In the aftermath of Pitt's close win against Youngstown State on Saturday, I fully expected the quarterback talk to be running rampant in the wake of Pat Narduzzi throwing backup into the game only three series into it. The reaction was mostly muted, however, in part to the other story lines such as Qadree Ollison's big day, the James Conner injury, and the breakdowns in the fourth quarter that allowed the Penguins to stay in it.
Yanking your starter so early into the season will get people to notice, though. And if you're expecting that Voytik is the unquestioned starter since he played the rest of the way after Peterman's interception, you might want to think again.
The Trib's Joe Starkey got anything but a firm answer from Narduzzi after the game on the quarterbacks. The head coach left it mostly wide open:
I wondered whether Peterman might be "in the mix" for more playing time if this keeps up.
"We'll continue to evaluate," Narduzzi said.
I said it in the post-game recap, but I'm not a fan of how Narduzzi is handling this already. I didn't have a huge problem with wanting to get Peterman reps in the game, but I did have an issue with pulling the team's starter after only two series - one of which led to a touchdown, by the way (admittedly, with most of the work done by running back James Conner).
And instead of giving his quarterback a vote of confidence here, he's chosen to fan the flames somewhat by going the 'we'll see' route.
To be fair to Narduzzi, we don't have the full transcript of the presser. It wouldn't surprise me at all if he praised Voytik as well and he's spoken highly of him before. Also, Voytik was miserable. He lost a fumble, threw an interception, and had only 72 yards (55 of which came on one play with a horrible throw). Still, do you really open up a quarterback competition with an incumbent starter after only one game?
None of this even considers what it could do to Voytik mentally. He's working with new coaches and if his skill is being questioned right off the bat, one would have to think that's kind of disheartening. And taking a quarterback out of a game and the re-inserting him can mess with his rhythm and timing, too. That's particularly true when you have a quarterback working with mostly young and/or inexperienced receivers as is the case this year.
For me, though, this was the key. Keep in mind that while Voytik played poorly on Saturday, Narduzzi's decision came far earlier than some of his spotty play. He was determined to get Peterman in there no matter what and in the process, created this maelstrom. What is hardest to understand is that Peterman didn't come in because Voytik was playing particularly badly. He came in because Narduzzi thought it was absolutely critical to play him. My question to that would be, 'why?'
Narduzzi cited wanting to get Peterman repos but it isn't all about that. If it were, we would have simply seen Narduzzi play him later in the game. This sends a pretty clear signal that either the coaches are not sold on Voytik and/or they believe in Peterman so much that they are willing to give him meaningful snaps despite having a proven starter.
Another part of the equation, too, is that Peterman is a very unknown commodity. A highly-rated quarterback out of high school, he has done little to impress so far in three years at Tennessee, redshirting his first year, and completing fewer than 50% of his passes with two interceptions and no touchdowns over the last two seasons. Peterman may have looked decent in camp, but his track record on the field isn't so exemplary that it warrants competing for the starting job right away.
Finally, I'm not thrilled with the timing of all of this. With James Conner and, Pitt's offense has a chance to do special things this season. It's simply not the time to play two guys at a time like this. Time of the season? Yes, if you're going to experiment with quarterbacks, you prefer to do it early on. But this isn't the year to be experimenting, in my opinion. A starter should have been selected out of camp and you should stick with that guy until he falters. The Panthers' offense has too much potential to be left twisting in the wind with a indecisiveness at quarterback one game into the season. Pitt also needs to make sure it capitalizes on the momentum the program gained in the offseason. Taking the most important position on the field and treating it with a heavy dose of indecisiveness is a terrible way to do business.
If Narduzzi and company legitimately thought Peterman was the better guy, I would have liked to see them make it a full-blown competition in camp, split reps between the two guys on the first team, and let them really do battle there. From there, you stick with the guy until he falters. To try to sort that out now just seems sort of odd.