Phil Jurkovec was born and raised in Western Pennsylvania and is well aware of how passionate the fan base is.
That’s certainly the case when it comes to how football fans feel about the quarterback position.
Whether it’s for the Pittsburgh Steelers or the Pitt Panthers, when the starting quarterback is playing well, no one is more popular and well-received in town.
After starting out slow his first couple of seasons and having people calling for him to be benched, very few athletes are more popular in Pittsburgh right now than former Pitt and current Steelers starting quarterback Kenny Pickett.
This is nothing new and goes back to Terry Bradshaw, Mark Malone, Cliff Stoudt, Kordell Stewart, Rod Rutherford, Tyler Palko, Tino Sunseri, etc. When you’re playing well, they love you, when you’re not, they want the backup quarterback to replace you.
Everyone in Pittsburgh knows this and that’s what makes Jurkovec’s postgame comments all the more puzzling.
The only thing worse than the performance of the Pitt offense and the offensive game plan was Jurkovec deciding to take on and criticize the Pitt fan base.
Really, really, really dumb move.
If Jurkovec was a freshman or sophomore making his first start, I could somewhat understand it but that’s certainly not the case. Phil is a sixth-year senior who’s started many games at Notre Dame and Boston College. Whether it’s true or not, there’s no way that those comments can come out of his mouth.
The reality is that he’s made things much more difficult on himself, probably impossible, and to be honest, I don’t think he’ll ever recover or get a break from the fan base. Calling out a fanbase, especially in Pittsburgh, isn’t a smart move. From here on out, with every interception, every average to below average game, the Pitt fans are likely to let him know about it. That’s unfortunate but probably reality.
Instead of saying, “If you’re a grown-ass man booing … I think that’s pathetic,” here’s what Jurkovec’s postgame answer should have been — “Hey, they paid good money for a ticket and certainly can voice their displeasure if they want. If I would’ve played better, which I’m certainly capable of, they wouldn’t have booed. I can’t be worried about that; I need to find a way to play better and make this offense more productive so that they won’t want to boo. I’m a Pittsburgh kid, I know the expectations that football fans have, especially for their quarterbacks. My performance will improve.”
The good thing is that Pitt will be on the road next weekend instead of back at Acrisure Stadium, so the entire unit will have a chance to get back on track.
However, if things don’t go well in Morgantown, W.Va., the next home game against North Carolina could get very interesting.
Jurkovec made the decision to transfer back home to play his last season for his hometown team with high expectations. There’s still plenty of time to get things together, but the clock is ticking. Unless the entire offensive unit gets better, and trust me they were all awful last night, it could be a real long season and a nightmare one for Jurkovec.