When Pitt head coach Pat Narduzzi introduced Mark Whipple as the Panthers’ new offensive coordinator earlier this month, he praised Whipple’s ability as a quarterback coach as one of the reasons he selected the former UMass head coach to lead Pitt’s offense.
With starting quarterback Kenny Pickett not showing the expected amount of progress from his freshman year in 2017 to his sophomore campaign in 2018, Narduzzi placed an extra amount of importance on his next offensive coordinator hire’s ability to get the most of out of his incumbent passer.
“As an old defensive coach, a linebacker coach, the thing that always impressed me was what he did to a quarterback,” Narduzzi said. “I didn’t know how. I just remember back in the days of saying, ‘That guy turns quarterbacks into gold.’ I don’t know what he does.”
Narduzzi especially remembered coaching against Whipple when he was at Brown and UMass and Narduzzi was at Rhode Island. Whipple’s offenses went 5-1 against Narduzzi’s defense.
“It’s like, ‘They’ve got a new quarterback, we’ll be able to beat them this year,’” Narduzzi recalled. “All the sudden, this guy’s throwing the ball lights out.”
Narduzzi said he felt that Whipple’s coaching style was not just one that was productive at other stops, but a good fit for Pitt.
“I think it’s his style. I’ve listened to him coach the last few weeks,” Narduzzi said. “Whenever we have opportunities the last few weeks, after recruiting weekends, talking ball, he’s a ball coach. He’s a football coach. And I think he brings a passing game that we desperately needed. I think he’ll be able to blend his run game in with our current run game — the stuff we do that we wanted to keep.”
Of course, Whipple’s resume in that regard is impressive, having worked with the likes of Ben Roethlisberger and Donovan McNabb at the NFL level.
But it’s easy (or at least easier) to coach elite talent. When taken as a whole, has Whipple really gotten above-average production out of his passers?
To find out, I took the quarterback rating of each of his primary passers from 2004 to 2018 and compared them to their league’s average.
Note: College football uses a different formula to compute passer efficiency, so the numbers of the NFL and collegiate players cannot be compared to one another. The average figure is the league average for that season. The player’s rating is then describe as a percentage of the average, so an average passer would rate at 100 percent.
There’s obviously some variance from year to year, team to team and quarterback to quarterback, but it’s pretty clear that on average, Whipple has indeed been able to get more out of his quarterbacks than most coaches.