There may not be a more unpopular figure to general Buffalo-area sports fans, let alone die-hard fans of the area's professional football team, than Buffalo Bills defensive coordinator Dave Wannstedt. Promoted to that post following the 2011 season and blessed with more individual talent at his disposal than any Bills coordinator has had in recent memory, Wannstedt's Bills defense is currently ranked No. 31 in the NFL, including dead last against the run.
Jason Cole, a reporter who covered the Miami Dolphins in the early 2000s when Wannstedt was their head coach (and who is now a national reporter for Yahoo! Sports), spoke with WGR 550's The Howard Simon Show on Monday and touched on the topic of Wannstedt. His opinion of Wannstedt is, to put it very lightly, less than inspiring.
"Dave is probably one of the worst coaches I have ever seen who rose to that level," Cole told Simon. He'd later continue, "Dave has no ability to inspire people to play harder. I think he's a very unimaginative guy."
Wannstedt, who also was a head coach for the Chicago Bears in addition to Miami, is most famous in NFL circles for being the Dallas Cowboys' defensive coordinator on two Super Bowl teams in the early 1990s. (Bills fans will remember those Cowboys teams well.) Cole believes that his success in Dallas had more to do with Johnson and the way the two coaches worked together.
"He was a great foil in Dallas for Jimmy Johnson," Cole opined. "Jimmy would come in and play the bad cop role, and then Dave would come in and be the nice guy, and say 'oh guys, we'll get it together, don't worry. Jimmy's just going nuts, don't worry about him.'"
Cole also spoke briefly of the 2002 season in Miami, when the Dolphins - blessed with the NFL's leading rusher (Ricky Williams) and the No. 1 overall defense in the league - blew a division lead to miss the playoffs. After Week 15 that year, the Dolphins were 9-5, a game ahead of the New England Patriots and two ahead of the New York Jets. Miami lost to a 6-10 Minnesota team in Week 16, then dropped an overtime decision to New England in Week 17, allowing the Jets - who won their last two games convincingly - to sneak into the playoffs.
Wannstedt - who would coach parts of two more seasons in Miami - lost the team from that point forward, as Cole explained with the following story (taken verbatim from the WGR 550 interview):
"He stands up in front of the team in a pre-season, and he has a basket - like a trash basket - and then he's got four things. He's got a Bible, a family picture, a football and a brick, and he shows how if you keep everything in order, and keep your priorities right, the picture, the football and the Bible will all fit quite nicely in the basket. But if you add the brick - which he called 'distraction' - it won't fit.
"The only problem was that as he did it, he took everything out of the basket, and then he tried to put it back in. This was the football, the Bible and the picture - he tried to put them all back in, but he couldn't remember the way that they went back in. So he was fumbling around, and then the basket fell over in the middle of all of this. It began just sort of a comedy session.
"When he put the basket back in the locker room later in the week, the players were so frustrated with him that they took the stuff and threw it in the trash can."
Cole - who, along with the rest of us, has been highly unimpressed with the play of Buffalo's defense - seems to imply that the bulk of the blame for those shortcomings falls on Wannstedt's shoulders.
"Dave is not a leader of men," Cole concluded. "He and Norv Turner have made more money off of their association with Jimmy Johnson than any two human beings ever have deserved to."
Kudos to reader 'LetsGoBflo' for pointing this out to the community via FanShot.