Pat Narduzzi has been a lightning rod for criticism from a large part of the fan base during his time as Pitt head coach.
Some of the criticism had merit and some was typical fan comments—which can be ridiculous. It’s always easier to be the head coach from your couch in the living room than to actually be doing so in real time on the sidelines.
I’m going to be transparent and own up to what I’ve said in the past about Narduzzi because some of it wouldn’t put me in position to get a Christmas Card from him. Any time I write a commentary, it’s never personal and I’m just doing my job on giving my opinion on what I’m watching. In the case of Narduzzi, of what I’ve seen for the last six seasons.
While I’ve given him plenty of compliments, I’ve also written my fair share of tough commentaries, one of which came after Pitt’s disappointing loss to Western Michigan. I strongly criticized Narduzzi and stated that Pitt’s future under Narduzzi was hopeless, and under his leadership, wouldn’t be able to get to the next level with him as the head coach.
When you’re in my line of work, you have to realize that you’re not always going to be right and sometimes be prepared and face the music if you’re wrong.
It’s my time to do just that and throw shade at myself because my take on Pitt’s future under Narduzzi was dead wrong.
Over the last month, I’ve heard from plenty of people about that commentary, including from people within the Pitt football program. I’m OK with that. I’m big enough to admit when I have a bad take.
Under Narduzzi’s leadership this year, Pitt accomplished feats that no one thought was possible. In one calendar year, the Panthers won the ACC Football Championship, are playing in a major bowl game, produced a Heisman Trophy candidate in Kenny Pickett, had Jordan Addison win the Biletnikoff Award and could have the first quarterback selected in the 2022 NFL Draft.
The good news continued over the last 24 hours as Pitt beat out a number of major programs, including Notre Dame, to land USC transfer quarterback Kedon Slovis. This is a player that’s battled tested in Power Five football and should allow the high-powered Pitt offense to continue rolling in 2022.
Then today, four members of the starting offensive line announced that they’ve decided to return to play for Pitt in 2022. This means that the offensive will be bringing back their entire starting offensive line, their trio of running backs, Gavin Bartholomew, Addison, Jared Wayne, Jayon Barden and plenty of other young weapons at receiver. This plus the return of many starters on defense will make Pitt the unquestioned preseason favorite in the Coastal Division and possibly the entire ACC Conference.
That sure doesn’t sound like a program that’s hopeless under Narduzzi’s leadership.
The aspect of this that has gone under the radar a bit is the culture that’s been created under Narduzzi. The transfer portal has changed and, in some cases, ruined college athletics. More and more players are making the decision to transfer to a new team because of being unhappy in their current circumstances.
That is something that Pitt hasn’t had to deal with much over the last few seasons with their major players and Narduzzi and his staff need to be credited for that. Instead of jumping to a new team, the majority of Pitt players are sticking with their decision to play for Pitt.
This trend started a few years ago with Damar Hamlin, then last year, Kenny Pickett decided to return for another season, which turned out to be a million-dollar decision for him and possibly a program changing decision for Pitt. That continued today with the decision made by the offensive line.
One thing is very obvious, while people can have certain issues with Narduzzi and his style, that feeling isn’t shared by a great majority of his players. The fact is that Pat Narduzzi is a coach that players love to play for, and most will take the opportunity of sticking around and be a part of the program if given the opportunity.
Pitt football is in a really good place right now and could be reaching heights that the program hasn’t seen since the early 80’s.
This is all happening because of head coach Pat Narduzzi and his plan of how to rebuild the football program.
Sometimes you’re glad to be wrong, which is exactly the way I feel right now about the future of Pitt under Narduzzi.