To borrow a phrase from Chuck Noll the late great head coach of the Pittsburgh Steelers, “Their problems are many and they are great.”
This of course would be referring to the current state of the 2017 Pitt football team.
Trying to pinpoint just one problem for this team is impossible and actually unfair. The saying goes, “you win as a team and you lose as a team” and that definitely applies to this situation.
Aside from maybe punter Ryan Winslow, you’d be kidding yourself if you try and point out anything positive either offensively, defensively or coaching.
They’ve all been well below the line and is the reason this team is now 1-3 following their 35-17 loss today at Georgia Tech.
Let’s start with coaching because it’s fair to say that the honeymoon period for Pat Narduzzi is officially over. I believe his handling of the quarterback situation has been poor, his choice for offensive coordinator is looking suspect and to this point, the development of his much talked about young talent hasn’t happened.
He came to Pitt with the reputation as one of the top defensive minds in the country but once again his defense gives up 30+ points and it’s fair to start asking if his defensive scheme will ever work here or in the ACC conference. We’re going on year three and even the most die-hard Pitt fan would have a hard time naming something positive that’s happened defensively since he took over. His philosophy of getting pressure on the quarterback from his defensive lineman and leaving his defensive backs to cover receivers one-on-one has failed. Period.
The argument against that is that a large portion of his players on defense are young and inexperienced which is true but Pitt isn’t the only team in the country trying to play young players. If they’re as talented as most recruiting services report than sooner or later we should start seeing some progress and to this point we’ve seen very little of that.
I’m not going to single out and name specific players because they’re college kids and that’s not fair to them. However, quite a few of these players came to Pitt with big credentials and aside from Rashad Weaver, no one is stepping up or standing out.
Is that coaching and lack of development or is it a flawed defensive scheme? Knowing Pat Narduzzi, he won’t even consider changing or adjusting anything he’s doing defensively. He believes if it worked at Michigan State it should and will work here.
The jury is out on that.
We’re only four games into the season but it’s not too early to start wondering about the hiring of Shawn Watson as offensive coordinator. To this point, the Pitt offense has been a huge disappointment.
Who would have guessed that the Panthers wouldn’t score more than 21 points in regulation in any of the first four games? Considering the state of the defense, if that’s all you’re going to get offensively it’s nearly impossible to win.
Max Browne has been a target of Pitt fans but in my opinion, Watson’s offensive game plan has been flawed from the start. It took about one series to see that Browne and Nate Peterman are two completely different quarterbacks yet Watson is trying to run the same exact system. Part of good coaching is adjusting to your talent and Watson has done a poor job of doing that.
Through four games, we’ve seen a steady diet of jet sweeps, wide receiver screens, roll out to the right and throwing short passes to the right hash. Everything is within 5-10 yards of the line of scrimmage which makes things pretty congested and pretty easy to defend.
This offense has been BORING.
Where is AJ Davis, Chris Clark, Aaron Mathews or Ruben Flowers? How many passes over 20+ yards have we seen? Nothing vertical in this passing game.
Coming into the season, everyone knew that opposing defenses had an entire offseason to find a way to take away Quadree Henderson and the jet sweep which worked so effectively in 2016. It was up to Watson to find a way to get Henderson, who is the Panthers most dynamic player, the ball in a different way. That hasn’t happened at all and that’s on Watson.
The only defense I’ll give Watson is that he’s trying to call plays with an offensive line that has been below average and that’s being kind. I realize that they graduated Adam Bisnowaty and Dorian Johnson but the performance should be better than what we’ve seen to this point.
Taking all of this into consideration, before the game I thought and still do that it would be a mistake to bench Browne. If it was so obvious that the quarterback was the only reason for the problems on offense, then fine, bench the quarterback. That hasn’t been the case with Pitt.
Narduzzi has to have some questions about the play-calling, has to see that his offensive line play has been poor, his top receiver from last year has been invisible and no other wide outs have really stepped up. Bottom line, the problems on offense go well beyond Max Browne and a head coach should realize that.
To me it was a panic move to change quarterbacks and I think it was a mistake. What’s he going to do next week vs. Rice, bench DiNucci after a game?
The great head coaches in sports are ones that are able to handle adversity and tough times and keep their team together and playing hard while trying to fix the problems.
For the first time since becoming a head coach, Narduzzi is faced with some real adversity. Let’s see how he handles it.