Should Dave Wannstedt be fired? That's a question that I'm really contemplating right now. Following Friday's embarrassing loss to West Virginia, the media seems to be finally turning against him. Most fans already have. What should Pitt do? You don't want to be brash and fire the guy because of one loss, but you can't be an apologist either.
When I try to think of reasons why Wannstedt should be retained after this year, I can't come up with much. 'He's a strong recruiter' is a common defense of the Stache. Wannstedt's recruiting classes have been solid and produced some great players like Greg Romeus, Jon Baldwin, Jeff Otah, LeSean McCoy, and Nate Byham, however he fails to heavily recruit role players (the reason we have a former walk-on starting at center this year). Having a recruting class with six 4-star prospects is great (as Wannstedt's 2011 class does), but when they're all defensive backs or running backs and you have only one offensive lineman in that same class, who's regarded as a fringe prospect, it's a bit of a moot point. The only other thing Wannstedt really has going for him is the fact that he's a "Pitt guy". He's loyal to the program and the university, and his players know he's not going to abandon them for a more attractive job elsewhere. To this I have to say, that's nice, but loyalty doesn't necessarily translate into success. In Wannstedt's case it really hasn't.
Yes, he did lead Pitt to its first 10-win season since 1981 last year and a nice 9-win season before that, but both of those years should have ended better than they did. Pitt opened the 2008 campaign with excitement, fresh off of a giant upset against WVU that knocked the Mountaineers out of the national title game. They lost to Bowling Green in the season opener. Bowling Green. Stunning losses against Rutgers and Cincinnati followed later in the season to send 9-3 Pitt to the Sun Bowl. That doesn't sound too bad, except that Pitt was embarrassed 3-0 in the bowl game. Afterward, Wannstedt admitted that his team wasn't prepared. Thanks a lot coach.
Last year, it was the 4th quarter collapse of the defense against N.C. State, the pathetic, unprepared look of the team in the Backyard Brawl, and the nightmare that was the Cincinnati game. Wannstedt's team blew a 21-point lead with the Big East Championship on the line. Need I say more? Then in the Meineke Car Care Bowl, Wannstedt's Panthers looked unprepared again and barely beat an average North Carolina team, needing a last minute field goal to win it.
Then, this season began. Ranked #15 in the preseason polls, this was Pitt's year, this was the year Wannstedt's system would finally pay off. Wrong. The 2010 season has been nothing but a litany of disappointment and embarrassment. An opening loss to Utah, on the road and with a rookie quarterback, didn't bother me. Being entirely outclassed on national TV by Miami, Notre Dame, UConn, and West Virginia--all average teams--did. Now, Pitt will, at best, finish 7-5 and head to some obscure bowl game that nobody cares about. What a vapid finish to a season that was supposed to be "the year".
Teams that start the year ranked #15 don't finish 7-5. Well, under Dave Wannstedt they do.
Teams that jump out to a 6-1 start, don't lose their last 5 games to end 6-6. Guess what? In 2006, under Dave Wannstedt, that's exactly what Pitt did.
A team who knocks off the #2 team in the country on the road doesn't start the next season by losing to a mid-major team at home. Dave Wannstedt's 2008 team did.
Teams that start 9-1 and are ranked #9 in the country don't lose their last two games in heartbreaking fashion. Wannstedt's 2009 squad did.
Teams don't go 3-9 after bye-weeks; rest is supposed to help, not hurt. Apparently that's not the case with Wannstedt.
I could continue, but you get the idea...
Much to my chagrin, I think Wannstedt will be back next year. Even though it'll be next to impossible to sell tickets next season to a disgruntled fanbase, after extending Wannstedt's contract last year, AD Steve Pederson isn't going to admit that he was wrong and fire Wannstedt. Instead, a few assistant coaches will get the axe. This isn't the right course of action, though.
The bottom line is that for the past three seasons, Wannstedt has had the Big East Title in his hands and every year, he's found some way to let it slip away. He's a choke artist to the Nth degree. He can't keep his teams focused, he can't keep them disciplined, and, ultimately, he can't win the games that matter. I know that's a cliche, but it's true. Dave Wannstedt cannot win the big games, the games needed to take Pitt's program to the next level. Mediocrity won't cut it for me anymore. I'm tired of being outcoached and unprepared. I'm tired of Wannstedt's ineptitude.
Eventually you have to say enough is enough. Well, Dave, enough is enough.