Pitt head coach Pat Narduzzi introduced new offense coordinator Shawn Watson to the Pittsburgh media in a conference call Friday morning.
It’s the third time in as many seasons that Narduzzi has hired a new man to lead his offense and Narduzzi said that he interviewed multiple coaches on the way to hiring Watson in an interesting process.
Narduzzi and Watson sat down and spoke during the American Football Coaches Association convention in Nashville early in January. After that, Watson came to Pittsburgh, where he met with Narduzzi again and also the other eight assistant coaches — all of which have been at Pitt since Narduzzi started — and even the team’s quarterbacks. Those meetings took place after Max Browne and Kenny Pickett arrived on campus, so there were a lot of voices to be heard when Narduzzi asked whether or not Watson was the right guy for Pitt, and according to Narduzzi, there was only one response.
“Our entire staff was involved in hiring Shawn Watson,” Narduzzi said. “This wasn’t my call, it was our call and I think that’s the type of team we have at Pitt. … When all things came, it was unanimous that Shawn was our guy.” Narduzzi felt that by opening up the entire program to Watson, there would be an honest level of expectations from both sides. Assistant coaches and players working under him would no what to expect and Watson would have a better idea of what he was getting into at Pitt.
“[Watson] got a chance to sit down the entire offensive staff and the defensive staff,” Narduzzi said. “He met with Dave Andrews the strength coach, our recruiting staff and our operations staff. It was a very complex interview.”
With complexity, of course, takes time, and Pitt was the last Power Five team in the nation to fill an offensive coordinator vacancy this offseason. But Narduzzi felt it was more important to get the hire right than get it done quickly.
“It’s been a month since we’ve had an offensive coordinator, but I’m very methodical about what I’m doing and how I’m doing things,” Narduzzi said. “I could have rushed in and hired a guy immediately, but I don’t think that’s a good thing for the entire process or our football team.”
The other thing that made it easier for Narduzzi to take his time with the hire was that his quarterbacks remained committed despite the departure of Canada and both enrolled before the hire was made. Some of the credit for that should go to tight ends coach Tim Salem, who worked diligently to land Browne and keep Pickett in the latter days of 2016.
“We have a head coach, a program, a city and a university, so they were looking at a lot of factors at Pitt more than just one guy,” Salem said Wednesday.
So with the decision to reunited Narduzzi and Watson made, they can now hit the ground running on re-constructing an offense that was one of the tops in the ACC a season ago. It’s a challenge Watson is looking forward to and it’s one of the reasons he was keen to get back to an offensive coordinator position.
Watson was the quarterbacks coach at Indiana in 2016 and had that job as well as assistant head coach responsibilities at Texas for two seasons before, but his passion is as a play caller, and that’s the biggest reason he jumped at the chance to come to Pitt.
“I’ve always wanted to lead,” Watson said. “It more than the team, it’s more than the game plan, it’s more than calling plays. It’s about the entire process of developing the players and the offense. That’s what I’m looking forward to. I don’t like sitting on my hands. I like being out in front. That’s what I’m looking forward to.”
Watson also praised Narduzzi for allowing his previous offensive coordinators — Canada and Jim Chaney, who Watson is also a friend of — the freedom to be creative offensively.
“I’m a football junkie. One of the teams I had already started looking at was Pitt,” Watson said. “I think it makes it really attractive because Pat and I have shared a lot of football over the years and I know that he wants an offense that scores and that’s explosive. He’s really been instrumental in Jim’s success and Matt’s success. … With how Matt developed that offense, you don’t make that kind of departure or spin it in that direction without the support of head man. It’s really attractive.”
As far as philosophy goes, Watson said his offenses are quarterback-oriented with a strong base in running the ball. It doesn’t sound as if it’s going to be a drastic departure from what Panthers fans are used to seeing.
“I think what [Canada] was doing was very unique. I expect to keep some of those elements in the offense,” he said. “I think all the pieces are there. … I’m excited to get started.”
As per Pitt’s policy, terms of Watson’s contract were not announced. … Watson will also coach the quarterbacks at Pitt, as the past offensive coordinators have done under Narduzzi. … Narduzzi said that if the NCAA allows him to hire a 10th assistant this offseason due to a proposed rule change, it will probably be on the defensive side of the ball. They currently have five offensive coaches and four defensive coaches.