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Opinion

Vukovcan: Pitt’s Offensive Struggles Fall on the Shoulders of a Struggling Quarterback

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Pitt football's Kedon Slovis Frank Cignetti Jr Pat Narduzzi

For their sake and sanity, hopefully, Kedon Slovis, Pat Narduzzi and Frank Cignetti Jr. don’t spend a lot of time on social media because it’s been a rough last two days following Saturday night’s game in Louisville.

I’m sure they understand what comes with being in the position they’re in, along with having a fan base that had high expectations for this season. Sometimes expectations are too high and not realistic, but that’s not the case with this year’s Pitt team.

With the talent on this roster and the schedule that they’ve played, there’s no reason whatsoever for their 4-3 record. None.

Winning, especially in football, takes a team effort and when you lose, although the quarterback and head coach get blamed the most, the majority of times it’s because of a number of factors — not just two people.

However, when you examine the reason for Pitt’s current record, although it seems unfair, the three losses are a by-product of one thing: below-average play from the quarterback position. The scary thing is that Pitt is a lucky drop in the West Virginia game and a 300-yard rushing performance from Israel Abanikanda away from entering today with a 2-5 record.

The bottom line is that Slovis has underperformed and hasn’t played even close to the lofty expectations that were put upon him.

Aside from things that happened in the game, I want to address something that’s been a point of contention and that’s the hiring of Cignetti.

Narduzzi is getting ripped for making another bad offensive coordinator hire and Cignetti is hearing it for all the ills of his offense.

While I’ve questioned some things that he’s done this season, I don’t have a problem with Cignetti as offensive coordinator, and I didn’t have one at the time of the hiring.

While fans are making the comparison to Cignetti being a Shawn Watson hire for Narduzzi, I think that’s way off base. Watson was the worst hire Narduzzi’s ever made, and it’s unfair to lump Cignetti in with him.

The only reason that Cignetti hasn’t succeeded is really simple — Slovis hasn’t been good enough.

Narduzzi hired Cignetti with the sole purpose of bringing a much-needed balance to the offense. A running game was needed and that’s worked with Abanikanda developing into one of the best backs in college football.

Cignetti’s system has showcased Izzy and turned him into a legit NFL Draft prospect. I’m confident in saying this wouldn’t have happened under Mark Whipple.

While that’s worked to plan, the passing game hasn’t, which is why Pitt’s season has unfolded like this.

Narduzzi and many other programs around the country that were trying to land him, looked at Slovis as a can’t-miss transfer addition. Pitt was expecting him to step right in for Pickett and bring stability and a high level of play that would complement the running game.

Considering his background and the tape that he’s already produced at a Power Five program, that didn’t seem like a crazy expectation and actually made a ton of sense.

Unfortunately for all sides, this hasn’t come close to happening, thus the criticism of Slovis and the second-guessing of Narduzzi’s choice for offensive coordinator.

Cignetti is a good football coach and a good offensive mind, but he and everyone on offense are handicapped right now because of the most important position on the field.

Slovis is a player right now without any confidence in himself. He doesn’t trust himself to make reads or the proper throws and because of that, it’s grown to include the play-calling and likely his teammates on offense.

I don’t care who the offensive coordinator is or what type of system he has, if you don’t have a quarterback, you’re going to have a hard team winning and will be receiving the criticism that Cignetti is taking right now.

I’m not going to predict what’s going to happen the rest of the season with Slovis because things could always turn around. However, if it doesn’t and Narduzzi continues to ride it out with him, the harsh opinions on the trio of Slovis, Narduzzi and Cignetti will only continue and get worse, which will make for a really long but interesting off-season.

Sandy Schall, Coldwell Banker
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TJ
TJ
1 month ago

I will be the minority here but, all of these guys (especially Narduzzi and Cignetti) have been around a few blocks. If anyone can figure it out, I think they will. Not sure what Kedon is going through but it’s got to be mentally tough for him. Armchair QBs piling on doesn’t help. At a minimum, if Kedon can’t pull through and get better on his progressions and downfield throws, Cig will change the gameplan to fit whatever it is that Kedon can do. What perhaps is more surprising is that they haven’t gone to Patti. What is that telling… Read more »

Cignetti & Friends
Cignetti & Friends
1 month ago
Reply to  TJ

Patti was the qb in the 2nd half of the Tenn game. Pitt had a ton of scoring opportunities….most of which were squandered. Good kid, throws the ball sidearm.
If they thought he was the real deal….they wouldn’t have gone Transfer Portal.

Robert E Landel
Robert E Landel
1 month ago

Cignetti and Friends, What are you saying referring to Patti? “throws the ball sidearm”. SO WHAT! Patti also throws the ball accurately and sees and leads his receivers. Patti is fast and moves in the pocket. I can’t understand after praising Patti in the Spring, claiming how lucky we are to have a backup of his ability, not playing him.

Robert E Landel
Robert E Landel
1 month ago
Reply to  TJ

TJ, I’m beginning to think everyone around is nuts. It is now obvious from the beginning, Narduzzi should have used a two QB system. From Spring ball Slovis showed nothing. Patti should have gotten equal reps with the starters and inserted after one of Slovis’s many screw ups. It was insanity to have him as the sole QB through 7 games. The coaches now realize he is done or they wouldn’t have used the wildcat so much against against Louisville. Cignetti is fine but it may be too late to adjust the offense to a more mobile QB. Plus, except… Read more »

Phillip
Phillip
1 month ago
Reply to  TJ

Cignetti has been around a while. He has failed at developing a passing game at every OC job he has had. He keeps getting hired, he keeps failing.

Pittband
Pittband
1 month ago
Reply to  Phillip

Sorry that one doesn’t pass the smell test. The Pine Richland kid at BC is the shinning example. If he doesn’t go down in the first game last year, people would have talking 1st round draft choice. Narduzzi is a Big 10 guy. November always comes after October and with it the cold and wind. That’s why he brought in Cignetti. If Slovis thought he had problems wait til he gets a swirling wind at Heinz.

Phillip
Phillip
1 month ago
Reply to  Pittband

Pittband,
I am an ACC fan and live in MA. I have seen plenty of BC games. Phil Jurkovek is a good quarterback who struggled under Cignetti. He threw for 900 yards in 2021. Already had 1600 in 2022, playing on a bad team. He is darn lucky to have a new QB coach.

Cignetti & Friends
Cignetti & Friends
1 month ago

I disagree with the article. The OC is putting Slovis in terrible down & distance obvious pass plays. And with an O-Line that hasn’t been intact fully since Game 1, these opponents just pin their ears back and go full tilt after Slovis. Who has been pummeled so many times, I lost count.

Robert E Landel
Robert E Landel
1 month ago

Cignetti and Friends, I thought you were a friend of Cignetti? The Problem is, plain and simple, Slovis is not good. Cignetti is a good enough OC and knows how to use the talent available. Slovis, the QB, is suppose to react quickly and complete third and 6-8 yards passes. He is should be able to move in the pocket. From the beginning he hasn’t be able to anything well.

Don Oakman
Don Oakman
1 month ago

I Agree plenty of blame to go around..the offensive line
Has not pass blocked well at times..slovis has not played well..the play play calls have been inconsistent. Also the receivers have not been able to get downfield..making the offense easier to defend. The defense doesn’t have to.
Defense the entire field.

Dixon
Dixon
1 month ago

Can we at least blame Cignetti for the ridiculously conservative game plan against Rhode Island. With Slovis returning from injury, this was the perfect time to work on his passing game.

Pittband
Pittband
1 month ago
Reply to  Dixon

Expect Narduzzi wanted to work on the running attack v his Alma mater.

Dixon
Dixon
1 month ago
Reply to  Pittband

Except that Slovis had only played six quarters of football at that point. He could have been getting work in with his receivers and maybe gain some confidence against a cupcake opponent.
Hell, the running game already got a workout the week before. Remember, twelve total passes against W Mich. I don’t care if it was Yarnell’s first game…that was absurd.

SRS
SRS
1 month ago

Well if Narduzzi ends up canning Cignetti there are some Coaches out there doing some fine things at North Texas, Georgia Southern, JMU, and WKU for the now pass happy armchair coordinators. … BTW, our RB is top5 in the nation and set a school record for single game rushing and scored rushing TDs. Michigan State who played in the Peach Bowl has lost more than it has won this season. Blue bloods: Miami, Oklahoma, Texas, and Texas A&M have not won as much as expected pre-season. And here I thought ‘Fickle’ was a HC at Cincinnati, apparently it is… Read more »

SRS
SRS
1 month ago

The Cignetti screen calls were good at Lousville and well set-up, Slovis Passes on a few of them were off like they were in other screen plays such as GaTech. Work on that and ADD in a 12 package ‘eye candy’ motion and then a counter TE interior shovel pass. The Steelers ran it last night and reminded me of Scott Orndoff’s play at Clemson in 2016.

Phillip
Phillip
1 month ago
Reply to  SRS

Tom Brady would fail in Cignetti’s offense.

SRS
SRS
1 month ago
Reply to  Phillip

Then let him sit in the box upstairs on Mute and let Tim Salem run Whipple’s Peach Bowl offense with Patti.

Phillip
Phillip
1 month ago

Mike,
It is unfair to put this on the players. Do not buy into Cignetti’s normal blaming of players for his failures. I am not a Pitt fan. I have somewhat followed Cignetti’s career. He is a bad OC, in fact he is a bad QB coach. It is typical Frank Cignetti style to blame players, injuries and other coaches when things go bad. Players typically eventually learn to dislike playing for him. He is a fraud.

Phillip
Phillip
1 month ago

Mike,
It is unfair to put this on the players. Do not buy into Cignetti’s normal blaming of players for his failures. I am not a Pitt fan. I have somewhat followed Cignetti’s career. He is a bad OC, in fact he is a bad QB coach. It is typical Frank Cignetti style to blame players, injuries and other coaches when things go bad. Players typically eventually learn to dislike playing for him. He is a fraud.

Dukes

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