Friday, December 17, 2010

PITT'S HAYWOOD: JUST WHAT THE DOCTOR ORDERED

I liked Dave Wannstedt...a lot...as most people did. Dave was a former Pitt player, a Pittsburgh guy and a genuinely-good man. He bled Pitt and would have stayed-on until they carried him off, like they will someday with JoePa. But here's the problem: Dave didn't or couldn't elevate the Pitt program. It didn't fall apart on his watch, but the impression is certainly there that his teams under-performed...especially this season.

The Pitt players are an interesting group for sure. They'll cry foul because their coach was let go and yet play as miserably as they did in a multitude of national exposure games for him. These guys were an embarassment to Pitt and Wannstedt especially with their off-field antics. It was clear to this writer that Wanny was too much of a buddy to them. They didn't fear or respect him, they just liked him. You need more than a friend for players to excel, you need to have someone for them to worry about. Enter this guy, Mike Haywood.

ABOVE: Oh yeah. I don't know this man and never saw him coach, but I can tell you that his demeanor screams Mike Tomlin. I don't see many players slacking off with Mike Haywood in the vicinity, nor do I envision them throwing people through glass doors on the South Side either!

Probably the most encouraging thing that I heard all week about Haywood is that an assistant compared him to former Steelers assistant head coach under Chuck Noll, Georgie "Porgie" Perles (as Myron Cope used to refer to him). Perles had a brilliant football mind and was known for being a hard-nosed coach. After he left the Steelers, he eventually became the head coach at Michigan State. 

ABOVE: George Perles (right) with a young coaching protege' of his at Michigan State (who now runs the Crimson Tide by the way).

Yes, to this writer, I feel Pitt may have hit one out of the park, just as the Rooneys did hiring Mike Tomlin who just may be the best coach in the NFL. Is Tomlin good because he's a brilliant X and O type of guy? Is he great because he's a brilliant game planner? I can't answer those two questions, but one thing I am certain about: Tomlin is in his players' heads and he has the uncanny knack to get them to give him their all, each and every week. That is what makes Tomlin great and what will make Haywood great too.

They would never admit it in public, but the Steelers are fearful of Tomlin. They fear crossing him or being singled-out by him. He keeps them accountable. Chuck Noll had the same knack for causing stomachs to churn during the '70s and '80s.

I think Mike Haywood has the coaching pedigree and inner makeup to become one of the greatest coaching hires at Pitt since Ben Howland was hired out of Northern Arizona. People howled back then about not getting a bigger name from a Division I school and look how he turned out. Of course we know how his assistant turned out too.

Yeah, I feel bad about Dave, I would have loved to have seen him be more successful, but in defense of the university, I think they gave him plenty of time to get it done. It's time to give Mike Haywood a shot. He'll get it done, or kick somebody in the rear end if they don't!

ABOVE: Haywood will look even more menacing in navy blue and gold.