Current Pittsburgh Head Coach Dave Wannstedt was the head man with the Chicago Bears from 1993-1998. During his tenure, the Bears went to the playoffs once, and won just one playoff game- a memorable New Year’s Eve 1994 upset at Minnesota led by the “legendary” Steve Walsh.
After a fun-to-watch 1995 Bears team had a winning record, but failed to reach the postseason, he built up expectations in Chicago with a famous “all the pieces are in place” soundbite. But the Bears suffered a losing season and eventually “this place was in pieces.”
He showed talent in Chicago, winning the 1994 Coach of the Year award and leaving as the third winningest coach in history. However, the ball never seemed to bounce his way.
I caught up to him last Saturday after his current team, the Pittsburgh Panthers, lost to Notre Dame 23-17. Wanny once again has talent, but again he just can’t seem to buy a break.
You got to feel for him though because he’s kind of like college football‘s version of a “wacky neighbor” character on a primetime network sitcom.
By Paul M. Banks
Maybe I get this perception of him because he kind of looks like Schneider from “One Day at a Time,” one of the most classic television characters of all time. He even has the same exact mustache.
So when things go wrong for Wanny (on this Saturday, it was special teams miscues and a bone-headed call on a critical 4th down) you don’t want to criticize him. Instead you hear the things he says, the manner in which he says them, the rationale behind his explanations- and you can’t help but enjoy all the unintentional comedy unfolding.
“You know, we just ?? different things. I mean, we fall down once in the end zone. There’s one play on the first interception they got, Mike Shanahan slips and falls down. Open for a about a 16?yard deep square-in. Great throw by Tino, great read. Mike falls down. We had one ball that Cam had a chance to catch in the back of the end zone and it was probably inches from being catchable.
We’re just off a little bit in some areas,” Wannstedt told the media on Saturday.
And he’s right. An inept red zone offense, a failure to get the hold down on a field goal attempt, a missed chip shot FGA, handing Notre Dame three points in the 3rd quarter after a bad 4th down decision- this is just what happens when he’s in charge. Or at least this one game seemed like a microcosm of the first half of Pitt’s 2010 season. And it conjures up memories of the 1990s for Bears fans.
Again, I don’t think he’s a bad coach, not at all. He had some success in the NFL with the Miami Dolphins, and led Pitt to a 10-3 record and a #15 final national ranking last fall. The program hasn’t seen highs like that since the Dan Marino era.
But how can you be absolutely dominating the total yardage comparison, by a very wide margin, in the third quarter yet losing the football game 20-3? How on Earth is that possible?
Because Wanny just can’t buy a break. He’s got one of the best defensive ends in the nation, Greg Romeus, a theoretical top ten NFL pick…with a back that was bad enough to require surgery in September, with a possible chance at returning in November. Wannstedt has a great tailback in Dion Lewis, another next level talent who’s getting back into the groove from injury now. Factor in Jon Baldwin, one of the best WRs in the college game, and his Pitt Panthers should be a #15 team.
Instead they limp along at 2-3.
However, their schedule does get easier from here on out, and they may be getting healthy at just the right time, especially in a Big East that isn’t exactly the strongest conference ever.
Paul M. Banks is CEO of The Sports Bank.net , a Midwest webzine. He is also a regular contributor to the Tribune’s Chicago Now network, Walter Football.com, the Washington Times Communities, Yardbarker Network, and Fox Sports.com
You can follow him on Twitter @thesportsbank