The CEO of a business needs to make difficult decisions. Friday, Pitt head coach Pat Narduzzi did something that he probably didn’t want to do.
Narduzzi made the decision to fire his friend and someone he’s referred to as a mentor, offensive coordinator Shawn Watson.
When asked after the Sun Bowl his confidence level in Watson, Narduzzi said “high.”
Obviously, that wasn’t completely true and Friday’s news shows that Narduzzi is neither blind nor deaf. Watson has been the target of criticism since last year and the negativity reached an all-time high following another offensive disaster in El Paso on national television.
With many fans threatening on social media to not renew season tickets and likely pressure from unhappy donors, Narduzzi had no other choice but to fire Watson.
At the time of his hiring, Watson seemed like a lazy, convenient and bad hire for Narduzzi. Two years later, that’s proven to be the case.
Watson’s hire wasn’t just bad, it was a disaster.
Aside from the fact that he wasn’t an effective recruiter, Watson wasn’t particularly liked by his players and was an awful play-caller.
One of Watson’s former players said to Pittsburgh Sports Now, “it’s modern day football, all that running the ball is for the birds.”
That’s a sentiment shared by a few current players and one of the reason persistent rumors exist of unhappiness at wide receiver and of possible future transfers. Maybe the move of moving on from Watson and receivers coach Kevin Sherman will improve the mood and change some of their minds.
Even more important than that, Watson needed to go because Pitt couldn’t trust him with the future development of Kenny Pickett and Davis Beville. If neither of those two pan out, Pitt football is headed down the road of more mediocrity.
If Pickett would’ve performed and looked like the player most people, including Narduzzi, was expecting this season, there’s probably a good chance Watson is still Pitt’s offensive coordinator. However, that wasn’t the case for a large part of the year, as Pickett seemed to be robotic on the field and didn’t progress at all. In fact, a case can be made that he regressed.
Whether or not it’s fair or completely accurate, that’s on Watson. He was the quarterbacks coach and offensive coordinator, so when struggles occurred, and there were a fair share of those, the finger deservedly goes to Watson.
Watson’s system was boring to watch and couldn’t be that much fun to play in if you’re a wide receiver or tight end. As you know by now, tight end Travis Koontz didn’t commit to Pitt because he felt the tight end was essentially used as a third offensive tackle.
Recruits talk, and I’m sure that’s a sentiment that some skilled position players that are or were considering Pitt felt.
Narduzzi needs to change that with his next offensive coordinator.
Considering his philosophy on running the ball and stopping the run, there’s no doubt that Narduzzi had some sort of role in what we watched on game days and he needs to be open to change.
I’m not calling for a no-huddle system or a complete air-raid, but a deep and medium range passing game has to exist. It just has to. Enough with the bubble screens and rolling the quarterback out only to throw a five-hard out, which has to be a majority of Pickett’s completions in 2018.
I don’t have the name of a person I’d be looking at, that’s why Narduzzi makes the big bucks. All I know is that it’s 2019 not the 1980’s and Pitt needs to modernize things.
Although it was a no-brainer, I give Narduzzi credit for making the move of firing Watson. Now comes the hard move of finding an offensive mind that can take Pitt to the next level.