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The Chryst Conundrum

The jury is still out on Paul Chryst. And should be for some time.

Jared Wickerham

Todd Thomas may be coming back to the football team. Todd Thomas may not be coming back to the Pitt football team. Paul Chryst is right for trying to motivate one of his most talented defenders. Paul Chryst is an idiot for embarrassing a proven starter.

It seems there are two perspectives in just about every aspect of Pitt football. Everything seems to be in black and white. An on-campus stadium is a critical need for Pitt. Heinz Field is a state-of-the-art facility that is just fine for Pitt. Pitt ‘script’ is the best thing to ever happen. Young people don’t identify with Pitt ‘script.’ Pitt fans can't even agree on a pizza. Sorrento's is better. Antoon's is better. Personally, I’d love an on-campus stadium, but is that even practical? And Pitt ‘script’ is great, but so are the current uniforms which are the colors Fitz, Revis, and Shady wore. And there's no way I'm getting into the $5 pizza debate.

You see, not everything has to be cut-and-dry. However, I can already see the battle lines being drawn on Paul Chryst. You are either, pardon the pun, a believer of Chryst, or you are a denier. Chryst’s supporters (apostles?) are quick to defend the coach. His handling of every situation is perfect and it’s usually the athlete’s fault. In some cases that might be justified (see Shell, Rushel). Others take every chance they get to bash Chryst. He can’t recruit. He can’t gameplan. He’s a career coordinator.

My theory on this matter is simple: Paul Chryst is still an unknown commodity. By all accounts he seems like a pretty nice guy. However, Chryst does not seek the limelight. In interviews and meetings with the press he is reserved, almost to a fault. Chryst and his family seem to shy away from attention. Could you pick his wife out of a lineup? She surely doesn’t have Twitter. Heck, do we even know hew name? It's been a long road for Pitt fans and coaches.

This cycle of betrayal, either by the university or by coaches began with Dave Wannstedt. He was the "Pitt guy." He has, what I’ve previously dubbed as "Yinzer hucksterism." He had that certain ‘je ne sais quoi’ that made fans fall in love with him. Unfortunately, Dave couldn’t put it together on gamedays and failed to bring a BCS bowl bid. Todd Graham was in your face and on your season tickets. He was out in front, purposely becoming the new face of the program. Graham, even with his marvelously seedy exit, seemed like a good coach who might turn the program around. His exit hurt in more ways than one. The turnover and loyalties to the university and program faded. The exodus had begun.

Enter Paul Chryst. The program has a leader in Chryst who is the exact opposite of Graham. We’re in year two and I’m not quite sure what we have yet. I’m not sure anyone knows. We may have the next Pop Warner and we may have the next Paul Hackett.

It’s year two and players are still leaving. Good ones. It could be a cleansing, but it could be something worse. At this point, it’s impossible to tell. His tactics may be driving out some of the best players while ridding the program of some bad character. I'm not so sure that's what happened with Todd Thomas, but Chryst's version of winning may come at a cost. It may also come much later than anticipated. Pitt is entering a new, more difficult conference with a lot of questions and flaws. I am not making excuses for Chryst. He could easily cater to his stars and allow the players to rule the roost.

However, I will offer one suggestion for Pitt fans. Let it all play out. This program has been through just about everything. No program in the country has seen the instability that Pitt has over the past few years, not even Penn State. So, before year two begins, let’s remember that not everything is black and white. Our expectations as fans should not change. Pitt should win the games it's supposed to win. But remember that not everything is decided in a year or two. It may take four, five, six, or even seven. As fans, we want to see progress. The results, good or bad, will come.

Hell, we’ve tried everything else, maybe now is the time for a little patience.

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