August 15, 2013

Thomas’ Return: Media Review

Filed under: Chryst,Coaches,Football,Players — Chas @ 11:31 am

Okay, the news came out of Todd Thomas officially returning to Pitt football. Justin and I were both out and not able to do a real post at the time. Now, with 24 hours to digest, it’s time to review.

Starting by looking back since there is controversy over the whole thing. It started with Thomas being “demoted” to second unit on the first day of practice. An admitted motivational tactic taken by Coach Paul Chryst. Clearly unhappy with it, Thomas nonetheless said all the right things about needing it and using it.

Then came the news that he left the team abruptly.

It surprised everyone, but opportunity knocks for some.

Thomas’ high school coach at Beaver Falls, Ryan Matsook, said the news surprised him. He said he received six voice mail messages from Division II coaches wondering about Thomas’ availability.

IUP on line one. Please hold.

This stands out to me as very interesting in the issue of the demotion as a motivational tool. Thomas’ high school football coach said right after it happened that this sort of motivation has worked before.

“I speak quite frequently with Chris Haering (Thomas’ position coach at Pitt), and he never had anything negative to say,” Matsook said. “Todd is competitive. Every kid will get complacent, but the thing that always motivated Todd was if you put anyone in front of him or sat him for a quarter, he always responded positively.

“The more you dangle that carrot, the better Todd gets. “I am just surprised. It seems like a knee-jerk reaction.”

A “knee-jerk reaction” is what it appeared to be a day later as news came out that Thomas was set/wanted to return. But days went by without clarification. Moments when it seemed like it was about to happen, and then silence.

The longer this continued. With Coach Chryst not saying anything. And nothing from anyone else, the worse it seemed with the chances of Thomas actually returning.

Then yesterday, Thomas was back at camp.

“I was able to talk to Todd actually every day,” Chryst said. “We had continued discussions, and he’s back on the team. That’s all I’m going to talk about there.”


[Tangent time:

You know, a little more “talk about there” would go a long way in settling this issue. At the very least it cuts down the chatter and questions of what was going on behind the scenes.

For good and bad, news out of the Pitt football program is remarkably tight on leaks. For Chryst, I’m sure it seems like a positive. But it has a major down side.

With a coach reticent to say much about things beyond the basics in practice it creates a lot more speculation, rumors and other problems. People will try to fill in the blanks. They (and I include myself here) will try to lay out scenarios that make sense to themselves and their own biases that fits the facts they do have. It doesn’t cut down on questions and rumors. It merely changes the nature of them.

So when the press starts to ask about reports that Todd Thomas wants to come back and you say things like:

“What’d I tell you guys yesterday? I told you, when something changes, I will talk about that. And I promised you that.”

And once Thomas returns your “talk about that”  is:

“We had continued discussions, and he’s back on the team. That’s all I’m going to talk about there.”

That’s really not helping. Technically true, but not worth it.]

Back to Todd Thomas

Beaver Falls High School football coach Ryan Matsook said he received more than a half-dozen calls from other colleges inquiring about recruiting Thomas as a transfer. Ultimately, though, Thomas wanted to stay at Pitt.

Thomas, a Beaver Falls graduate, spent practice Wednesday in just a jersey and helmet and did not participate in 11-on-11 drills. Per NCAA rules, he must spend two more practices in just a helmet and shoulder pads before donning full pads. He missed the NCAA-mandated acclimation period his teammates went through last week.

Thomas’ high school basketball coach had helped in the media for Thomas’ side to indicate that Thomas was contrite and serious about wanting to return to Pitt.

Thomas wanted to return a day after leaving, according to Doug Biega, his basketball coach at Beaver Falls High School.

Biega said he has no problem with Chryst waiting to reinstate Thomas.

“He wanted to come back almost immediately,” he said.

“But I don’t think it should be that easy. When you make a decision, there tends to be consequences. Coach Chryst knows what he’s doing.”

Part of that appears to have been multiple discussions with Coach Chryst. Meeting/talking with senior players on the squad.

Now I suppose, depending on your bias it can be spun different ways. My bias is not simply as a Pitt partisan. It’s as a parent that has dealt with a child that feels like they are being singled out for “torture” by a teacher.

My daughter, in one instance, felt that it was being treated badly by the teacher. The reality was that the teacher saw she could do better than her peers in the subject matter and was trying to push her to get there. Of course she couldn’t just quit school, so there was no fallout beyond some tears that night. Feeling hurt and betrayed by a teacher she liked. She didn’t get it until I explained it, and even then the resentment lingered for a few days.

To me, Doug Biega sounds as much like a parent as he does Thomas’ old coach.

He is making sure to publicly back Chryst’s handling — the same way Chryst publicly made it clear that Thomas’ demotion was pure motivation — so that there isn’t any confusion for Thomas as to where Biega stands in what happened. He clearly supports Thomas or he wouldn’t have worked publicly to try and resolve the issues with Chryst and Thomas.

oops, OY VEY. My Yiddish is like my body: Hurting more every day.

Comment by steve1 08.15.13 @ 5:55 pm

Pitt’s trump card in this home opener is the UNKNOWN. I follow these guys pretty closely and there are just questions almost everywhere regarding this team in 2013. I sincerely think that even the coaching staff won’t know what team they will have going into this first game. Even with the defense returning a majority of their starters, you still have the variable of a brand new DC and a second year under the same coaching staff which allows installation of more elaborate schemes now that they’ve gotten the basic defensive systems down from last year.

I wouldn’t be the least surprised if we see up to four true Freshman in the mix of starters or starting rotations against FSU. The Seminoles have NO film on Tom Savage to study and for all we know, Chryst could be starting Boyd at a WR position and Conner at RB and how do you scout an offensive that’s starting true Freshman at such skill positions out of the gate?

Even the the guys in the trenches are all frickin mixed up, so even the veterans, that there IS film on, are in different positions than they were last year on the offensive line. So even if FSU isn’t taking us lightly, they have no idea how to prepare or what to expect from this team coming into Heinz Field in a couple weeks.

That UNKNOWN, could be our biggest advantage against a team, that on paper anyhow, should easily be able to handle the Panthers. That’s the Kool-aid talking. But then again we could come out and be the same old Pitt, start slow, play dumb, look awful and embarrass ourselves on national TV again like has been our MO over the last couple of years pretty consistantly when we play a “meaningful game”.

I don’t know about you other Kool-aid drinkers but that BS has gotten so old that I’m past due for a change. One thing for sure however, no matter how we try, no one will be able to blame Pitt’s poor showing, if it occurs, on our previous QB starter, whom will remain unnamed.

Lets hope for the best. Hail to Pitt!

Comment by Dr. Tom 08.15.13 @ 6:04 pm

Agreed: Down with Pittdom, Doc!

Comment by steve1 08.15.13 @ 6:15 pm

If you look above, you would know that I’m not part of the Kool-Aid contingent … but if you look at some of my previous posts, you would know that I think there is a chance of a Pitt upset of FSU …. solely because you never know what’s going to happen in the opener.

I admit I’d be very pleasantly surprised, but still believe it’s a possibility,

Comment by wbb 08.15.13 @ 6:24 pm

Hey App State beat Michigan in the big house.

YSU beat us. (ikr …my bad to remind us)

Why can’t we spring a huge upset in Week 1.

Oy Vey…what a Grand Entrance into the ACC that would make !!!

And on Monday Nite Football to boot !

Comment by EMel 08.15.13 @ 6:37 pm

Here’s some more Kool Aid thoughts.

Miami went downhill since entering the ACC.

I always believed Miami sort of took over Pitt’s place among independent powers in the mid ’80s when they got Bernie Kosar out of Youngstown (Boardman) when we should have got him to follow Marino.


PITT should go the opposite of what Miami did when they entered the ACC. Meaning to the Top !

It’s time we got retribution for what happened in the mid 1980’s. 🙂

Yes I’m wearing my blue blockers, haha

Comment by EMel 08.15.13 @ 6:42 pm


I thought Pitt was opening the NCAA season vs. FSU?????? I look and the game is Sept 2nd.

Then I look at my LSU vs. TCU tickets at Jerry’s World and they are August 31st.

What the hell?

Comment by Upittbaseball 08.15.13 @ 7:11 pm

PC’s job is to build a team an identity and a program all at once.
OBVIOUSLY, he prefers actions over rhetoric.
FREE AT LAST (from clever one liners from coaches) THANK GOD ALMIGHTY WE ARE FREE AT LAST!
I love PC’s style…it’s like reading body language. If scribes only report words, all they amount to are parrots.

Comment by Sfpitt 08.15.13 @ 7:38 pm

At UPittbaseball, lots of college games on during Labor Day weekend, but only one on the actual Labor Day night itself! Is it time yet for Pitt to shock the world once again? Been waiting a long time. Is it 13-9 time again?

Comment by Dr. Tom 08.15.13 @ 8:06 pm

Jody – you accuse others of being inconsistent? Really, with your documented history of flipping? Your not even consistent with your inconsistency.

Comment by marcus of schaumburg 08.15.13 @ 8:26 pm

Thanks Doc…Wife wants your thoughts on 3M?

Comment by Upittbaseball 08.15.13 @ 8:28 pm

3M is a sticky subject. Get it? I’m here all week!

Comment by Dr. Tom 08.15.13 @ 8:34 pm

If Pitt goes 9-3 Jody83 will give all the credit to high school coaches who commented on TThomas. Not lol, just sad @jody83.

Every time I see jody83 on here, I curse the day Al Gore invented the internet.

Comment by dhuffdaddy 08.15.13 @ 9:35 pm

lol dhuff

Was just reading the PG’s Pitt blog, the REd Shirt Diaries, stupid name btw.

Anyway there’s only 1 meager comment below the blog.
Which looks like NOBODY is interested in PITT.

I would have made a comment, but I don’t do Schmuckbook (facebook).

We need some Blatherites to go over there and make some comments, however short.

So it looks like more than 1 person in the ENTIRE city of Pittsburgh and the world are interested in PITT Football. This doesn’t look good if possible recruits are reading this stuff.

Do your team and your University a service ! 🙂

Comment by EMel 08.15.13 @ 11:20 pm

Btw why isn’t JoeD(an) 83 posting over there ?

Or did they already ban him. lol

Comment by EMel 08.15.13 @ 11:22 pm

Emel, Smizik, Red Shirt Diaries and Get Rhythm (non-sports) were the only 3 other blogs that I would post comments to … until PG initiatedthe Facebook requirement.

They now get a much smaller percentage of comments; I can remember a few of Smizik blogs getting well over 100 comments, and RSD getting more than a dozen or so on several occasions.

Comment by wbb 08.16.13 @ 6:33 am

EMel, the solution to multiple Pitt issues is always the same, again and again. Creating a buzz in Pitt Football reporting, editorial commenting interest and hype on the various blogs all goes through the stratosphere when Pitt does something worth talking about.

This town is a very tuff crowd, Yunz homers don’t take to losers, and winning is pretty much a primary criteria to avoid being shuned like the plague in Pittsburgh.

How much excitement was stirred up with 13-9 however. Everybody talked that up for nine months, right into the next season for crying out loud.

So forget about commenting on Redshirt Diaries in an attempt to stoke up some interest in Pitt football, ain’t going to mean squat. Pitt has got to do something on the field, PERIOD.

Beat FSU on Sept 2nd and see what kind of excitement there is about Pitt football going into the New Mexico game. That’s how you stir up intersest in this town, just win baby, WIN!


Comment by Dr. Tom 08.16.13 @ 6:53 am

Joe D used to dog Zeise on the Redshirt diaries relentlessly. Maybe facebook is keeping him away. Personally, I don’t get the facebook stigma. You used to have to register with the PG to comment on those blogs. Now you register with facebook instead. Just because you hold a facebook account, doesn’t mean you actually have to put any personal info on it.

Comment by JCE 08.16.13 @ 7:43 am

re: facebook

I was a frequent poster on Smizik’s blog until the switch to the facebook format. After about 6 months I created a fb account that NO ONE knows about (meaning family and friends). I read my wife’s page a couple of times a week to catch up with family news.

But it is so littered with cutsie, feel good, religious and political posts from her ancillary friends that it is hard to see actual family/friend news and updates.

I have none of this on my page as it is anonymous. I just use the account for Smizik’s, ESPN and other blogs that require it.

Comment by pghFred 08.16.13 @ 7:56 am

emel–Maybe the high scoring in the ACC is more a function of bad defense rather than great offense. We shall find out.

Comment by pitt1972 08.16.13 @ 8:26 am

pghFred, Just to show you how naive I am about nerd technology, I wasn’t even aware that you can make your Facebook anonymous until about a week ago. Now your message is confirming what I found out.

Still not planning to start a fb page now, but good to know.

Comment by wbb 08.16.13 @ 8:30 am

wbb – I just used Pgh as my first name and Fred as my last for facebook. You do have to enter an e-mail address to sign up, but it is not visable.

And if you do decide to get a fb account, you can just make up an e-mail address that’s anonymous as well with hotmail or gmail. (ex.

Comment by pghFred 08.16.13 @ 8:33 am

I might be known to be Kool Aid delusional, however I feel certain that Florida State spanks us pretty hard. The only hope of us preventing that scenario that occurs to me is odd results sometimes pop up the opening game and we are at home. Maybe we won’t get drubbed off those two considerations. That ‘s the best I can hope for.

Comment by spiritofsection 22 08.16.13 @ 8:38 am

I actually believe we have a shot to pull off the upset(over FSU). Our D should be very good (ask ND – I realize ND is not Alabama, but neither is FSU), our new kicker has great potential, the whole offensive unit actually also has great potential. If the “potential” all shows up for the game we can win, if “potential” stays home and grills hot dogs it is going to be a long and laborious Labor Day! LET’S GO PITT!!!

Comment by pittman4ever 08.16.13 @ 11:33 am

Last time I played golf in a tournament I shot a 93 and was way out of the money for the net side of the 1st, 2nd & 3rd prizes. What pissed me off was I was really hitting the ball well overall but I had four wayward shots OB that cost me eight strokes when considering the penalty of stroke and distance for OB shots.

So my 93 could have just as easily been a 85 without those mental errors that cost me so dearly. With my 16 handicap that would have brought me in with net score of 69 and given me a tie for 1st place, low net, in the tourney.

The point of this story? In football, with just a few simple mental breakdowns, like those OB golf shots, a couple advantagious bounces of the ball, key turnovers with fumble recoveries and interceptions, a team can snatch defeat out of the jaws of victory, or vica versa.

Last season’s bogus phantom pass interference call against Williams in the fourth quarter of the ND game, was all it took for those Golden Domer MFers to steal away with a win against Pitt that evening. So even the refs can turn a game around.

FSU’s football team is made up of a talented bunch of young men but really, that’s all they are, athletic human beings just like the guys on our young Pitt team. Yeah the pregame calculations once tallied, say that FSU wins by a TD and a FG or two, but in the end, that will be determined by what goes on during that Monday night on Sept 2nd, 2013.

Last year after our first two games of the season, no one, and I mean NO ONE, wanted to hear my reasoning on why I thought that we had a chance to knock off Va Tech. in game three. I have to admit, that even I had lost faith in my own prognostications and ended up selling my tickets to a couple VT fans down here in Virginia while I stayed at home to watch the game on TV.

Well, what came to pass is now history. How did that Pitt win happen? Well our true Freshman RB had a career day rushing for over 150 yds and the Pitt defensive played out of their minds and picked up three interceptions, then the offense made those turnovers count for something.

Seriously, after our first two games, nobody could have imagined Pitt winning that game going away at 35-17, N O B O D Y.

This FSU game is no different. Pitt could come out on Labor Day night and put a thumping on FSU just as easily as we could rollover, belly up left for dead in a sea of mediocrity and play like $hit on national TV yet again. Our recent history bodes more towards the latter occurring but who the hell knows, N O B O D Y!

So before anybody starts calling pittman4ever a frickin Kool-aid drinking dreamer, first realize that depending on how the bounces go on Labor Day night and who shows up to play, that anything could happen. And one of those things that COULD happen is Pitt could pull the upset. That would be pretty neat!

Comment by Dr. Tom 08.16.13 @ 1:09 pm

Just to go back to the Thomas situation, everyone is assuming that it was PC’s motivational tactic to move TT down to 2nd string. Any chance it was the idea of our rookie DC who got the job having never accomplished anything in his career to justify his position? Maybe I’m wrong but wouldn’t surprise me if this tempest in a teapot was the brainchild move of House who has never been the coordinator of a D1 institurion. Just sounds like a rookie coordinator move, and PC is no rookie as a coordinator.

Comment by Taxing Matters 08.16.13 @ 1:34 pm

You might be right Taxing Matters.

And PC was ‘covering’ for him.

I thought it was strange that no mention, anywhere from what I could read, mentioned House in any of the TT articles. Haering either (the LB coach), only the BF coach mentioned him.

One of them might have dreamed that up and PC of course being the boss had to be the front man.

@ Doc Tom

We as PITT alumni can create a little excitement, we don’t really need to wait for the team to do something. For if that was the case, I think a lot of us would have given up many many years ago.
And since the PG is read more than Pittblather or any other Pitt blog, it would be nice to have more than 1 comment over there.

Comment by EMel 08.16.13 @ 6:21 pm

Wbb – If you are responding to my post above about Chryst and his lack of sharing info I don’t see how being in the military influences my thoughts on that at all.

Sorry, but theory that military members ‘blindly follow’ authority is very old hat and in truth isn’t even wanted much except when the members are in boot camp. I’ll speak for the service I was in and say that had I anyone under my command who felt they had a better way to do something or felt that things weren’t right in some important way and they didn’t speak up, that is where my attention would focus.

Of course that is situation depending on the severity, urgency and importance or the situation at hand just as the difference between practices & off the field issues and being on the goal line with :10 seconds to go and down four points.

With both Shell and Thomas I have maintained a constant stance of how I viewed the situations and how I though things should be handled. No one person has the right to shed their responsibilities to their ‘teammates’ and to the mission (football team’s work over all) for selfish reasons without ramifications.

Those ramifications might be a simple as pulling a kid aside after practice and telling him it looked like he was dogging it on some drills up to and including separating that person from the program for the good of the team. In truth I think Shell made his own bed over and over again and Chryst reached the point where he felt Shell needed to go. I have no problem with that and would have done the same – in my case transferred that member to a probationary unit prior to discharge.

Thomas’ case was, IMO, almost 180 degrees different in content. That was a rash reaction with heavy external influences at work on the player’s decision making. Thomas didn’t pull himself out of the practice that day nor did he complain about what the staff did. We can debate the decision to move Thomas down a peg forever but his immediate reaction to it was fine. Chryst met with him the very next day and told him the door was still open on his return as long as certain things were done – apparently in the form of a week’s suspension as it has come out.

I’ve no problem with that and might have done the exact same thing or something along those lines. It is a poor leader who keeps a closed mind to the energy and resources he has with the personnel under his authority. I felt very strongly about that because I knew that I spoke up when I felt something was sideways, either personally or in the Command. Notice Chryst met with Thomas everyday AND went to the Seniors to discuss Thomas’ situation with them. That is keeping an open mind and is just the thing to let both Thomas know he is still valued AND to bolster team cohesion because you know those seniors are going to be impressed and happy to have been given a voice (not a vote but a voice).

Comment by Reed 08.16.13 @ 6:45 pm

Sorry EMel, yours, mine and everybody else’s input in the media is nothing more than a blip on the radar as compared to Pitt producing on the field of play. This program has the opportunity set before it to make a significant impact on the national college football scene. The stage is set for us in two weeks. Can Pitt step up to the plate, point to the left field wall and slam it out of the park? It’s a long shot against the likes of FSU but that is what keeps me addicted to major college football. Anything is possible. Johnney Football wins the Heisman at Texas A&M, get serious! Happened!

Just win baby, win.

Hail to Pitt!

Comment by Dr. Tom 08.16.13 @ 6:55 pm

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