Todd Graham deserves some credit (Jennifer Hilderbrand-US PRESSWIRE)
It's only two games into the season, but Pitt's old friend Todd Graham is off to a fast start at Arizona State.
Trust me, it pains me to even write about it. But to not admit that Graham has had success so far would be short-sighted. Why? Because Pitt fans have killed him at every turn.
Don't get me wrong - Graham fully deserves to be vilified. He was a complete phony at Pitt and even though he preached any number of virtues, he didn't follow them himself when he bailed on the team in the middle of a season, no less. All of that said, what he's done at Arizona State in his first two games is impressive.
Graham's teams have scored 108 points in two games. Two games. It took him four contests to reach that total with Pitt last year. It was fairly easy to write off his team's 63-point outburst against Northern Arizona in the opener, but the Sun Devils followed that up with a 45-14 beatdown of Illinois. No, the Illini aren't expected to be a great team this year, but Graham is definitely making his mark so far. It would be easier to ignore his brief success if Pitt was playing well, but ...
Look, this isn't about wishing Graham would have stayed or, of course, wishing him well. I've always maintained that hiring a coach who will bring success for a year or two but then leave isn't what you really want for a program. But it does show that with a quarterback playing mistake-free football (ASU quarterback Taylor Kelly has only two touchdowns so far, but has thrown for just under 500 yards and has yet to throw a pick), his system can be effective.
To me, the curious thing is what happens if Graham puts together a nine- or ten-win season?And make no mistake - someone will come calling if he does that despite his past history. I can't imagine Graham pulls a Graham and leaves yet again unless it's for a top program. I just don't know how on earth he could possibly sell his spiel all over again at another major-conference team that's been pretty average - a la Pitt or Arizona State. Two or three years later, sure, that's entirely possible.
But can you imagine the head on this guy if he strung together a one-loss season and had major suitors coming after him? Graham would have a decision for the ages on his shoulders.
It's only two games and just as we shouldn't overreact to Pitt's coach Paul Chryst, predicting sustained success for Graham at this point would be foolish. But so far, recognizing the job Graham has done so far seems appropriate.
God help us.