Yesterday, JD mentioned the reported hire of Arkansas Razorbacks offensive coordinator Jim Chaney for the same position at Pitt by Pat Narduzzi. As I did with defensive coordinator, Josh Conklin, I wanted to take a closer look at his career.
There's a lot of optimism around getting Chaney, as there should be. Like the Conklin hire, Chaney has past experience at his job. Unlike the Conklin hire, Chaney's comes at the highest level.
Conklin has past experience as a defensive coordinator, but as I wrote at the time, he had little experience at major programs. Chaney, however, has worked for several P5 programs. He comes from Arkansas, where he was the offensive coordinator in 2013 and 2014. Prior to that, he was the offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach at Tennessee.
That's not all, though. Chaney also did some coaching in the NFL with the St. Louis Rams (coaching the offensive line and tight ends) after a nine-year stint as Purdue's offensive coordinator. His notable development there, of course, included guiding NFL Pro Bowl quarterback Drew Brees.
Speaking of the NFL, one great thing I like about his resume is his position experience in the league. I'm not using this as a forum to pick on Matt House, I only point this out as an example. Many people were excited about House's experience in the pros, but three of his four seasons were as a Quality Control Coach. While that position can serve as a good foundation to landing a head coaching gig, as this site breaks down, it's more about watching film and is a job low on the totem pole.
Chaney was legitimately out there working with players and as I've said before, I always love college coaches that are involved with recruiting to have experience in the pros. Being able to go into a kid's house and talk about what it takes to get to the NFL is just a big deal.
Another great thing to like about the Chaney hire is that he was not only involved in recruiting, but was the recruiting coordinator at three different schools, including Purdue, Wyoming, and Cal State Fullerton, per his Arkansas bio.
Most recently at Arkansas, his work was a bit mixed.
While the Razorbacks had a very good year rushing (26th in the nation), Chaney's offense had difficulty passing the ball ranking near the bottom of the FBS at 102nd, though. He also has had mixed success with the Razorbacks - in 2014 the team ranked 45th in total offense, but in 2013 ranked a dismal 106th.
Above all, though, in the difficult SEC, I think he did a solid job. Many of the team's larger offensive outbursts came against weaker teams. But the offense still did a manageable job in the SEC, where they faced a total of eight ranked teams. They scored 30 points in a win over Ole Miss' No. 1 ranked defense and 32 in a loss against Georgia's 16th ranked defense. They struggled on offense at times but it's also to fair to point out that they had an incredibly difficult schedule.
And according to SB Nation's Arkansas site, Chaney has worn out his welcome with some fans:
Many Arkansas fans were frustrated with Chaney's penchant for throwing the ball more than many thought necessary. Nowhere was that more evident than the last drive against Missouri, when he only called pass plays even though the drive began with 4:38 to go and multiple timeouts. Bret Bielema was even publicly critical a few times, particularly of "cute" trick plays that failed throughout the season. My personal favorite was a reverse sweep....with a tight end. That happened against A&M and lost yards for the Hogs.
This obviously is a pretty lateral move, and that's always sort of puzzling, of course. While Arkansas is in the SEC and had some more success prior Chaney being there, they're also only 14-23 over the past three seasons. The note on Bielema seems to be a notion that's out there quite a bit and it seems pretty clear that the two didn't get along entirely based on those reports.
A big thing for me is to see what kind of offense he brings to Pitt. Narduzzi previously spoke about being a run-heavy team and the Chaney hire seems to fit with that. How Pitt runs the ball is anybody's guess at this point, but it doesn't sound as if James Conner will be underutilized. And with a talented offensive line with plenty of depth, that's just the way Pitt is built, anyway.
Overall, my thoughts on this are more positive than the Conklin hire. Conklin could very well pan out and he has a lot of people in his corner. But Chaney has much more of a reputation and is more of a known commodity.
When you factor in all of his years as an offensive coordinator for major-conference programs along with his recruiting experience, this is just a solid hire, in my opinion.
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