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Analyzing Pitt’s Progress Under Pat Narduzzi Pt. 2: A Downward Trend

Analyzing Pitt’s Progress Under Pat Narduzzi Pt. 2: A Downward Trend

In part one of this article, we broke the data down and discovered Pitt has been — at least slightly — better off under Par Narduzzi than each of his predecessors.

So why are a lot of people ready to give up on Pitt’s sixth-year head coach? It’s not that there hasn’t been progress. Even the most pessimistic Pitt fan can probably admit to that.

The problem is that the progress made still leaves Pitt well short of its own expectations. Nobody is happy with a little bit better. Pitt fans aren’t happy. The players aren’t happy. Narduzzi isn’t happy. One can surmise that athletics director Heather Lyke isn’t happy, though since she has not granted any of Pittsburgh Sports Now’s half-dozen interview requests since the start of football season, that’s all we can do.

The goals of the Pitt football program are not clearly defined. Nobody expects Pitt to compete with Clemson at the top of the ACC. I think most realistic fans would even admit that being ranked on par with a team like Penn State down the road is probably out of Pitt’s reach at the moment.

But there has to be away to improve Pitt’s fortunes faster than improving by one win and losing in slightly less mediocre bowl games over the span of six years, right? One would hope.

How, then?

First, let me get technical for a bit. I’m assuming most within the college football sphere have heard of Sagarin ratings. They were designed by statistician Jeff Sagarin and have been run by the USA Today for 35 years. They use records, margin of victory, strength of schedule and home and road records to produce a mathematical ranking of college football teams. They used to be a foundational part of the BCS computer formula.

Sagarin’s scheme isn’t perfect, and there are things that can be debated about the methodology, but for our purposes, it’s a fine proxy for identifying the great, good, average and poor college football teams.

During our four-year period from 2011-14, Pitt had an average end-of-year Sagarin rating of 61, just barely hanging on to a spot in the Power Five. As we saw in the 2013 conference re-alignment, which narrowly saw Pitt get an ACC spot ahead of schools like Cincinnati and UConn, that seems about right.

Here are the top 70 schools in average end-of-year Sagarin rating from 2011-14, with Pitt coming in at No. 54.

And here’s the list for 2015-20, using the current rankings as a proxy for 2020’s year-end results. Pitt has moved up to No. 43.

Of course, that’s just a different way to say what I said in part one of this series, that Pitt has shown definite but modest improvement during Narduzzi’s tenure.

But if we look at the line across Narduzzi’s time at Pitt, we’ll come to the first reason there’s friction when it comes to his continued status as the Panthers’ head coach: progress has stopped.

Pitt finished No. 40, 39 and 46 in the Sagarin rankings in Narduzzi’s first three years at Pitt, which represented a significant increase from the four years previous. Since then, things have stagnated at No. 50, 62 and currently 48.

It’s not necessarily that things have gone badly for Narduzzi at Pitt on the whole, it’s that things are going in the wrong direction midway through his sixth season.

If you re-arranged Narduzzi’s seasons and put the 2018, 2019 and 2020 seasons at the beginning of his tenure instead of the end, it’s likely that no one would bat an eyelash at his continued tenure here.

The combination of Pitt still not being where its fanbase would like to be overall, and seemingly getting farther from reaching that goal instead of closer to attaining it, is what has the temperature on Narduzzi’s seat turned up to 11.

But that’s not all we can learn here.

Pitt’s average increase of 13.5 standings points from the pre-Narduzzi era to the Narduzzi era is the 36th-biggest increase overall and the 20th-largest increase amongst Power Five schools. That’s in the top third and actually pretty good.

But what about those other schools that have seen bigger increases than Pitt has in the same time frame? What are they doing that Pitt hasn’t been doing?

Schools like Wake Forest, Colorado, Purdue and Indiana are up there with bigger increases than Pitt, but they had a lot farther to go, with initial ranks in the 90’s and lower.

Clemson and Ohio State went from very good to elite, which doesn’t seem like a particularly apt comparison.

In fact, there are truly very few schools that started about where Pitt started that have done significantly better than the Panthers have.

Minnesota went from 63 to 43, a plus-20 margin. Iowa State went from 69 to to 41, a plus-28 margin. Washington State went from 77 to 40, a plus-37 margin.

We’ll look at what the Gophers, Cyclones and Cougars did over the last six years that Pitt didn’t do and see if those lessons are applicable to Pitt, in part three of this story.

Sandy Schall, Coldwell Banker
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Frank James
Frank James
27 days ago

If the administration is ok with mediocrity then keep Duzz.

Section 122
Section 122
27 days ago
Reply to  Frank James

Hold on Frank, you can’t have opinion here unless you think Narduzzi is the next Nick Saban. Everything has to be positive.

Clark Martineau
Clark Martineau
27 days ago

We are two points away from being five and two on the season. During Narduzzi’s tenure we have had four big upset wins against; Penn State, Clemson, Miami and UCF. I won’t accept that Pat Narduzzi can’t get his team ready for games or motivate players. If you kick him out, he’ll go somewhere else and have some ten wins seasons like Paul Chryst has had at Wisconsin. And Narduzzi is way above Chryst in football acumen.
If there is a signature characteristic of losers it is, to give up on things, people, plans too soon.

Let's Believe
Let's Believe
27 days ago

Most penalized team in the ACC. He gets a pass for that too right? Lol. Being able to motivate his players is an expectation not something to gloat about. When I go into my annual salary review, if I over promised and under delivered then told my boss “but I’m motivated” I would be on a probationary period. If my job paid me 3-4 million to be average and inconsistent and the worst case scenario is I’d get bought out for millions, that sure would be a win win contract.

Clark Martineau
Clark Martineau
27 days ago
Reply to  Let's Believe

Beating highly rated teams does give him a pass. It shows he’s got some smarts and makes the best use of the team’s players. Sometimes those players aren’t available due to injury -Pickett.
Read the last sentence of my comment again,

Last edited 27 days ago by Clark Martineau
Let's Believe
Let's Believe
27 days ago

For every occasional upset there’s 2-3 games they lost they had no business losing. I understand your perspective but that just doesn’t add up for me.

Pitt Fan in White Oak
Pitt Fan in White Oak
27 days ago

Clark, I agree with most of what you said, except where Narduzzi is way above Chryst in terms of football acumen. If Chryst would’ve had a legit Power 5 defensive coordinator in 2014 (there wasn’t money available for him to hire one), that’s likely a 9 or 10 win Pitt team. Chad Voytik, who transferred from Pitt and couldn’t win the QB job at Arkansas State., was a productive player in Chryst’s offense. That’s coaching. On the other hand, Narduzzi is supposedly a defensive guru with nearly 3 decades of coaching experience , yet had to be convinced by Coach… Read more »

Clark Martineau
Clark Martineau
27 days ago

Voytik was a gamer. As for Chrsyt, never saw any coaching on the sideline. Extreme stoicism. I like a coach to show some emotion

TMG
TMG
26 days ago

And Win

Pitt Fan in White Oak
Pitt Fan in White Oak
26 days ago

Fair enough on the point that Chryst’s stoicism leads you to believe how much coaching he’s doing on the sideline.

However, that same stoicism most likely would’ve led to Chryst going for it on 4th-and-goal on the 1 with 5 minutes remaining, especially considering that Pitt was on the road against a team where points had been hard to come by the past 12+ quarters and at the foreseeable end of a long rivalry.

Frank James
Frank James
27 days ago

Ok, by that logic you can also say they were a wide open drop by a PSU receiver to lose that game. Do you want to now list all the games they were favored and choked? When would you give up on Duzz? How many more years do you want to watch an undisciplined, zero offense team. Why don’t you watch Rutgers this weekend….laughingstock a year ago, clean house and bring in an OC that knows modern offense. They look completely different.
Should call Josh Gattis tomorrow and try to lock him up, for offense and recruiting.

Clark Martineau
Clark Martineau
27 days ago
Reply to  Frank James

Go back to Nittany Mountain!

Frank James
Frank James
26 days ago

That’s your answer? Don’t deflect.

Clark Martineau
Clark Martineau
27 days ago
Reply to  Frank James

An interception by Ryan Lewis to win that game.

Joseph Steigerwald
Admin
27 days ago

That chart really shows how impressively mediocre Pitt has been. Question is, would you rather be a UCF/Cincinnati, clearly on the upswing, even though their average rating is lower or a Pitt/Texas Tech which seems to be stuck in the 40s for life.

TMG
TMG
27 days ago

If we end up mediocre oh well,,, shit happens. What really GRINDS MY GEARS is working towards it and with it!!! We’re supposed to be striving for EXCELLENCE. And if it is the schools desire to be MEDIOCRE? Then they are as pathetic as the last two OC’s we’ve had. And do not deserve our support. I hope that not it! One way to show it….. Whipple and Borbely should have been fired last Sunday. Still there?! Do it and place Partridge and Beatty as Co OC’s work together and get thru the season. Coach has hired two absolutely pathetic… Read more »

Curtis Colbert
Curtis Colbert
27 days ago

From my observations about Narduzzi’s ability as a head coach is two fold. Number one is his apparent lack of coaching ability on game day after the kickoff. Number two is his seemingly lack of offensive where with all over all, that really exposes a weakness in his offensive co-ordinator hires since he arrived. The one time he made the correct call was with Canada and he screwed that up.

TMG
TMG
26 days ago
Reply to  Curtis Colbert

I believe he has a sincere disdain for OC’s taking the spotlight away from, Him.

The AD needs to get control of him or get a HC w/o a complex problem.

Is he still carrying that BS fued from Mich St.? I think he is.
He needs to let that shit go! Hire a OC that puts points up.
Or Fire his ass!

Craig
Craig
27 days ago

A school like pitt isnt going to do much better than Narduzzi. Firinghim after this seaso is a big risk. What if the next coach is a train wreck

Let's Believe
Let's Believe
27 days ago
Reply to  Craig

I’d rather take my chances on Heather Lyke coming up with a slam dunk hire.

TMG
TMG
26 days ago

There was a moment during the ND game when I saw Duzz walk about 8 yds onto the field and stare down the sideline at whipple while Yellen was doing his 25 yd sprint to get the super secret signal and you could see the disdain all over his face. It was like (What in the hell is your Problem?!)

“YOU HIRED HIM” And You’re getting what you paid for.

Frank James
Frank James
26 days ago
Reply to  TMG

It really is laughable that a major college football team that runs two plays (handoff for no gain and a 3 yard out) needs to whisper signals. Whipple is a dinosaur that needs to go.

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