Yesterday, Pitt ended its long 'search' for a new defensive coordinator when head coach Paul Chryst promoted secondary coach Matt House to the position. So what should we make of the move?
Not entirely sure where I stand on this hire, but a few thoughts -
First, anyone telling you this is a good or bad hire is kidding themselves. No one knows how House will fare just as we didn't know how Jamie Dixon would fare when he was promoted to a head coach as an assistant. Skepticism? Yeah, I get that. But other than that, we just won't know how this will turn out. It's a complete shot in the dark and to kill this hire at this point is beyond foolish.
While it took a long time to make a hire, I didn't have a big issue with that. It really didn't affect things when you think about it. The recruiting was winding down and the team was still a little while from spring ball. If there was a time to go slow when making a new hire, it was now.
On House specifically, I'm taking a wait and see approach. I don't know how we can criticize him already. And if we're going by how well the secondary played last season, it was better than in recent memory. Holley and Hendricks, specifically were pretty good. Overall, I thought the unit was solid. They were 20th in passing defense and 21st in pass efficiency defense. I just don't know how a snap judgment can be made yet.
Then, there's the issue of experience. House isn't the most experienced guy in the world, but it's not as if it's his first year coaching. His four years in the NFL were in minor capacities, but he was still around NFL talent and NFL coaches. Hard to believe he didn't absorb anything during that time. He wasn't only a defensive backs coach at Buffalo, but the recruiting coordinator for two years. He coached the D-line at Gardner-Webb. Lastly, he had four years of experience as an assistant and grad assistant at Michigan State and North Carolina. I don't know, could Pitt have found a more experienced guy? Sure. But House isn't exactly a complete rookie, either.
There's also a familiarity factor. House hasn't been here long, but for the past year, he's hopefully been making inroads with high school coaches. And he's worked with Chyrst for the past year, so the two have worked with each other already. And, obviously, he's familiar already with the players.
I also think, as others have suggested, that money may have had something to do with this. Pitt has been a bit tight with the wallet on other hires before (most notably, the rumored decision to not pay Todd Graham what he wanted the first time before settling on Michael Haywood). It's quite possible that Chryst may have had other coaches in mind, but the money wasn't there. That could have been particularly true in the case of a guy like Teryl Austin, who's likely doing quite well financially in the NFL.
None of this is to suggest that I wouldn't have preferred a different hire. I can rattle off several names of other candidates I'd rather have seen hired. But what I'm saying is give the hire a chance. House led a successful unit last year and while unproven as a defensive coordinator, we don't know how it will pan out.