Coaching has been a hot topic this season - heck, it always is. But while I often give the coaches a lot of rope, six games into the football season, there's been plenty of room for improvement as I see it.
Looking at specific units, there has been substandard performances throughout the entire team. The defense melted down against Duke, was soft against Florida State, and had a weak performance this week against Old Dominion. The offense was non-existent against Virginia and Virginia Tech. Special teams hasn't been too bad but was a nightmare in that Duke loss.
It can be argued that the players not making enough plays is partially the responsibility of the coaches. But even if you argue against that, it's difficult to dispute some of the coaching decisions this year.
Consider the following:
- Against Florida State, the secondary was far too conservative. Part of that can be chalked up to trying to defend more talented receivers, but we've seen that theme against other teams like Old Dominion and Duke. All told, Pitt has given up 300+ yards passing in three of their six games.
- Unable to get anything going offensively against Virginia, there were no adjustments to fix that. Pitt won the game, but the only points were a result of two short field touchdowns scored on turnovers by the Cavaliers.
- Against Virginia Tech, knowing the team would face a heavy pass rush, Pitt did not go to shorter passes or a shotgun snap to make things easier for quarterback Tom Savage (Chryst later acknowledged that shorter passes can be 'tricky'). The result? A gaggle of sacks.
- The defense has kept their best linebacker, Todd Thomas, off of the field in nickel and dime packages. That might be fine if you only do that a few times a game, but against Old Dominion, Pitt played only played those packages. Instead of finding a way to get one of their stars on the field, though, Thomas sat out. The entire game. Unacceptable.
One other point I want to make is that I've often said these guys are learning on the job. It's Chryst's first job as a head coach and House's first job as a defensive coordinator. Fans understandably don't want to suffer through these guys' growing pains, but at the same time, it's not their fault that they are learning at Pitt - gotta start somewhere and if you're upset about the coaching, it's more fair to call out the administration that hired them rather than the coaches themselves. That said, some of the mistakes they've made aren't what I'd have expected - some of them aren't learning curve type of things but basic coaching 101 fundamentals. Play your best guys no matter what, change things up if they're not working ... these are things coaches should already know.
Pitt stands at 4-2, so like I said in my midseason recap, things could be far worse. And just as we've criticized past coaches for not winning the games they should, this staff so far has avoided the pitfalls we've seen in years past. So in that respect, they certainly deserve some credit. But with things about to get more difficult in the second half of the season, the coaching simply has to get better.