This blog has never been about doom and gloom. Okay, not much. There was Cinci in '09, Scottie Reynolds, and ... you get the point. And this early into a season? Never. It's not time to hit the panic button just yet, but ... things are bad, friends.
In particular, this football team is bad. Or if you're not a sports fan, in the words of Simon Cowell, bizarrely dreadful.
There's not even a good place to start and how a team that's been at least mediocre the past two seasons can completely sink to the depths of possibly one of the worst teams in the FBS is beyond me. What, you think that's too harsh? I'm not being fair, you scream? Consider the fact that Pitt lost by two touchdowns to an FCS school. At home. Consider the fact that Pitt lost this game by an astounding 24 points tonight - and that was with the benefit of a garbage-time touchdown.
We can go back and forth all day about this team the past two seasons. But while those teams have at least been competitive, this one has been embarrassing.
I hate to be 'that guy', but at this point, Pitt is so far from a respectable football team that it's not even funny. And you want to know the frustrating part? The Panthers have individual talent. Ray Graham, Aaron Donald, and Jared Holley all have a very good shot to play on Sundays. You'd like to think that others like Rushel Shell, Lafayette Pitts, Chris Jacobson, and others could get there with hard work. The Panthers have churned out NFL players and that won't change - there's talent here.
With that being said, the unit that needs to improve the most is (drumroll) the coaching staff.I know, I get it - the players are the ones on the field. They're the ones with control over the game, right? Well, yes - to a degree. The fact is that coaches do matter. And, as we're seeing this year, the coaching (albeit through only two games), has left a lot to be desired.
This isn't about saying Paul Chryst should be canned or buying a www.firepaulchryst.com domain name is at all reasonable (but seriously, who doesn't love those sites). No coach can be judged this soon and even if Chryst actually is a bad head coach, he's a rookie. Just like players, you've got to give coaches time to get better. To learn. Firing him after even a season wouldn't be fair and would only set the team back even further.
But this team isn't just bad, it's undisciplined. They play poorly on offense and worse on defense. And it's not just execution, it's the utter lack of fundamentals. Doing everything within my power not to overexaggerate, the defense has exhibited the worst tackling I've seen in the 16 years of watching Pitt football. Just as bad, players are out of position constantly and simply nowhere around when plays to be made. And even when they are in position, they take wrong routes to make a tackle (i.e. T.J. Clemmings in the first-half getting his ankles broken by Munchie Legaux). If that somehow weren't enough, the coaches somehow feel the need to constantly play cornerbacks ten yards off of receivers, making it a field day for opposing quarterbacks to take advantage of short completions.
Quite simply, the defense is an absolute mess. Unfortunately, the offense isn't much worse.
Even with only two games under their belts, I remain absolutely baffled that there's not much in the way of creativity. I don't yearn for Todd Graham trickeration, but with the team struggling so much to score points, what about a halfback pass? That Ronald Jones guy, as we saw last year, is capable of that. Where are the short passes to Ray Graham to create space? How about even an option to throw the defense off? To say the offense has been vanilla is putting it mildly.
Particularly disturbing is that not only has the playcalling been bland, it's been bad. Real bad. Twice in the game, I recall third down and short. Pitt's running game seemed to work and instead, the team relied on quarterback Tino Sunseri to make a play. That didn't happen in either instance.
And on both fronts, there were stupid personal foul penalties by both Chris Jacobson and Clemmings. The highlight of the night for Chryst probably came when he reamed out the latter on the sidelines, at least displaying a bit of fire.
Look, to put this solely on the coaches would be off base. Despite having respectable numbers (24-37 for 278 yards), Sunseri had two big turnovers - a fumble and an interception. He also inexplicably failed to throw the ball away at the end of the first half quickly enough. Instead of coming away with at least a field goal, Sunseri made an incompletion as time expired when the team desperately needed points. Both the offensive line and defensive line were exposed even farther and the linebackers ... oh man.
Want a bright spot? Pitt's been here before. In his first season in 2005, Dave Wannstedt started off 0-3 and that included a loss to the Ohio Bobcats. Not exactly awe-inspiring stuff. Wannstedt disappointed many by not getting to the BCS, but he did turn things around and eventually lead Pitt to their most success in three decades. The program can and will get better.
All of that said, it'd be nice to see things get better this year - and that starts with the coaching.