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Opinion

Vukovcan: I Was Dead Wrong About Pat Narduzzi

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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.

Sandy Schall, Coldwell Banker
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James from Florida
James from Florida
1 month ago

Nice article Mike

kevin
kevin
1 month ago

Very well said! H2P

Chasman54
Chasman54
1 month ago

You weren’t the only person that thought exactly as you wrote especially after western Michigan disaster. Good article h2p forever

Justin Dietrich
Justin Dietrich
1 month ago

Not sure I would say I was wrong just yet. This was the best Pitt season I have been a part of and I will always thank him for that. That being said, we cannot be satisfied with 1 great season. All signs point to this being more of the “new norm,” but until it happens I will not apologize for anything I’ve said about him in the past. We wouldn’t be having this conversation if Kenny played like he had his entire career leading up to this season. Not even close. Duzz certainly deserves some credit for Kenny’s success,… Read more »

Nonya
Nonya
1 month ago

Just be happy Debby Downer we could be like Syracuse or have a fraud like Franklin (penn state fan quote) for a head coach!

Let's Believe
Let's Believe
1 month ago

Um… To the extent that when everyone was criticizing Pickett earlier in his career, Narduzzi knew enough to stay loyal to Pickett and remain confident in him.

Mark Recker
Mark Recker
1 month ago

Waiting with anticipation to see what Krackerjack Kid, TMG, Rusty Shackleford, Jessie Puggle, Katman, Terrence & the rest of your crew have to say.

Fred
Fred
1 month ago

Mike – After the WM loss, lots of people were saying the same thing. In the words of Chuck Noll: “The critics are always right. The only way you shut them up is by winning.” Well Pitt started winning and the critics will be silent for awhile.

RICH J
RICH J
1 month ago

Lets not anoint him yet, this is one season( a very good one at that) before we decide if he is worthy of the criticism or not.. Pitt scored a lot of points but gave up a lot. You will never be elite playing man defense only. He has to mix it up sometimes. Pitt plays more man than the pros with very small corners. And this new QB everyone is raving about has not thrown one pass in this offense. Pitt had a very good season no question, can they keep it up.

Let's Believe
Let's Believe
1 month ago

Nice article Mike.

Tom D
Tom D
1 month ago

Some good points here, but also there are still questions and developments I’d like to see before anointing this a total success. For one thing, he went 6-5 with the same talent the previous season. This was a great season. Wonderful season but there are 5 previous seasons of underachieving so being Mad at Narduzzi for the past several years of mediocrity isn’t a crime. Next year is the big test. For now I’m enjoying it. But lets not celebrate like we won the powerball either.

Eli
Eli
1 month ago

I for one forgive you, Mike. Hehe.

Section 122
Section 122
1 month ago

I’ll admit that I’ve been hard on Narduzzi for the annual play down to your competition game(s). Thankful it only happened once this year. What could have been in the D showed up vs. WMU and they called that safety vs. Miami. Oh well.

I will say this, and it’s going to be controversial, Pat Narduzzi is the best Head Football Coach at the Southside practice facility.

RICH J
RICH J
1 month ago
Reply to  Section 122

you are delusional.

Section 122
Section 122
1 month ago
Reply to  RICH J

Not really. Tomlin is a total moron when it comes to HC decisions. He’s an all-star at being everyone’s buddy though and he is undefeated in dropping cliches at the pressers.

Last edited 1 month ago by Adam Held
Jason
Jason
1 month ago

Well stated Mike. I agreed with your thoughts after the WMU loss and I agree with your thoughts now. I am very proud of Coach Narduzzi and our PITT football team. The culture is strong and the foundation is strong.
I am most excited about the offensive line returning. That speaks volumes! It is a great time to be a PITT fan. Looking forward to sustained success!

Let's Believe
Let's Believe
1 month ago

Back in week 3 when everyone was ready to move on from Narduzzi, I said let the season play out. Took some shi* for it, I’m just saying now look…

Paul mcgrath
Paul mcgrath
1 month ago

Nice article mike. I would like to go back 2 years. Going into the 2020 season I know myself and a lot of Pitt fans were excited about 2020. The defense had stars and nfl players everywhere, the offense looked like it was ready to take the next step. I can remember talking with all my Pitt friends about how 2020 would be pitts year. Unfortunately COVID hit the world and I believe was the reason why Pitt had such a miserable 2020. Twyman and a few others decided to not play and the program missed out on a much… Read more »

Duquesne WBB

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