April 18, 2012

Going Negative on Sunseri

Filed under: Football,Players — Chas @ 12:31 pm

Reed had the post on Tino Sunseri pointing out the good games he’s had. The debate rages. I think I have pointed out in the past (or at least in some liveblogs) that many of us are so frustrated with Sunseri, that every mistake is magnified. It becomes a glaring problem that outweighs anything else he does. I know I have that issue. Most of last year, it was harder to acknowledge when Sunseri did things right. But the minute he made a mistake, I saw it and saw red.

The thing that Reed’s piece made me wonder, though, was how many games has Sunseri actually cost Pitt? I’m not talking simply he didn’t play well. I mean, that the lion’s share of the blame should fall on Sunseri for the outcome. For example, losing to Miami 31-3 in 2010 and Rutgers 34-10 in 2011, Sunseri was hideously bad. At the same time, you can’t say, if an average QB was out there things would have been significantly different. The O-line in both games was completely overwhelmed. And the defense didn’t hold well.

In the two years Sunseri has started, Pitt has been 14-12. Worse, in games decided by 7 points or less against 1-A teams, Pitt went 2-7 (3-7 if you include the 6-point win over 1-AA Maine last year). That’s a lot of close losses, and again, does not reflect well on Sunseri.


Let’s first note the close wins. There was last year’s 21-14 win over Louisville on the road. One, I think most will credit Sunseri with playing well (enough). The other was in 2010: beating USF 17-10. A game that no one desreved to win. It was won mainly on the ground, and Sunseri at least played well in the second half — not really throwing much in the game — not to cost Pitt.

Now the losses.


Utah, 27-24. Yes and no. It was Sunseri’s first start. It was on the road. The whole team — on both sides of the ball — was shaky in the first half. He did get better in the second half, helping to lead the comeback. Wannstedt chose to play for overtime late (conservative, defensible, and utterly predictable). Then Tino threw the boneheaded interception on Pitt’s first play of the OT. Defense gave up 405 yards. Running game was under 100 (even when you take out the Sunseri sacks). I would call this one a push. Both pro and con probably have a case. I lean towards not putting this loss on him. Too many other other issues in this game to blame that loss on Sunseri.

Notre Dame, 23-17: This was on Sunseri. Three times in the first half, Pitt was inside the 20, and came away with 3 points. Forget the missed FG and the botched hold that cost the other FG. Forget the questionable decisionmaking by Wannstedt late in the game. Not being able to do anything in the redzone. That’s just plain bad work by the QB.

UConn, 30-28: Not on Sunseri. Yes, he threw 2 interceptions, but this loss fell on the defense and special teams. Jordan Todman and UConn’s O-line pushed Pitt around all game. A QB with only 2 TD passes all season burned Pitt twice on TD tosses. Then there was the special teams, that allowed a 95-yard TD return and fumbled the ensuing kickoff at the 7 to allow another score.


Iowa, 31-27: In a way a lot like the NC State game Pitt lost in 2009 with Bill Stull. Pitt came out doing everything right. The offense was flowing. The QB was hot. Then the defense died in the second half, and that arguably should be where the blame falls… But the lingering image is of the QB mistakes at the end of the game when it was still within reach. Plus, Reed made quite a compelling case for the blame going on Sunseri. Verdict: bad Sunseri, bad.

Notre Dame, 15-12: One worn down defense in the second half. One quarterback who wilted in the waning moments with the game in his hands. Add a coach who made some big mistakes in using timeouts early and chasing points. Push.

Cinci, 26-23: Oh, yay. Another come from ahead loss. We can credit Sunseri for helping to build the 23-13 lead after a TD pass to start the third quarter, that Pitt held until a field goal by Cinci with four minutes left in the third quarter. And once again Sunseri unraveled as the game got tight. Cinci quickly added a TD after a Sunseri fumble on the next series. An Sunseri interception on a deflected pass on the very next series paved the road for the go-ahead FG to start the 4th quarter. Pitt did nothing the rest of the game, until a final drive stalled to force a 50-yard FG attempt to tie and send the game to OT. Yeah, this one was on Sunseri.

WVU, 21-20: The trend of Sunseri not being able to handle tight situations late reached its apex in this game. Pitt came out for this game with intensity on both sides of the ball. Pitt had a 20-7 lead in the third quarter. Sunseri collapsed as the Hoopies began to score.

Final tally: 4 on Sunseri (ND 2010, Iowa, Cinci and WVU), 1 not his fault (UConn), 2 pushes (Utah and ND 2011).

I think I could make a case that 2010’s disappointing season was not so much on Sunseri. Only the ND game truly stands out as a game that Pitt should have won, but for Sunseri. 2011, however, really bore his stain.

This is the most damning thing about Sunseri as the QB. The biggest reason fans don’t want to see him out there. It’s not his arm strength. It is not his “leadership” qualities. It is not his accuracy, or decisionmaking. It is how he performs late in the games when it matters. Whether it is holding a lead or making the comeback. He simply does not handle it. No one believes he can at this point.

I second that emotion for a “growth year” by dhuffdaddy. I have been a season ticket holder since Dorsett’s freshman yr and have never seen a Pitt QB create a firestorm of this magnitude over his inability to perform and lead.

Tino had his shot. Yes, he had a porous O-line last yr and yes the receivers were out of sync with Fraudie’s high octane O, but as stated above the film doesn’t lie. He is the worst Pitt QB in recent memory and needs to be replaced. So let the “growth year” begin. Yes, ABT.

I look forward to an improved D and a prolific running game with a healthy Ray G, Bennett and Shell, and an improved O-line. Given our weak schedule, we should win 6-8 games with even average QB play. Play someone who can throw the ball over 20 yds accurately and keep the D honest and their safties back, like Matt N., Emel, Frankcan and others have pointed out. A growth yr is tolerable to this long time fan, especially to ready a QB for ACC play in 2013. HTP

Comment by Bossdaws 04.19.12 @ 8:44 am

[…] Going Negative On Sunseri (Pitt Blather) […]

WOW unless Chad comes in and earns the starting QB job it is going to be a long season for some on this board! Longer for some than others.

Comment by giveitarest 04.19.12 @ 9:59 am

Dhuff – the only guy I can see on the roster who meets your criteria is Anderson.

You have already excluded Sunseri; Myers has shown that he has to be dragged into actually giving a damn; Gonzales has already been arrested, suspended and demoted…

Who else? Anderson I suppose.

Unless, like lots of other fans you are assuming that Chad Voytik has those qualities, which would be great as long as he’s ready to play college ball as a true FR.

Comment by Reed 04.19.12 @ 12:39 pm

Emel, I pretty sure that all of the QB’s you mention won Championships in their states, so I guess the chips just fell into place for Tino.

Comment by HbgFrank 04.19.12 @ 12:42 pm

haha, yes they certainly have HbgFrank.

Funny how those things work out for SOME people.

Comment by Emel 04.19.12 @ 3:17 pm

From Athlon Sports

Much like South Florida, Pittsburgh’s fortunes depend on quarterback play and defense. Tino Sunseri was abysmal last year, throwing 11 interceptions and 10 touchdowns, while being sacked a nation-leading 6 times per game.

Somebody did a game by game post that suggested our QB should be better than the opponents.

Athlon Sports rated Sunseri 7th of the 8 Big East Qb’s, even below sophomore Gary Nova & Temple’s QB. He only managed to rate ahead of the equally as horrid QB from UConn.

link to

Comment by Emel 04.19.12 @ 4:25 pm

There are alot of reasons to not like Tino at QB and I won’t argue with any of them.

The assessment the coaches must make is whether Tino at his proven level of performance IN GAMES is reflective of his practices. If he practices good and plays like crap, then it logically follows that he should not play. Then the question becomes, who plays next.

If Tino starts the year as the starting QB, we will be 4 games into the season before we see a change IF a change is to come.

Comment by SFPitt 04.19.12 @ 6:35 pm

Reed, I am not advocating for any quarterback really. I am saying Coach needs a plan and if there is any doubt in his mind about Tino, than Tino should not take snaps over an unknown quantity. The problem is that we don’t know how the other qb’s will react in game situations and we do know how Tino will react. It’s simple.

I would rather have a team growth year than have 70% of the roster question their head coach for playing a QB they know will wilt under pressure. I see 8 in the box with constant pressure to snuff the run game and make Tino beat a defense. History suggests, he can’t perform under that pressure. Now for the disclaimer that everyone is used to hearing…past performance of this stock is not indicative of future performance. Within the financial markets that is true. With qb’s, it is not. Sorry guys, just one persons opinion. I don’t know the kid, but I observe the teammates.

Comment by dhuffdaddy 04.19.12 @ 10:48 pm

Dhuff – it still boils down to a HC and OC watching 30+ practices in the spring and summer training camps, in addition to team meetings, unit meetings, film study, etc… and then choosing who they feel is the QB to lead the team.

Look, would you pick a QB who has problems executing the playbook you want to institute on the off chance that he may throw a TD pass or two?

For the life of me I don’t understand how PITT fans can totally disregard that basic leadership dynamic when we sitting in the cheap seats.

It’s like we want the staff to totally disregard what they see with their own eyes and chose someone just because the fans want someone else, or on the off chance we hit the lottery.

Sorry, but I question your 70% figure there. How many teammates would buy into starting a player when he hasn’t been the best in practices preparing for the season?

I think we went through that in 2008 and it backfired on us.

Comment by Reed 04.19.12 @ 11:39 pm

If you haven’t seen it, has posted the entire Blue Gold Scrimmage for viewing. Nice move on their part.

My thoughts after seeing all three quarterbacks in action.

No question… Myers is going to be the starter if not by game one, then soon after.

There is absolutely no comparison between what he can do with the football and what Tino is showing operating within the Chryst offense.

Remember the point about the offense hinging on a quarterback who can be relied upon to throw accurately on demand?

Tino’s throwing motion continues to be flawed. The hitch in his delivery makes it impossible for him to be accurate on a consistent basis. This goes for both short and long routes.

Unfortunately, Tino appears to have hit the proverbial ceiling.

On Saturday, he simply did not impress as a senior starting quarterback who has the kind of experience he has under his belt.

This, in addition to everything else above which has been aired to ad nauseum will give Chryst no choice but to look elsewhere.

To me, Myers did impress on Saturday, especially for a guy with no real experience.

My feeling is that he will recognize the opportunity at hand and come ready to compete for the starting job in August.

Anderson, while still needing work… will press Sunseri for No. 2 if he improves at all over the summer.

Voytik of course remains the wild card.

Comment by PittofDreams 04.20.12 @ 9:03 am

People are dilluding themselves if they still think that putting Myers or Anderson in there is going to improve play at the QB position. We’ve seen what they can do at this point, as have the coaches, and neither one is an upgrade.

Tino is a mediocre QB, but that’s what we’ve got for another year. The fact is that there are things he does well and things that he does not. If we finally have a coaching staff that is actually able to game plan around the guy’s strengths, instead of insisting that he keep doing things that he’s not capable of, then it may be a decent year. The bottom line is that you can win a lot of games running the ball and throwing passes that are <30 yards. You can't win with a guy who can only throw the deep ball, or is too short to see over the O-line.

I don't see Voytik playing this year, but if he's as good as advertised, we will see him next year. Of course, we have the QB predicament we do because a number of highly-touted high school QBs have turned out to be busts, so I'm not going to assume he is the real deal until he proves it on the field. Given Chryst's pedigree, though, I think he will be much more effective recruiting QBs down the road than Wannstedt, who seemed to be best at finding defensive studs and RBs.

Comment by AnotherSteve 04.20.12 @ 9:32 am

PS – Case in point about planning to the QBs strengths: Remember Bill Stull, who couldn’t hit a fade pattern to save his life, even when he was playing at his best. Yet in the red zone, Wanny calls fade after fade after fade anyway, like an idiot. I can’t remember how many times we came away without a TD because of that. We had some of the best TEs in the game, and Stull was good with short passes over the middle, yet the game plan was always slam into the line twice and then try to sling it downfield on third down, as if we still had Dorsett and Marino in there. Good riddance to that. Regardless of Tino’s issues, I’ll just be glad if we actually have a modern, flexible offense that adapts to the players it has. Shoot me for saying it, but that’s why I liked Walt Harris – he got the absolute best out of what he had. Shame he wasn’t a better recruiter across the board.

Comment by AnotherSteve 04.20.12 @ 9:46 am

A leader gets picked up by his offensive linemen after getting crunched. Five offensive linemen and nary a one helped him up after a sack. Winning is not always about having the best players, but definitely about everyone playing for each other. Our current qb does not do that.

The togetherness in the locker room is often as good or if not better than the X’s and O’s. I am just sayin…. My points all along have been focused on non X and O’s as I leave that to the coaches. It is all about the Team and to be candid, the team through its own actions (at least to this point in the sunseri era), does not support their current qb.

Oh and I never questioned Todd Grahams X’s and O’s either, but I did question his integrity and his leadership skills from day one. I now question Tino’s leadership skills because I study human behaviors and reactions daily. I hope someone takes the lead because I do like the new coach!

Comment by dhuffdaddy 04.20.12 @ 11:28 pm

Huff – I was very skeptical of Sunseri being ‘voted’ as team captain last year…

If you watch the tape of the spring game and focus on Street during Sunseri’s overthrow of Carswell you’ll see some body language that is pretty obvious.

Comment by Reed 04.21.12 @ 7:07 am

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