Here is a slight rebuttal piece from our reader and commenter Michaelangelo Monteleone aka The Atlanta Panther.
Welcome to Pittsburgh Coach Dave Borbely. We are mildly pleased to make your acquaintance. It’s not that we don’t want you here, it’s just that we’re skeptical that you’ll be an improvement.
To wit the article that Reed posted on Monday did not exactly inspire confidence. If we remember correctly, he labeled you “Grim Reaper of Maryland QBs”. If only you coached our defensive line. In fairness you were only “Special Assistant to the Head Coach” when all those QB injuries happened in 2017. Still, your 2016 Sacks Allowed ranking of 127th is pretty bad.
Granted you had a slow-footed quarterback from Pittsburgh Central Catholic behind that offensive line of yours, (and GOD DO WE KNOW WHAT THAT’S LIKE), but still…
That being said, like any good College of Arts and Sciences graduate would do, I’m keeping an open mind. “Trust but verify” is an old Russian proverb. “Curiosity killed the cat.” said another. Three beers and the internet and we shall find the truth, so let’s try to do that now.
We will start in 2010. That’s when you signed on to coach Louisville Offensive line. It was, in many respects your best year. RB Bilal Powell (currently of the New York Football Jets) ran for 1900 yards and scored 11 touchdowns. The quarterbacks, veteran and savvy as they were, stayed upright in the pocket. They passed for 2500 yards and 22 TD’s. Of course this had to be behind an inherited O-Line, and I’m guessing most of them were upperclassmen, because your next year was atrocious.
In fairness you had a freshman quarterback (Teddy Bridgewater) behind that 2011 offensive line. It is likely that he held onto the ball too long. That would account for at least 1.5 sacks per game by our reckoning. But regardless of quarterback play, the line’s total of 3.3. sacks per game is two sacks too many in any league. And your 114th Sacks Allowed ranking was the second worst of your career. On top of that the running game was mediocre at best. Your top two running backs combined for 1600 Yds – just over 4 YPC. It was a rebuilding year in the trenches to be sure.
2012 was slightly better. A much improved Bridgewater threw for 3800 yards and 27 TD’s(!) He was undoubtedly helped by your unit’s 0.9 sack per game improvement (2.4 vs 3.3, good for 84th in the country). Sure the run-of-the-mill running backs ran for only 1500 yds, but it’s likely that nobody cared because Bridgewater was busy slinging the rock all over yard.
Now 2013, that was a season to remember. Bridgewater, by then a junior, threw for 4000+ yards that year. And the running game was clicking, with Dominique Brown and Sinorice Perry combining for nearly 1900 yards from scrimmage (at 5+ yards a pop), this team was on fire. And the O-Line. These were your guys! Handpicked by Coach Borbs! Trained in your secret stronghold on Planet Mongo. They were good for 76th in sacks allowed, and you had every right to be proud. The team finished 12-1 and dominated Miami in the Citrus Bowl.
And then Charlie Strong went to Texas…and he didn’t take you.
So you took a sabbatical up in Pueblo Colorado, enjoyed the crisp mountain air and rode some superior talent to a DII national championship. Well played coach Borbs, well-played.
A national championship at any level will do wonders to anyone’s career, and in 2015 you were picked up by Head Coach Mike London of the Virginia Cavaliers. Ahhh, Mike London. No coach in recent memory has done less with more. The Cavs finished 4-8 that year with a plethora of 4-star talent on the roster.
You sir, on the other hand, had a pretty good year. The line paved the way for 1700 rushing yards, and they protected the QB. 49th in the country in sacks allowed was nothing to sneeze at. As a side note, we played you that year. Virginia’s rushing stats were 31 carries for 131 yds (4.5 YPC). But, we sacked your quarterback 4 times, and our two-star wunderkind Mike Capara notched a safety.
And then Mike London got fired.
Fortunately for you, the University of Maryland needed a Line Coach in 2016. You had all the right credentials. You had coached an offensive line, you were unemployed, and you had a pulse. (The financial troubles of the Maryland athletic department have been well documented). And yet, as if to prove all of your doubters wrong, your linemen went out and blocked for 2600 yards. The team had two halfbacks, averaging 9.2 and 7.7 yds per carry respectively, and a line that probably loved to beat the snot out of their opponents.
But Good God man, what happened to your pass blocking? Four sacks allowed per game? 127th in the country? Yes, Perry Hills was from Central Catholic and I’m sure Tino Sunseri was his idol while growing up, but sweet Jesus Dave, if you do that here we will run out-of-town on a rail.
And so here you are. Pittsburgh. A drinking town with a football problem. Reunited with your old pal Shawn Watson.
As luck would have the situation is not unlike Louisville in 2011. Watson, has a talented young and untested young quarterback at his disposal. You have a fair-to-mediocre offensive line. It could be argued that 2018 Pitt has a more talented stable of running backs.
And 2011 was not a bad year. Seven wins in the Big East. But putting up 21 points per game again is not going to cut it in the 2018 ACC.
And so, the vast majority of us will go into this season with low expectations. We will likely be proven right.
But a select few of us (Dr. Tom … ahem) will go into the season guarding a faint flicker of optimism. Maybe Watson can dial-up that old Louisville magic one more time. Maybe Pickett is the real deal. Maybe his bones are made of rubber and even though all signs point to him being sacked at least three times per game, he will bounce up each time, stronger than before, and more ready to throw the ball. Maybe. Either way, we know you will do your best.
And we hope that Pat and Shawn can get the most out of you as a coach also. Because if you can produce results anywhere close to mediocre, you will be an upgrade and a welcome one at that.
Here is a spreadsheet of your historical work and the QBs and RBs whom you have worked with. (Note: this graphic obviously works best if you click on it to expand.)