Let’s have a conversation about change. First off this has to be framed in the hypothetical because we fans really have no idea how the rest of this season will play out and in this debate we’ll take any financial considerations out of the conversation. But in light of what we saw happen over the first two weeks of play let’s assume (again for debate’s sake only) that we’ll have another .500 season or worse. OK? That’s not saying it will happen but if it does…
I keep reading Pitt fans saying ‘we can’t, shouldn’t, won’t’ fire Pat Narduzzi because then “We’ll have to start all over again!!” whatever that means. But a head coaching change is not a bad thing and that it actually ‘sets back‘ the football program has been proven to be a Pitt fan urban myth. Let’s explore that.
Take a look back at Pitt’s football history in the modern ages… let’s take from Majors II in 1993 until now. That is a full quarter century, 25 years, of modern Pitt football history encompassing six head coaches’ first two years at the helm after the change.
Here is the season info for the head coaches and what they accomplished in their first two years…and what the season record was year before by the outgoing HC:
Red is worse, Black is same and Green is better.
Here you can see that there isn’t a big drop off between the outgoing and incoming coaches. The bottom line with Pitt football is that it is neither really great (10 win by Wannstedt max over this chart) nor really low (five wins by Narduzzi). In other words we have started over six times without any major negative impacts to the program.
But here is what you have to ask yourself as a Pitt fan; is ‘starting over’ in 2019 going to hurt the football program or help it? Well, I’ll state my opinion on this and you’ll kick in with yours I’m sure.
Staring off I’m not advocating firing Pat Narduzzi at this point nor have I done so at all. I’ve left that up to others. But I do feel that if it would happen it would be a plus for the program – again assuming we have a poor season. Here are my reasons:
First off I truly don’t see the football program getting stronger under Narduzzi’s leadership and feel that the opposite will continue to happen. I based this on a couple of facts and some strong opinions. The fact is that in his first three years we have not won a bowl game and then in 2017 didn’t qualify for one. A fact is that for the first time in a full decade we had the lowest win total with only five – worse than either Todd Graham and Paul Chryst.
A fact is that in his third year of coaching he dropped from eight wins to five. That’s almost half the win total of the year before with pretty much the same Strength of Schedule as the year before (3.51 to 4.13 – very close).
Those are the facts. My opinions about this are as follows.
Narduzzi’s recruiting has been sub-par from the get-go. In this, his full 4th year of coaching, the starting lineups should be heavily populated with players he recruited himself. Instead we just saw a starting lineup for the Penn State game that consisted of 15 out of 22 starters who were not recruited by Narduzzi. Eight of those were on offense where his only recruited players were Sear, Pickett and Morrissey. In addition, seven of 11 on defense including all starting linebackers, one of the defensive ends, the nose tackle, and two of four defensive backs.
What we have seen in his recruiting classes is that every year we get less Blue Chip players (From five 4*s in ’16 to three to one to zero so far in the 2019 class) and more run of the mill kids. Those recruits haven’t been able to beat out even average ballplayers left over from Chryst’s recruiting classes and that does not bode well for future teams.
Ands his recruiting isn’t going to get any better. This HC has alienated local high school coaches to the extent that we are having a hard time getting even 3* local recruits to commit to play for us let alone the cream of the local crop. I believe this recruiting situation has to be one of the main considerations for the Athletic Department when looking at their plans for Pitt football’s immediate future.
When whoever it is takes over from Narduzzi – and it will happen sooner than later – is going to be inheriting a roster that is full of average at best players. There will be a few kids that are good or maybe even great (although I can’t point to any at this point in time) but as we are seeing now the majority of the players are just…average and that is what Narduzzi’s replacement will have to work with his first two years.
The longer it goes on the worse the roster is going to get because if the way things go as I think they will Pitt is not going to be a destination school for the better players – just as it isn’t now. It’s tough enough for a new coach to take over and worse if he’s handed crap to start building with.
We saw the opposite happen with Narduzzi’s first two seasons. It is now evident that he won those eight games in ’15 and ’16 mainly on the strength of the great offensive players he inherited from Paul Chryst.
O’Neil, Johnson, Boyd, Conner, Aston to name a few. Take a look at the difference between the two starting lineups of the 2016 Penn State game and the 2018 game we just watched:
Every single position with the exception of QB Nate Peterman had committed to Paul Chryst. That isn’t all that unusual in Year 2 but look at that talent level across the board Narduzzi inherited for the ’16 season! Not one starter in 2018 is as good as the same position two years previously. Folks – that’s why we had that record-setting offense in 2016 – Peterman was a great get for Narduzzi and kudos for that but his supporting cast was one of the best we’ve seen at Pitt going back to the 1980s. Again- the longer Pitt waits to make a move regarding the HC position the worse it get personnel-wise for any new HC.
You can make the point that Walt Harris also slid in the W/L record in the beginning of his term but let’s be completely honest here – he inherited a very poor roster from outgoing Johnny Majors and then he righted the ship with some darn good recruiting of his own.
I do believe when the dust settles on the 2018 season Pitt’s administration is going to be faced with a very hard decision. Stop the bleeding immediately and find a new head coach who will turn around the downward slide – and I do feel that is what Narduzzi is creating between last year and this – or stick with a HC who hasn’t been able to move the program forward and upward with his own players…which is the HC’s main job when it comes to the football games.
Editor’s Note: We’ll have Georgia Tech articles up starting tomorrow… take a shot at writing something if you feel like it.