It's time for Sunseri to play better or be replaced (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)
I’m not the type to criticize collegiate athletes. They aren’t professionals and don’t deserve the type of harsh criticism some athletes receive from fans. However, I’m passionate about my team and I want what’s best for them. I’m also a Pittsburgher, therefore my favorite player is the backup quarterback. And Pitt fans, its about time to see what our backup can do.
Tino Sunseri seems like a perfectly fine individual. I have no animosity towards him or his efforts on the field. In fact, I sometimes sympathize with him. He’s had to deal with more coaching changes, schemes, offensive coordinators, and snake oil salesmen than anyone else in college football these past four years. It doesn’t matter who the quarterback is, they are going to struggle with all of those changes. For Pitt, these past few years have been the equivalent of reshuffling the deck chairs on the Titanic. The coaching changes have taken a toll on the team and its going to take at least few years to completely rebuild. Its time to replace the captain of Pitt’s ship, give it a new name, and apply fresh coat of paint.
With no prospects of a BCS bowl, and it looking more and more likely that any bowl is altogether out of the question, Tino Sunseri needs to immediately improve his game or make way for younger blood. If this season truly is a lost cause, to be thrown out and forgotten like love letters from your crazy ex, then its time to embrace change and give someone else a chance.
It's not that Sunseri’s numbers are terrible. He’s completing 64% of his passes. That's respectable. However, what is most frustrating to myself, and many Pitt fans, is his lack of development. When Bill Stull became the starter a few short years ago, many Pitt fans panicked. His 2008 season saw him throw nine touchdowns and ten interceptions. Yet in 2009 he showed vast improvement and the ability to manage a game, throwing 21 touchdowns, eight interceptions while leading Pitt to its first ten-win season since the Reagan administration.
That’s what’s so maddeningly frustrating about Sunseri’s progress as a signal caller. There hasn’t been any progress. In 2010, Sunseri threw 16 touchdowns and nine interceptions. Under Todd Graham’s short reign, Sunseri regressed to ten touchdowns and 11 interceptions. This year doesn’t seem to be any different. Especially after losing to Youngstown State in the opener.
Not only are Sunseri’s stats suffering, but he is still making the same mistakes we saw from two years ago. He still holds onto the ball too long. Incredibly long. His football IQ seems to be absent. Whether it's running out of bounds for a five-yard loss or trying to throw for a field goal as time is expiring in the half, he leaves you scratching your head and yelling at the television. The lack of progress and inability to manage a game are the basis for my argument. It's time to throw the highly regarded backup, Chad Voytik, into the deep end and let him learn how to swim. Could it get any worse?
I can predict the response from those who will disagree my suggestion. They’ll say, "Chad Voytik isn’t ready." "He’s too young." "You can’t throw him out there and kill his confidence." "You’ll ruin him!" First of all, what could be more of a confidence builder than being named the starting quarterback as a freshman. If the kid can play, he’ll be fine. Real talent and skill will not be ruined by letting a kid play a few games his freshman year. No doubt he’ll take some lumps, but think of it as preparation for ACC play next season. I know I would have a lot more confidence in Voytik starting next season if he had some experience in hostile environments and game situations. If he can’t cut it this season, Tom Savage will be available next year to start and Voytik could use his redshirt and be groomed to start in 2014.
Pitt has an option available right now. And if Sunseri is the same old-same old against Virginia Tech, it's time to explore that option. If this season is a loss, Pitt might as well prepare for the next one. Einstein’s definition of insanity is ‘doing the same over and over again and expecting different results’. We already know the results, therefore it's time for Pitt to do something different.