Dave Wannstedt was probably one of the most interesting and funny speakers we ever had at LR Touchdown Club!


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Dave Wannstedt was probably one of the most interesting and funny speakers we ever had at LR Touchdown Club.

Wannstedt: Give Bielema time

By Jeff Halpern

This article was published today at 2:51 a.m.


Arkansas Democrat-Gazette/RICK MCFARLAND–08/25/14– Former NFL coach Dave Wannstedt speaks to the Little Rock Touchdown Club Monday.


Dave Wannstedt preached patience to Arkansas fans during his visit to the Little Rock Touchdown Club Monday at the Embassy Suites Hotel in Little Rock.

Wannstedt, a former head coach for the Chicago Bears and Miami Dolphins in the NFL and at Pittsburgh in college, got a good look at the Razorbacks this past spring when Arkansas Coach Bret Bielema asked him to watch practice and evaluate film.

“The one thing that impressed me was that these players are tough,” said Wannstedt, 62, now a college football analyst for Fox Sports. “These players have been through a couple of tough seasons and they were excited about coming out to practice.”

The Razorbacks, coming off seasons of 3-9 under Bielema and 4-8 under John L. Smith, open the season Saturday against an Auburn team that lost to Florida State in the BCS Championships game.

Wannstedt said he can understand how Arkansas fans, who were treated to four seasons of high-flying offense under Bobby Petrino, might not find Bielema’s power game as fun to watch.

But Wannstedt pointed to teams like Alabama, which won three BCS championships in four years; Michigan State, which is the defending Big Ten and Rose Bowl champion; and Stanford, which has played in four consecutive BCS games, as teams who prove you don’t have to run Spread offenses to win games.

“The point is, you have to be patient with the system,” Wannstedt said.

Wannstedt related a story from his days as the Dallas Cowboys defensive coordinator under Jimmy Johnson as an example of how patience can pay off in the long run.

Wannstedt said he told Johnson during Dallas’ 1-15 season in 1989 that he wanted to change the defensive scheme from the 4-3 to the 3-4, but Johnson told him to stick with the 4-3 as the foundation and the Cowboys would get better players and the scheme would work.

“The thing that Jimmy taught me was in football, or anything you do in life, you have to have a good foundation. You might lose some games, but if your foundation is solid, you’ll get through the rough spots,” Wannstedt said.

The Cowboys went from 1-15 in 1989 to winning their first of two consecutive Super Bowls in 1992.

Wannstedt, who worked for current Arkansas Athletic Director Jeff Long when he was the head coach at Pittsburgh from 2005-2010, said he thinks Long and Bielema will get things turned around.

“When Jeff Long first contacted me, I had resigned from the Dolphins and I still wanted to stay in the NFL, but he told me about his plan and I liked what he had to offer.”

Wannstedt went 42-31 in six seasons at Pittsburgh — 16-19 his first three seasons and 26-12 over the final three seasons — before resigning under pressure from Athletic Director Steve Pederson, who took over for Long in 2007.

Wannstedt said he can see, even from a distance, that things haven’t been easy for Long at Arkansas, with the departure of Houston Nutt, the hiring and firing of Petrino before the interim use of Smith in 2012.

“He had no control over the off-the-field issues with Petrino and he was trying to bridge the gap with John L. Smith for a year, but I like Bret Bielema. I believe he has a good philosophy and a good staff,” Wannstedt said.

Wannstedt said he hopes Nutt, who he coached at Oklahoma State from 1979-1980, can get back into coaching. Nutt has beeen out since the 2011 season when he was fired at Ole Miss after 2-10 season. “I’ve tried to get him a job in the NFL,” Wannstedt said. “He’s too good a coach to be out of the game.”

Sports on 08/26/2014

Print Headline: Wannstedt: Give Bielema time

In Focus, In Charge

Blinders Fit Cowboys Coach

January 26, 1993|By Don Pierson, Chicago Tribune.

LOS ANGELES — The Dallas Cowboys, once coached by the Man in the Hat, now are coached by the Man in the Hair. It’s what’s on top that counts.

Jimmy Johnson’s hair is as stiff and real as Tom Landry’s hat. No, he doesn’t shower with hair spray; and no, he doesn’t get kidded about his thick, perfectly parted mane, not by his best friends, anyway.

“Noooooo. Nooooo. No. No,” said Dave Wannstedt, best friend, defensive coordinator and Bears head coach.

“He’s clean and meticulous. He just tries to keep his hair combed and people get on him about it,” Wannstedt said Monday.

“I got a little touch of spray,” Johnson admitted Monday. “But just a touch.”

Johnson then went over his philosophy of life with a fine-toothed comb: “I just don’t like for my hair to hang in my eyes. It bothers me and I like to be neat. I like for things to be in order, whether it’s my home, or my sons, or my clothes, or my hair or my football team. I don’t like penalties on my football team. I don’t like foolish mistakes. I like things to be right. It just so happens that’s the way I like my hair. So I have to have a little touch of spray.

“I’m being honest with you. You want me to tell you something not true and all of a sudden sneak out a can of spray? I’m not a closet sprayer.”

If Johnson wanted to cover the hair with a hat, there are people who say the head is too big. Johnson is a driven man who describes himself as “selfish” and brags of his team as “confident.”

Knocking off the favored 49ers in San Francisco in the NFC title game was just another big win in a long line of big wins. Would the Cowboys and Johnson be in the Super Bowl if not for the bonanza Herschel Walker trade?

“Yes,” Johnson said.

To Wannstedt, Johnson is the same honest, hard-working person he has coached with almost continuously since 1977, when the two were assistants under Jackie Sherrill at Pitt.

“He probably had the most influence of any person in my life,” Wannstedt said. “There are times he’s like a brother and times he’s like afather. Most of the time, we’re just two guys working together to accomplish the same objective.

“He expects total commitment.”

Johnson said Monday he doesn’t know where his reported 162 IQ originated.

“Been a long time since I took an IQ test,” he said. “Really hasn’t been a high priority.

“What are my scholarly pursuits? I’m not into English literature. I’d say 95 percent of my time is spent in football. If that’s scholarly, then I’m pursuing something scholarly. If not, then I’m not.”

Johnson, a psychology major at Arkansas, did read a book to help his team prepare for this week.

“It’s called `Flow.’ A psychology of optimal experience,” Johnson said. “One of the groups interviewed were mountain climbers. One said his memory was only 30 seconds long and his thoughts about the future were only five minutes. If he let his mind wander, he would have trouble climbing the mountain.”

Focus is Johnson’s specialty.

“I have a very difficult time focusing in on a lot of different things,” Johnson said. “I like to kind of have blinders on and see my goal and work toward my goal and really not let anybody distract me-in fact, to the point of almost being rude to people at times. That’s how I function best in terms of attaining what I want.”

When Jerry Jones hired him from the University of Miami in 1989, Johnson informed wife Linda Kay she wouldn’t be making the trip. Wives, useful for college teas, were as superfluous as an extra punter in the pros.

Johnson explained that his mother and father would stay home in Port Arthur, Texas, this week and watch on television.

“That doesn’t take anything away from the love I have for my parents; it’s just a matter of, I have a job to do and I’m coming here to do a job and I don’t want to be distracted,” Johnson said.

Siblings weren’t encouraged to come, either. Johnson’s only guest is his girlfriend, who doesn’t live with him and often avoids him after losses.

If such single-mindedness were restricted to one week, Johnson would be better understood. But he doesn’t remember birthdays, either.

“I’m not really sure when Mother and Daddy’s birthdays are,” he told Sports Illustrated last summer.

To prepare his young players for the glare of Super Bowl week, Johnson spun a tale.

“If you have a 2-by-4 and lay it across the room, most everybody could walk across the 2-by-4 and not fall because their focus was they were going to walk that 2-by-4,” Johnson said. “But you take that same 2-by-4 and put it up 10 stories high between two buildings, then only a few of us are going to make it. We’ll be stumbling and grabbing on and going back to the start because our focus is going to be on falling. The negative thoughts will be so strong that we’ll be thinking about falling rather than thinking of what the job is at hand.

“Your focus right now for the Buffalo Bills has got to be as if we’re playing outside on the practice field this afternoon in front of nobody.”


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