Tino Sunseri's never had a ton of fans. To a degree, that doesn't surprise me since the backup quarterback is usually one of the most popular players on a team. The grass is always greener on the other side (supposedly).
Still, I never really understood the clamoring for Tino to be replaced last year. He did a serviceable job in his first season and clearly gave the team the best chance to win. But this year? Things have been far different.
I can't help but see the stark contrast in his numbers from last year in the pro set to this season in the new offense.
Last year, Tino was hardly spectacular. But he largely kept the team in games and was rarely the main reason they lost in games they came up short.
Okay, we all know his numbers are down from last year. By how much?
In 2010, Tino completed 65% of his passes to 62% this year.
In 2010, he threw for nearly 2,600 yards while he's only on pace for about 2,100 this year.
In 2010, he had 16 passing touchdowns and is only on pace for 8.5 this year.
In 2010, he had nine interceptions, but has seven already this year and is on pace for 12.
Fine, so we know his numbers have been subpar. But more than that, he just looks uncomfortable. Why is that, though?
The offensive line is probably the biggest factor. More important than any of those stats is the surprising number of times he's been sacked. Sunseri was sacked 21 times last year, but through only seven games this season (and when he's split some time with Trey Anderson, no less), he's been taken down 32 times. In summary, he's been sacked 1/3 more while playing in only about half the games.
Now, I'll be the first to admit that Sunseri has held onto the ball far too long at times. If I had to make a rough estimate, I'd so about 50% of those sacks are due to abominable line play while the other half is Tino turning into 'statue' Tino. And about that line - you've got to remember that it was already a thin position and the team is playing without its two best players in Lucas Nix and Chris Jacobson there. There's little chance that any quarterback would be extremely comfortable back there.
But here's the thing: him holding onto the ball too long is largely due to the fact that he's uncomfortable with the new offense.
The bottom line is that he simply can't run it. Will that come? Man, I've got no clue. But the best way I can say it is that he is a pro set quarterback trying to run a spread offense - it's the proverbial square peg/round hole thing. If Tino had an entire year to figure it out? Sure, he'd probably be better. But to ask him to essentially start over as a quarterback and do things entirely differently in the span of about eight months isn't an easy thing to do.
And while Trey Anderson may be a better fit for the offense, he's simply not ready. I've been saying for a while now that he's only been in the system for a few months and that isn't enough time. Earlier this week, Graham acknowledged that very fact.
Now, I don't necessarily fault Graham for going away from Tino - things have simply gotten that bad. But as much as Pitt fans don't want to hear it - Sunseri is the best option right now.
The encouraging thing? Sunseri's actually looked good at times this season. He hasn't been great by any stretch, but his play against Buffalo, Notre Dame, and South Florida was pretty good. In those three contests, he completed 60 of 91 passes for 560 yards, three touchdowns and no interceptions. The fact is that Sunseri has looked capable of leading the team at times this year, but Anderson has not. That's to be expected since Tino has much more experience, but it shouldn't be downplayed. Tino's had some good games in this offense despite not being a perfect fit.
If you're frustrated with Sunseri, I get that. I know I am. But he's the best Pitt has right now and there's no way around that.