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Analyzing Pitt’s Progress Under Pat Narduzzi

Analyzing Pitt’s Progress Under Pat Narduzzi

Pitt head coach Pat Narduzzi’s seat has become exceptionally warm as the Panthers have lost four straight games after starting the season a promising 3-0.

The future outlook isn’t much better for the Panthers, was they’ll face No. 1 Clemson and have three of their final four games on the road.

It’s caused many, including Pittsburgh Sports Now columnist Mike Vukovcan, to call for Narduzzi’s removal.

That’s a decision that won’t be taken lightly, and to really break down whether or not it’s a good idea, we need to really get at the core of what’s wrong with Pitt football, how it can be fixed, and how much of a role Narduzzi has played in that success or lack thereof.

~~~

Let’s start with a baseline. We all sort of remember what happened before Pat Narduzzi got to Pitt, but it’s illustrative to put it out there.

From 2011 to 2014, Pitt went 6-7 three times and 7-6 once for an overall record of 25-27. Pitt was bowl eligible in all three seasons, losing the BBVA Compass Bowl in Birmingham twice, the Armed Forces Bowl once and winning the Little Caesars Pizza Bowl.

In conference play, Pitt went 7-7 in two Big East seasons and then 7-9 in two ACC seasons. The finished fifth in the Big East twice and sixth and fourth in the ACC Coastal Division.

Pitt’s recruiting classes in that time frame checked in at No. 62, 43, 32 and 43.

Pitt’s head coaches in that era came one each from the typical pool of Power Five coach candidates. Todd Graham was a Group of Five head coach at Tulsa. Paul Chryst was the offensive coordinator at Wisconsin. Regardless of the success of the hires, those men are representative of the kinds of coaches that a program like Pitt is going to be able to get.

If Narduzzi were to be fired, the list of potential coaching candidates would be almost entirely made up of Power Five coordinators, Group of Five head coaches and Power Five retreads.

So, with representative coaches, we can build a roughly average snapshot of what a pre-Pat Narduzzi, modern-era Pitt team looked like.

The Panthers’ typical record was 6-7, with a 3-4 record in conference play. They likely made it to — and lost — a generic, early December bowl game. They were likely in fifth place in their division and had a recruiting class that was ranked around 45th.

That is what Narduzzi’s performance should be compared to.

In 5 1/2 seasons since Narduzzi has taken the wheel, they’ve won eight games three times and have a 39-33 overall record. Pitt has been bowl eligible in five of six seasons (in 2020 on a technicality so far, we’ll see if they actually play in one.) They’ve lost three of the four bowl games, falling in the Military, Pinstripe and Sun Bowls while winning the Quick Lane Bowl.

In conference play, they’ve gone 26-19, with a winning record in four of five years and one at least vaguely still on the table in 2020 at 2-3 with four to play. Pitt won the Coastal Division in 2018 and the Panthers’ average finish in the division is third place.

Under Narduzzi, Pitt’s recruiting classes have been ranked No. 46, 30, 37, 48, 55 and 45, with a projected No. 32 Class of 2021 on the way.

Narduzzi’s Panthers have an average record of 7-6, with a 5-3 record in ACC league play. On a typical season, they likely made it to and lost a late-December bowl game, were roughly third place in the ACC Coastal Division and had a recruiting class ranked around 43rd.

By nearly any objective measure, Pitt has done the same or better under Narduzzi. Pitt’s overall record has improved by roughly one win per season, the conference record has gotten significantly better and the non-conference schedule has generally been more challenging. Pitt has still not been particularly good at bowl games, but they’ve been playing in better ones, and they were able to add a divisional championship.

Likewise, recruiting has improved, though only slightly.

There’s almost no question that Narduzzi has been, while not a lot, and maybe not significantly, better than his predecessors.

Unlike his predecessors, he’s also shown a willingness to stick around. While Graham infamously jumped ship at the first opportunity to leave town and Chryst saw greener pastures at Wisconsin, Narduzzi has spurned legitimate efforts to lure him away from multiple schools, most notably Michigan State this offseason.

Narduzzi has been a little bit better than what he inherited and he wants to stay at Pitt. So what’s the problem?

We’ll get to that in part two.

Sandy Schall, Coldwell Banker
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Kevin
Kevin
29 days ago

Great article putting things in perspective. However, I do think Narduzzi is on a downward trend with his poor OC hires, and unwillingness to get in the 21st century. The more college offenses advance, the more our old school defense gets exploited. He does have a lot of good qualities, but his weaknesses are too exploited rather than hidden. Every college team has weaknesses (even Clemson), but hiding the weaknesses and focusing on our best players to create mis-matches is the key. We make very little half time adjustments, that I can see, and we rarely change up our weakly… Read more »

Joe
Joe
29 days ago

The first problem that needs fixed is adding a blocking back in the backfield. The second issue is to teach run blocking and hire someone who can teach it. Perhaps a co offensive coordinator is requited. Pickett’s stats are only that good because they can’t run. I am more interested in wins that a qb’s stats.

Eli
Eli
29 days ago

Is it possible that Chryst and Graham underachieved here, and that Narduzzi is underachieving slightly less? ‘Cause that’s kinda my gut feeling.

SantaCruzer
SantaCruzer
29 days ago

Wow. This could be the embodiment of “damned by faint praise”. I could sum up this article by simply stating that Narduzzi has been marginally better than crap. And btw, he’s had 6 years to do this unlike his predecessors. Moreover, his biggest win totals occurred in his first two years where he relied on recruits that were not his. And finally, his bowl record is terrible. “They’ve been playing in better ones (bowls)? Really? We’ve played in crap bowls for the past few years and lost most of them and barely squeaked by a MAC team last year. So,… Read more »

michael malloy
michael malloy
29 days ago

Mike had it right after the game. Fire this guy now. It’s over. If he is not being retained after the season then get on with it now and deal with what is needed now, not after the season. His dishonesty and such now show too he is all ‘sales’ and not substance… Fire Duzz Make Charlie Partidge interim head coach for season and give him a shot. Fire OC and possibly line coach. Let WR or salem get a shot and being OC rest of the year (these are positions that often groom the OC of the future). Alternative… Read more »

Section 122
Section 122
28 days ago
Reply to  michael malloy

Did I just read “Let Salem get a shot at being OC”? I wouldn’t trust Salem to take out my trash let alone be an OC.

TMG
TMG
28 days ago
Reply to  michael malloy

I would not want Whipple grooming my dog. The poor thing would develop an inferiority complex.

Let's Believe
Let's Believe
28 days ago

I think another question needs to be what is a realistic expectation for the Pitt football program? There are many coaches in this country who would be fired after multiple 8 win seasons. But those are programs who have higher and realistic expectations. I do not see how Pitt can become a 10-12 win team on average. An 8 win season with an occasional 9 win season seems to be a realistic expectation. And I really don’t want to hear Bobby’s comments on Nightly Sports Call the answer is an on campus stadium. If that was the case then why… Read more »

Let's Believe
Let's Believe
28 days ago
Reply to  Let's Believe

corrrection, why was Pitt mediocre from 1984-1999 not 1989.

Vicsbean
Vicsbean
28 days ago

All I am going to say is PITT got screwed by the ACC. All teams were to get two weeks off to recover from no spring ball and the effects of Covid. PITT is finally on a bye week. Duke had their second bye week, last week. N.C. State, Miami and Florida St are on their second bye week THIS WEEK. Take a look at the damn schedule PITTS second bye week is after their Last game. Pitt got screwed. The D lost their legs. The O line can’t block. And coach, don’t hire your friends. Now tell me, why… Read more »

Kevin
Kevin
28 days ago
Reply to  Vicsbean

That’s the least of our many problems!!!

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