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Saturday, June 23, 2018

Backyard Brawl Debacle Likely Cost Dave Wannstedt His Job at Pitt

From the day he got hired by Pitt, I thought it was a bad decision by the Panthers to make Dave Wannstedt their head coach. Now, six years after I felt Pitt made a bad move, they have finally decided to fire the Wannstache.

Wannstedt seemed to get the benefit of the doubt everywhere based on his relationship with Jimmy Johnson, yet he failed in Chicago as a head coach and was fired after 1-8 start with the Dolphins in 2004 (he had winning seasons the previous four years). Regardless of his performances he seemed to consistently land jobs; Pitt hired him immediately and he began coaching in 2005.

The Panthers struggled in Wannstedt’s first three years on the job, going 5-6, 6-6, and 5-7. While I was convinced they had made a bad hire and should have fired him, the team turned the corner in 2008 going 9-4. Last year they went 10-3 and enjoyed their first double digit win season since 1981 when Jackie Sherrill was coach.

Pitt appeared poised to win the weak Big East this year entering their home game against West Virginia. They were 4-1 in conference play and hosting the Backyard Brawl against the Mountaineers, but they got embarrassed 35-10. Had they won the game and beaten Cincinnati as they ended up doing, they would have won the conference and received a BCS bowl berth. It wasn’t just losing a rivalry game that cost the team the conference title that hurt Wannstedt’s job status, but it was how they lost it.

Pitt put the ball on the ground six times and lost three fumbles, getting hammered by 25. Geno Smith went 9-12 for 212 yards and three touchdowns against the Panthers in the win.

After sticking by Wannstache for three mediocre seasons at the start of his tenure, it’s hard to believe they finally decided to can him during a 7-5 bowl season. I didn’t see this coming, and if they weren’t beat down at home by West Virginia it probably would not have. Who Pitt hires next is uncertain, but what is known is that Wannstedt will get another good head coaching job elsewhere. He always does.

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