In the wake of Jim Chaney leaving Pitt as the team's offensive coordinator, it was recently revealed that tight ends coach Tim Salem would serve as the team's quarterbacks coach in the upcoming Military Bowl and also call the offensive plays. Head coach Pat Narduzzi said he is a candidate to take over as the Panthers' offensive coordinator on a full-time basis, too:
Salem will be a candidate for the full-time offensive coordinator job as well, Narduzzi said. Salem previously served as an offensive coordinator at Purdue (1994-96), Eastern Michigan (2003) and Central Florida (2004-08).
“We’ll see how the game goes,” Narduzzi said. “Tim, like I said, has called it before, he knows our offense. The kids have responded to him in the last couple of days, too.”
To the position itself, some other news broke as well. Narduzzi said that he not only tried to get Chaney to stay but that the administration made a very attractive offer - one he even said was probably better than they even should have done. In addition, he hasn't reached out to others yet, leaving that decision to come after the bowl game.
While that's not ideal, it's understandable. It would be great to have someone in here immediately but the fact is that with other teams preparing for bowls, with Pitt's own preparations, and trying to recruit, it's just not all that easy to do.
Finally, Narduzzi made a point of saying that he wants someone that will stick around.
Salem would appear to be a very real candidate. I won't run down the entire rap sheet on him since I did that at the time of his hiring as the tight ends coach. But the most important thing here is that he has some offensive coordinator experience, serving in that position for a total of 11 years between Purdue, Central Florida, Eastern Michigan, and Phoenix College. And in addition to his stop at Purdue, Salem was a position coach for Ohio State, Arizona State, and Illinois before coming to the Panthers, so he has a good bit of experience at major programs.
All of that sounds good, but I'd be interested to know more about Salem's move from offensive coordinator to position coach at Central Florida, which sort of looks like a demotion on paper. His Pitt bio shows that he held the coordinator position there from 2004-2008 before moving to a position coach for the next three years. There wasn't a change at the top either, as George O'Leary continued to remain the head coach after Salem's move. After his time was up there, he went on to Illinois, but as a position coach instead of a coordinator. The fact remains that while he has a lot of experience as an offensive coordinator, he hasn't served in that role since 2008.
The good news for Salem is that he'll have his chance to impress Narduzzi in the Military Bowl by calling the plays. A strong showing in that game with some innovation mixed in could go a long way to helping his chances.
I don't mind that Salem is a candidate. I want Pitt to explore all of its options and, in house, Salem may be the best of the bunch to get a look. It's also important (in my opinion, anyway) that you always try to give some consideration to at least one in-house candidate when a coordinator position opens up. You want your assistants to know that there is a chance for advancement and hopefully that is a reason they stick around when other jobs come up. Still, with what looks to be an attractive package, I sort of think Pitt can get someone that's been working as a coordinator a little more recently than Salem.
I'm not sure he is the right guy for the job and the Panthers will, if nothing else, certainly be looking for a bigger hire. But it's not the worst thing in the world to at least give him an interview for the position.