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.