After waiting for a few days to completely absorb the latest failure, and it takes that long to actually digest what we saw, Chas’s excellent take of the Utah game and the team’s disposition needs expounding on. Since football is more than just statistics and how they affect the overall won / loss record, this is the perfect time to really look at what shape the football program is in and how the team represents the tip of the overall iceberg that is PITT football.
It wouldn’t hurt to reread what Chas had to say in the previous post because he hits the root cause of what is happening between the whistles and makes great points about the pieces of the puzzle that are missing during the execution of playing the games.
But, and since my educational and professional background revolves heavily around psychology and sociology (two worthless degrees except when following PITT football apparently); I see cause and effect around every corner and under every rock. Some of those jump out and bite you in the face. To wit:
The 2010 off the field problems — the on field problems — Wannstedt’s firing — Haywood’s hiring — Baby Daddy smack down — Haywood’s firing — Graham’s hiring — Radical changes in style of football — uncertainly among the players — poor results on the field — dissention in the rank and file — Same Old PITT.
Last Friday we had some great discussion on here about what we saw and what we thought about after the Rutgers debacle. In the comments was this exchange of two views on the team’s problems
The issue of team chemistry has been on the knife’s edge since Wannstedt was fired back in December. These seniors have been through a lot over the last 10 months and then to institute such sweeping changes in the style of play… well, you can see how the seniors may just be saying “Let me just get through this year”. And it isn’t like 2010 was such a great year that they were really looking forward to 2011 in the first place.
But none of these seniors are in the team’s future anyway or are really benefiting from this 2011 season. The new offense and defense systems haven’t showcased any of their individual talents.
There isn’t a bunch of motivation to be found for the seniors there anyway especially when considering that the HC who nurtured (pampered) them for three or four years was ingloriously (fired). Top that off with those big changes, Graham’s emphasis on playing newcomers and our close losses, and those had to be morale killers especially with the grandiose promises we heard from the staff, and it’s a real formula for senior apathy IMO.
I really do think that that loss last week (Rutgers) wasn’t the end of the season but I wonder if it didn’t just make those seniors more apt to care less about the team’s present and future and the underclassmen, then they would in a normal non-drama filled year…
Answered by Dr. Tom with this:
Reed, I don’t think your spin on this team’s mindset is valid at this point in the season. I didn’t see any “Quit” in the team in general against Rutgers. I just saw a team getting their asses whipped by a team that wanted it more and they couldn’t recover due to poor performance on their own part.
Now after you get kicked in the teeth like that, how you respond, especially in a non conference game, the next week DOES demonstrate the mindset of the team going forward. Football, like life, tends to be just a series of problems strung together that routinely screws with your head. How you pick up the pieces and move on spells the difference between success and failure.
Coach Graham has a big job ahead of him. This game will be a tough one if he finds that the team is still hanging its collective head after last week’s loss. It could also serve as a wakeup call and a rally point to challenge these kids to get up off the floor and get back into the fight.
Both valid opinions and Dr. Tom hit the nail in the head with the key point in that last paragraph. Which do YOU think happened?
Chas wrote about it as referenced by his view of how the offense performed and Paul Zeise of the P-G gets into some detail with this in today’s Red Shoes Diary:
EJ Borghetti did his best to coach up the players who came into the interview room so as to make sure they showed a “united” front and didn’t point fingers, etc., etc. Both quarterbacks were not made available to the media today and it was clear there was more “kumbaya” being sung by the players – real or forced – than at any youth group retreat I ever attended when I was a kid….(Note: watch the first minute of the kumbaya video and imagine Steve Peterson after the last game)
What is important to understand is that this is unusual for the PITT SID to do; Borghetti very much takes a hands-off attitude with player interviews and allows the players (all adults BTW) to individually express their thoughts. Not this time though. That raises another warning flag on my horizon.
We knew one of the key issues coming out of the camps was the level in which the players ‘bought into’ Grahams philosophy and the dramatic playbook changes he was instituting. All looked well as the team was getting up to Graham and staff’s expectations of what needed to happen with the players and how they executed during camp. So we have to assume that reality began to not match theory during five weeks of actual play.
Whether this is an offensive players vs. defensive players situation as the defense is certainly playing well enough for us to have won our last three games and the offense has crapped out, or a loss of confidence of the players with the QB and/or the staff, one thing is certain – what we have seen in games six and seven should scare the hell out of us fans.
As we all said after the RU game, ‘one incident could be an aberration but let’s wait until the Utah game to see if it constitutes a trend’. Folks, there is a definite direction in which this team is moving and it ain’t a good one. To me, the most interesting thing to watch for as PITT goes forward is if Graham is going to stick to his stated goal of getting his offense installed at all costs . This brings us to…
Mark Myers! The Cleveland Kid! The Scion of St. Ignatius! The Punter With the Golden Arm!
The howling is in high gear for the third string QB to get his shot and it certainly isn’t unfounded based on what we have seen from Sunseri and Anderson so far. You’d think this would be an easy decision for the HC to make… if you didn’t realize the multitude of reasons Graham has in his brain pan not to do it. What has transpired between Myers and Graham over the last seven months none of us fans truly know, but one obvious reason is whether Todd Graham is going to stick with what brung him to PITT and his $2M salary. If so Myers will stay on the bench. We discussed this in an article after the Notre Dame game:
“I believe strongly in the system,” Graham said. “As we progress and become more mentally and physically conditioned, then we will get better. I looked at the film, and our mistakes were not made from being too tired or playing too many snaps on defense. “An offense is about running a rhythm and you can’t just change the rhythm and expect to be successful. “Our tempo is not why we lost the game, but because we turned the football over and made too many mental errors.”
The message here, and it’s been repeated over and over by Graham, is that not only does he want to win games but he wants to get his offense (and defense) in place as soon as possible so as to have a head start on 2012 and beyond. I’m not surprised at this at all. That is what he was hired for and what the PITT administration expects.
In the maritime trade we place a bar of zinc anode directly onto the hull of the ship as a “sacrificial waste piece” so that bar will take the corrosion before the hull does. In a real way I believe this season is serving as Graham’s waste piece for the future seasons. Not that he doesn’t want to win in 2011, but that isn’t the end all be all in his plans.
This pisses some PITT fans off to no end but in the long view, which I believe the PITT administration is taking, what happens in 2011 is nowhere near as important as what happens in 2012 and beyond. This is what PITT paid that big money for, to have Graham get his systems in place and running as soon as possible and at this point it will only happen if the returning 2012 roster players have as much experience with it as they can. IMO Graham doesn’t believe playing Myers will expedite that happening.
Of course, Graham could always adapt his offense to accommodate Myer’s abilities and get him in there. On one hand I’d like that to take place. He could also bend to pressure and change his line of thinking but I strongly doubt that pressure will come from the people who pay his salary which, at this point in time, are the only ones he needs to listen to. But Graham is as stubborn as a Texas mule and I don’t see him doing it, he could of course, but we’ll see.