Friday, December 12, 2014

Building A Staff

While the thought of losing a head coach sucks, it's also kind of exciting in the sense that it allows for a fresh start.  With Pedro Favre indicating his preference for Paul Rhoads to succeed Paul Chryst at Pitt, Pedro Favre began to wonder what a staff under Rhoads might look like at Pitt.

For starters, as has been previously discussed, it appears current Pitt offensive coordinator Joe Rudolph is going with Chryst to Wisconsin.  As such, it would seem to make sense that Rhoads would need to hire both an offensive and defensive coordinator as current Pitt defensive coordinator Matt House doesn't seem entirely up to the job after Pitt's struggles on defense the past two seasons (House is most definitely a Chryst guy, to boot).

For offensive coordinator, Pedro Favre believes that Bill Bleil, current offensive coordinator at Rhode Island, would make some sense.  Bleil just completed his first season as OC at Rhode Island.  Prior to that, Bleil spent five seasons alongside Rhoads at Iowa State, serving as assistant head coach and overseeing the offensive line and tight ends during his time in Ames.  Bleil also coached at Akron under former Pitt assistant and Rhoads contemporary J.D. Brookhart from 2005-09.  While at Akron, Bleil served as the assistant head coach and tackles/tight ends coach.

Bleil has 23 years of NCAA coaching experience, including nine years as a coordinator. He spent five years as the head coach at Western Carolina (1997-2001) and was the Southern Conference Coach of the Year in 2001.  In addition, Bleil spent the 2004 season as the tight ends/tackles coach at Pitt during the last season of the Walt Harris tenure.

For defensive coordinator, it would seem to reason that Rhoads would bring with him Wally Burnham, his defensive coordinator throughout his tenure at Iowa State. No spring chicken, Burnham brings with him more than 40 years of coaching experience.  In addition to Wally, it would seem to make sense for Shane Burnham, Wally's son, to join his father at Pitt.  Shane Burnham has served as defensive tackles coach alongside his father at Iowa State under the Rhoads regime.

An additional possibility from the current Iowa State coaching staff could include quarterbacks coach Todd Sturdy (4 seasons at Iowa State).

As for possibilities from the current Pitt coaching staff, Pedro Favre believes that it would behoove Rhoads to pursue retaining Inoke Breckterfield (defensive tackles), Chris Haering (outside linebackers and special teams), John Settle (running backs) and Greg Lewis (wide receivers).  Troy Douglas, the current Pitt secondary coach, served in the same capacity at Iowa State under Rhoads prior to moving into his current role at Pitt, so he would obviously make some sense to stay in such a role under Rhoads at Pitt.

One other possibility who has coached with Rhoads during his tenure at Iowa State is Chris Klenakis (offensive line and 1992 Pitt graduate).

As a result of all of this, a potential 2015 Pitt Football coaching staff could look like the following:

Head Coach - Paul Rhoads
Assistant Head Coach/Offensive Coordinator/O-Line/TE - Bill Bleil
Quarterbacks Coach - Todd Sturdy
Running Backs Coach - John Settle
Wide Receivers Coach - Greg Lewis
Defensive Coordinator/Linebackers - Wally Burnham
Defensive Tackles Coach - Shane Burnham
Defensive Ends Coach - Inoke Breckterfield
Defensive Backs Coach - Troy Douglas
Special Teams Coach - Chris Haering

Here We Go Again

The rumor mill is working overtime with news that Pitt coach Paul Chryst is bound for Wisconsin, undoubtedly his dream job.  If this is indeed true, Pitt will head back to the drawing board as Chryst, when he was hired, was the Panthers' fourth coach in four years.  That said, Pitt fans (well, at least this one) won't hold anything against Chryst in this Ben Howland-like departure from the University; in fact, Jerry DiPaola wrote an excellent article today (indicating why Chryst performed his job and should be free to go):

http://triblive.com/sports/college/pitt/7359211-74/chryst-pitt-wisconsin#axzz3LiCUcicT

Nevertheless, it looks like Pitt is going to need a new head coach.  And from the sounds of it, it doesn't appear that the most obvious internal candidate, assistant head coach and offensive coordinator Joe Rudolph, is an option as it is rumored that Rudolph will be heading to Wisconsin with Chryst.  So who does Pitt turn to?  Names already popping up include the likes of Teryl Austin, Pat Narduzzi, Tom Herman, Kirby Smart, etc.  In Pedro Favre's humble opinion, there is little to no chance of seeing any of these men taking over the reins at Pitt, particularly the attractive coordinator options that will no doubt command a more prestigious job and/or a higher salary than Pitt is willing to offer.

First things first here: Pedro Favre doesn't believe that Steve Pederson should be fired.  Some Pitt fans are calling for the athletic director's head after yet another disappointing day in Oakland thanks to the football program.  Sure, Pederson takes most of the blame for Nebraska’s struggles in the mid-2000s when he was AD there.  And, Pederson's firing of former Pitt coach Dave Wannstedt (which looks terrible in retrospect) has helped lead the program on this seemingly endless downward spiral.  Yet, Pederson has definitely been more good than bad as AD at Pitt through two separate terms, so much so that outgoing chancellor Mark Nordenberg had nothing but praise for Pederson in an article from a few months ago:

http://www.post-gazette.com/sports/ron-cook/2014/08/03/Ron-Cook-Mark-Nordenberg-left-fine-legacy-when-it-comes-to-Pitt-sports-1/stories/201408030205

If Pederson stays, as Pedro Favre thinks he should, then the attention turns to the head coach.  As such, there are a few important factors in play when considering who should lead the program moving forward:
  • Pitt just finished its third consecutive 6-6 season under Chryst, with each ending in a bowl game appearance.  This isn't a program that necessarily needs a complete overhaul.
  • Pitt should be even better next season with the return of ACC player of the year James Conner, exciting wide receiver Tyler Boyd and quarterback Chad Voytik.  The Pitt offense could legitimately be the best in the ACC next season with its skill position players set behind an improving and heralded (in recruiting terms) offensive line.
  • Pitt clearly needs to find a coach who is committed to the program and willing to stick around for more than three seasons.
Pedro Favre was willing to wait around a bit with respect to success under Paul Chryst since the Pitt job was his first as a head coach.  However, Pitt fans, Pedro Favre in particular, should have zero desire to wait to win; the offense should be good enough for Pitt to win 7-10 games next year.  So, Pitt, in Pedro Favre's opinion, needs a man who has head coaching experience, can coach up the defense (because the offense should be set), and has some ties to the University and/or the City of Pittsburgh (in the hopes that he sticks around).  If he is familiar with Pederson, then that's just icing on the cake.

The only man to meet all of Pedro Favre's criteria?  Iowa State coach Paul Rhoads.

Critics will be quick to point out that Rhoads has had less than stellar success at Iowa State, compiling a 29-46 record in six seasons in Ames.  Perhaps people will bitch that he is a recycled candidate, that he is not as sexy as some offensive or defensive coordinator at a major program, that he is not Greg Schiano or some other douche with NFL coaching experience.  All of these points may indeed be valid.

However, Rhoads has much working in his favor, at least from this seat.  His resume is outstanding as Rhoads was named coach at Iowa State after spending a season as the defensive coordinator at Auburn from the almighty SEC.  Prior to that, Rhoads was defensive coordinator at Pitt (ding ding) from 2000-07, serving under coaches Walt Harris and Dave Wannstedt during his tenure at the school.  Remember, it was Harris that Pederson initially hired to resurrect the Pitt football program, and not only is Harris perhaps Pederson's best football hire in his career, but one would think that Pederson probably has a soft spot of sorts for Rhoads (ding ding) due to their previous experience of working together.

As a defensive coordinator, Rhoads achieved great success and earned various accolades (ding ding), including being named by the Sporting News as the best defensive coordinator in the Big East in 2006.  As a head coach (ding ding), Rhoads built up a tremendous amount of goodwill over his first four seasons at Iowa State with his big off-field personality and even bigger on-field upsets.  Rhoads took Iowa State to a bowl game in three of his first four seasons, but the Cyclones slipped to 3-9 a year ago and to 2-10 in 2014.

Iowa State AD Jamie Pollard, though, appears to be solidly behind his coach, pointing out that building a winning program at Iowa State always has been a challenge.  Furthermore, there appears to be a direct correlation between the Cyclones’ injury struggles and bowl-less campaigns during the past two seasons. Additionally, Rhoads has proven he can get ISU into bowl games and his teams consistently play hard, a sign he has never lost the locker room.  Lastly, the fact that he is on something of a hot seat at ISU could play into Pitt's favor; if Rhoads doesn't strike while the iron is hot, he could be left without a head coaching job after next season if winning enough at Iowa State proves once again to be the chore that it has always been.  At 47 years of age, there probably isn't a lot of time left in his career for Rhoads to establish himself as a bona fide college football head coach, so with some success, he could welcome a long stay at Pitt (ding ding).

Look, Pedro Favre realizes that the name "Paul Rhoads" probably doesn't do much for most Pitt fans in terms of a new head coach.  However, his head coaching experience, his defensive-minded approach to coaching, and his connection to the University and to Pederson (not to mention his workable annual salary of around $2 million) should make him a candidate...the best candidate in Pedro Favre's mind.  For those who hate this idea (probably the same folks who hate Pederson), Pedro Favre offers this:

Why not let Pederson make this hire and bring in his "boy", of sorts, Rhoads?  Tie their long-term employment with the University together and give them three years for Pitt to experience enough success to keep them around.  If after three seasons it's a complete disaster, then go ahead and see if you can pry Kirby Smart or some other attractive candidate to the University.  At this point, though, Rhoads might be the unsexy hire that Pitt needs.

Sunday, November 30, 2014

Going Bowling

Paul Chryst...you sly son of a bitch!

Only weeks removed from a feeling that he was ready to move on and away from Pitt Football, Pedro Favre has been reeled back in.  Sitting at 4-6 and staring at a season without a bowl game, Pitt unexpectedly won two straight games to ensure postseason eligibility for a seventh straight season.  It was the team's sixth win of the season, though, that was truly memorable.

Pitt beat Miami 35-23 on Saturday night, the first time the Panthers had won a road game against the Hurricanes since 1963. It was their first win against Miami at any location since 1997, an eight-game Hurricanes winning streak snapped Saturday night.  The recipe for victory was no different than it has been all season. The Panthers out-gained the Hurricanes 226-125 in rushing yards, and even though the defense had some shaky moments, it came up with stops when it needed to.

James Conner had two rushing touchdowns on the day, the first of which broke Tony Dorsett’s Pitt single-season record, set in 1976. Conner got a phone call from Dorsett in the locker room after the game, telling him “records are meant to be broken.”  Conner finished the regular season as the ACC’s leading rusher, with 1,675 yards on the year.

Now, Pitt will spend the week waiting and wondering where it’s bowl destination will be. Lower tier ACC bowls like St. Petersburg, Shreveport or Detroit seem to be the most likely options, but there are a plethora of possibilities in play.

Saturday, November 15, 2014

It's Time

"So this is what you meant
When you said that you were spent
And now it's time to build from the bottom of the pit
Right to the top
Don't hold back
Packing my bags and giving the academy a rain-check

I don't ever wanna let you down
I don't ever wanna leave this town
'Cause after all
This city never sleeps at night

It's time to begin, isn't it?
I get a little bit bigger but then I'll admit
I'm just the same as I was
Now don't you understand
That I'm never changing who I am"


A hit song by Imagine Dragons or the theme for Pitt Football? Pedro Favre finds himself asking that exact question after Pitt proves, yet again, that it's just the same as it was...mediocre...after today's head scratching 40-35 loss at an extremely unimpressive North Carolina, a game, of course, that saw Pitt blow lead after lead (as great as 14 points on multiple occasions) to drop to 4-6 on the season.  The season, of course, is the third of the Paul Chryst regime, and while Pedro Favre believes Chryst is far from the biggest problem with the Pitt Football program, the fact remains that the team is 17-19 with him in charge.

Don't ever wanna let you down?  That is all that Pitt does good!  It's either a leg thing (as in Chris Blewitt, who has suddenly morphed into an untrustworthy kicker after his ridiculous miss that would have defeated Duke two weeks ago was followed up by a kickoff sent out of bounds - inexcusable! - and a missed field goal, albeit it was tipped at the line of scrimmage, that changed the momentum of the game when it could have put Pitt up 17-0 in the first quarter), a spiritual thing (as in a consistent lack of heart from Pitt's Swiss cheese defense, one that was shredded for over 500 yards of Tar Heel offense and allowed Carolina to convert on 9-of-16 third down tries and 2-for-2 on fourth down), a psychological thing (as in what the fuck was Chad Voytik thinking when he not only threw behind an intended receiver earlier in the game when he probably could have run for about 15-20 yards instead, but also when he fumbled the ball on Pitt's last possession when, instead of sliding after an impressive run, he tried to be a hero and leap over (?) a defender but instead had the ball jarred from his possession), or a heart attack (as in what is going to happen to Pedro Favre if he continues to follow this team for much longer).

So this is what Pedro Favre means, when he says that he is spent, that he is ready to pack his bags and give the academy (Pitt Football) a rain check: Unless Pitt rallies to win its final two games (home to Syracuse, at Miami), most likely an unrealistic achievement, then Pedro Favre is done with Pitt Football.  Sure, he will always root for them to do well and certainly won't pledge his support to another program in lieu of the Panthers.  But, the week-to-week devotion, highlighted by his season ticket package, is out the damn door most likely in two weeks' time.

Look, Pedro Favre already has one foot out the door when it comes to Pitt Football.  Not only is the program maddeningly frustrating and mediocre, but Pedro Favre doesn't have the time nor desire to commit to being a Pitt Football fan anymore.  With kids activities starting to dominate his weekend schedule, Pedro Favre already had to downgrade from a full season package to a three-game deal this year.  Of course, the Pitt ticket office wouldn't let Pedro Favre keep his seat a mere two rows from the field, informing Pedro Favre that such a ticket is only available to full season ticket holders and that it's a shame that Pedro Favre won't purchase the full 2014 season because it promises to be a "great and successful season for the Panthers."  Well, the joke's on you jackoff...not only has the season been a fucking disgrace (a loss to Akron...are you fucking kidding me?!?!), but that precious seat of yours is never filled by anyone...and Pedro Favre sits in that seat whenever the fuck he wants despite his ticket showing that he should be upstairs in Section 5000000, or whatever.

So, what's it gonna be, Panthers?  Are you somehow gonna pull off the unthinkable and beat a shitty Syracuse team and a much-better-than-you Miami team to become bowl eligible?  Or, will it be same old Pitt?  If nothing changes, then you are down one diehard fan by the time the calendar flips to December.  Cheers!

Friday, November 14, 2014

Thursday, November 13, 2014

College Basketball Predictions

Final Four:
Arizona
Kentucky
Wisconsin
Duke

National Champions: Arizona

Player of the Year: Jahlil Okafor
Coach of the Year: Sean Miller

ACC Standings:
1. Duke
2. Louisville
3. North Carolina
4. Virginia
5. Syracuse
6. Pittsburgh
7. Notre Dame
8. Florida State
9. Miami
10. NC State
11. Clemson
12. Wake Forest
13. Georgia Tech
14. Boston College
15. Virginia Tech

ACC Player of the Year: Jahlil Okafor
ACC Coach of the Year: Tony Bennett

Monday, October 27, 2014

NBA Season Predictions

Atlantic Division -
1. Toronto Raptors
2. New York Knicks
3. Brooklyn Nets
4. Boston Celtics
5. Philadelphia 76ers

Central Division -
1. Cleveland Cavaliers
2. Chicago Bulls
3. Detroit Pistons
4. Indiana Pacers
5. Milwaukee Bucks

Southeast Division -
1. Washington Wizards
2. Miami Heat
3. Atlanta Hawks
4. Charlotte Bobcats
5. Orlando Magic

Southwest Division -
1. San Antonio Spurs
2. Houston Rockets
3. Memphis Grizzlies
4. Dallas Mavericks
5. New Orleans Pelicans

Northwest Division -
1. Oklahoma City Thunder
2. Portland Trail Blazers
3. Denver Nuggets
4. Utah Jazz
5. Minnesota Timberwolves

Pacific Division -
1. Los Angeles Clippers
2. Golden State Warriors
3. Los Angeles Lakers
4. Phoenix Suns
5. Sacramento Kings

Eastern Conference Playoffs -
Quarterfinals:
Cavaliers over Knicks
Bulls over Pistons
Wizards over Hawks
Heat over Raptors

Semifinals:
Cavaliers over Heat
Wizards over Bulls

Finals: Cavaliers over Wizards

Western Conference Playoffs -
Quarterfinals:
Spurs over Lakers
Clippers over Grizzlies
Thunder over Trail Blazers
Warriors over Rockets

Semifinals:
Warriors over Spurs
Clippers over Thunder

Finals: Clippers over Warriors

NBA Finals: Cavaliers over Clippers

Awards Picks -
MVP: LeBron James
Rookie of the Year: Jabari Parker
Coach of the Year: Erik Spoelstra
Defensive Player of the Year: Anthony Davis
Sixth Man of the Year: Isaiah Thomas
Most Improved Player: Reggie Jackson
Executive of the Year: David Griffin