better program than Pitt. The MAC is better than the Big East.

You guys act as if people will line up for the job. Minnesota is a better job than Pitt. You know why? Minnesota plays in a real conference.

Comment by Ron Cook's Sweater 11.29.10 @ 9:13 pm

All successful football programs have a competent QB and has the succession of the position in place. With all of the problems Pitt has had this year in various positions the root of the team failure is the decision not to get a qualified high school QB in place a couple of years ago. Currently, there are three QB’s in the MAC Conference who would have given Pitt a chance to have won at least 4 more games. They play for Miami OH, Western MI and Northern Illinois. Pitt could have had any one of them but they just did not do it. Sunseri was not even recruited by one MAC team and the Rivals listing was bogus.

All programs miss on recruits but those who misjudge the QB position are doomed to fail. If Wanny is fired this one bad decision will be the cause of his demise.

Comment by coach xxx 11.30.10 @ 12:00 am

We are delusional? The guy that wrote that the MAC is better than the Big East? WOW. I don’t know what you are taking but if you don’t stop soon, your brains will be dripping out your nose.

Comment by George 11.30.10 @ 9:10 am

Hey George The BE is a stronger conference than the MAC overall but this year Pitt would not win the MAC. If you check the scores for UCONN you will see that they were thrashed by Temple. UCONN wins the Big East but Temple could not win the MAC.

Comment by coach xxx 11.30.10 @ 3:14 pm

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