So much for that August optimism. You know, when we thought the overall talent wasn’t too bad and that Coach Paul Chryst would coach this team up. Because that is what Chryst is. A coach. A football coach. A football coach’s coach.
It’s hard not to feel a wee bit of annoyance over the performance of the team in the first two games.
Tino Sunseri will come in for the bulk of the criticism as far as play. And there is no doubt he wasn’t good last night, along with the typical brain farts in the red zone that we all expect at this point. Two plus years and nothing appears to have changed with him.
Yet, he isn’t the biggest problem on this team. Almost all of the problems start on the side of the ball that was expected — that was needed — to be a strength. The defense.
They were completely unprepared at the start of both games. Once more they couldn’t stop the run. They couldn’t get any pressure up front. They couldn’t get off the field. They struggled to cover. They continually looked a step slower. It’s not all because the linebacking corp is without Thomas and Price.
This has me worried. Admittedly it plays into my biases and concerns that I already held regarding Strength & Conditioning Coach Todd Rice. But this team looks physically slow. The D-line. The secondary. The O-line. All over the field. Couple that with not being particularly strong either, and the situation is not promising.
Unlike the YSU game, this wasn’t a defense that had the excuse of being out there too long. Cinci plays up-tempo and had the ball for under 24 minutes. In the third quarter, the Pitt offense had drives of nearly 6 minutes and over 4 minutes. The special teams pinned Cinci at the 14 and 1. Cinci shredded the Pitt D to score touchdowns on both possessions.
Chryst is already coming in for criticism, and he is earning a nice chunk of it. He’s struggling to get the plays in to the offense. The playcalling is questionable at key points. Two straight attempts at a fade in the red zone? Maybe he really meant it when he claimed he did not look at tapes of the team from previous years.
He deserves a couple years. There is no way Pitt can handle yet another change in the head coach. We knew he would make mistakes as a first-time head coach. Even the craziest fan had to know that.
Here’s where I’m worried. Most of this staff he put together is based on personal relations he has with them — or someone else close to him. It’s not a stretch, even a couple games into the season, to suggest that some changes to the staff are going to be necessary if there aren’t some vast improvements.
It’s clear that whatever D-line Coach Inoke Breckterfield is doing doesn’t seem to be working to this point. The entire defensive scheme is a question including how they are using personnel. Jim Hueber doesn’t seem to be getting much from the O-line.
No position coach or coordinator is going to lose their job mid-season. They also need an opportunity to show that they are making progress. Their window, however, is much smaller. They are supposed to be the ones to get the players ready and implement the game plan. Right now I’m not seeing it.
Will he, though? Will Chryst let people he is close to, go to “pursue other opportunities?” Will he be willing to hire people that don’t have personal ties. As the head coach, that is part of his duty. To do what is best for the program, not simply to hire guys he knows and trusts. That’s going to be something where the answer is unknown.