Tuesday, January 6, 2015

One Hall of a Day

January 6, 2015...a day that Pedro Favre will not soon forget.  For it was this day, today, that Pedro Jaime Martinez was voted into the baseball Hall of Fame by the Baseball Writers Association of America.  Pedro will be officially inducted July 26 in Cooperstown, N.Y.

Pedro received 91.1 percent of the vote in his first time on the ballot.  Pedro, 43, was 219-100 in parts of 18 seasons. He had a 2.93 ERA (best-ever 154 ERA+ among starters), 1.05 WHIP and 3,154 strikeouts in 2,827 1/3 innings. He won three Cy Youngs and finished second two other times. He topped his league in ERA five times, WHIP six times, strikeouts three times, wins once and winning percentage three times, among other rate stats (like hit rate five times). He won a World Series ring with the 2004 Red Sox.

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Mixed Martial Artist of the Year

It's his hot wife that makes him cool, but it is his crazy successful year that makes T.J. Dillashaw Pedro Favre's Mixed Martial Artist of the Year for 2014.  There were other deserving fighters (most notably Donald Cerrone and Robbie Lawler), but Dillashaw is the pick.  Previous winners include Georges St. Pierre ('09), Cain Velasquez ('10), Jon Jones ('11), Benson Henderson ('12) and Demetrious Johnson ('13).

Nobody was more impressive than Cerrone in 2014.  The "Cowboy" won four fights, three by stoppage that also earned him Performance of the Night bonuses.  Ironically, it was his lone victory via decision that was probably most impressive; in September, Cerrone defeated former Bellator Lightweight Champion Eddie Alvarez at UFC 178.

Meanwhile, nobody caused a bigger stir in Pedro Favre's pants in 2014 than Lawler.  "Ruthless" also fought four times this past year, winning three of them (his lone loss was a close decision to Johny Hendricks in March, a loss he avenged in December).  Lawler finished his impressive year in style, defeating Hendricks and earning the UFC Welterweight Championship in the process.

As impressive as Cerrone and Lawler were, Dillashaw was even better.  Dillashaw began his year with a unanimous decision victory over Mike Easton at a UFC Fight Night in January.  In his next fight, Dillashaw shocked the mixed martial arts world as he upset the seemingly invincible Renan Barao via TKO at UFC 173 in May; for his efforts, Dillashaw not only won the UFC Bantamweight Championship, but he also earned Fight of the Night and Performance of the Night bonuses.  After marrying his hot piece of ass wife in June, Dillashaw wrapped up his big year by defeating Joe Soto via KO at UFC 177 in August, a performance that earned him another Performance of the Night bonus.

The Upset of the Year among his three wins, plus locking down a tight little wife?  Yes, Pedro Favre thinks it's fair to say that 2014 was a great year for T.J. Dillashaw.

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Pitt Coach Stats

Some random information with respect to Pitt football coaches since the first Johnny Majors era:

Johnny Majors I
  • Previous Job: Head Coach at Iowa State (current Big 12 team)
  • Total Wins: 33 (average of 8.25 over 4 seasons)
  • Next Job: Head Coach at Tennessee (SEC)
Johnny's first tenure at Pitt ended with a perfect 12-0 record and National Championship in 1976.  He left for what appeared to be his dream job at Tennessee as Majors was born in Tennessee and played for the Vols from 1953-56.

Jackie Sherrill
  • Previous Job: Head Coach at Washington State (Pac 12)
  • Total Wins: 50 (average of 10 over 5 seasons)
  • Next Job: Head Coach at Texas A&M (SEC)
Jackie ended his tenure at Pitt with three consecutive 11-win seasons (1979-81).  For a guy who was born in Oklahoma and played at Alabama, his move to Texas A&M was probably not a major shock.  It should also be noted that Sherrill served as Pitt's defensive coordinator, under Majors, prior to his one year foray with Wazzu.

Foge Fazio
  • Previous Job: Defensive Coordinator at Pitt
  • Total Wins: 25 (average of 6.25 over 4 seasons)
  • Next Job: Defensive Coordinator at Notre Dame (IND)
Foge seemed to be the obvious candidate once Sherrill left for greener pastures, but the former Pitt center and linebacker only lasted four seasons before receiving the pink slip.

Mike Gottfried
  • Previous Job: Head Coach at Kansas (Big 12)
  • Total Wins: 27 (average of 6.75 over 4 seasons)
  • Next Job: Retired
Pitt no doubt tried to go back to the well, plucking a head coach from a smaller Big 12 team in Gottfried from Kansas as they had done years before with Majors from Iowa State.  Unfortunately, Gottfried had no more success than Fazio before he resigned.

Paul Hackett
  • Previous Job: Offensive Coordinator at Pitt
  • Total Wins: 12 (average of 4 over 3 seasons)
  • Next Job: Offensive Coordinator for Kansas City Chiefs (NFL)
Hackett, who had NFL experience before his tenure at Pitt, was promoted after Gottfried's resignation.  Despite winning the John Hancock Bowl as interim coach in 1989, Hackett experienced little success as head coach.  Defensive Line/Linebackers coach Sal Sunseri served as the interim coach for the last game in 1992, a 36-23 loss at Hawaii.

Johnny Majors II
  • Previous Job: Head Coach at Tennessee (SEC)
  • Total Wins: 12 (average of 3 over 4 seasons)
  • Next Job: Retired
The "Back to the Future" campaign never came to fruition as Pitt football pretty much fell off the map under Majors' second tenure.

Walt Harris
  • Previous Job: Quarterbacks Coach at Ohio State (Big Ten)
  • Total Wins: 52 (average of 6.5 over 8 seasons)
  • Next Job: Head Coach at Stanford (Pac 12)
Harris is rightfully credited for resurrecting the Pitt football program, amazingly leading the team to a bowl game in 1997 after the team averaged 3 wins over 4 seasons under Majors.  Walt was essentially forced out after the completion of the 2004 season, though he certainly landed on his feet, at least for two seasons, at Stanford.

Dave Wannstedt
  • Previous Job: Head Coach of the Miami Dolphins (NFL)
  • Total Wins: 42 (average of 7 over 6 seasons)
  • Next Job: Assistant Head Coach of the Buffalo Bills (NFL)
Wanny came to Pitt after he was dismissed as Dolphins coach during the 2004 NFL season.  After 6 seasons, Wanny was essentially forced to resign from Pitt.  His defensive coordinator, Phil Bennett, coached the team to a victory in the 2011 BBVA Compass Bowl.

Michael Haywood
  • Previous Job: Head Coach at Miami of Ohio (MAC)
  • Total Wins: 0
  • Next Job: TBD
Haywood was Pitt's answer after the Wanny resignation fiasco.  Unfortunately, Haywood never coached a game for the Panthers as he was fired after domestic violence charges.

Todd Graham
  • Previous Job: Head Coach at Tulsa (C-USA)
  • Total Wins: 6 (average of 6 over 1 season)
  • Next Job: Head Coach at Arizona State (Pac 12)
After "High Octane" left for the desert, Keith Patterson, his defensive coordinator, coached Pitt to a loss in the 2012 BBVA Compass Bowl.

Paul Chryst
  • Previous Job: Offensive Coordinator at Wisconsin (Big Ten)
  • Total Wins: 19 (average of 6.33 over 3 seasons)
  • Next Job: Head Coach at Wisconsin (Big Ten)
Chryst left Pitt for his dream job at Wisconsin.  His offensive coordinator, Joe Rudolph, will coach the Panthers in the 2015 Armed Forces Bowl.

Pat Narduzzi
  • Previous Job: Defensive Coordinator at Michigan State (Big Ten)
Some additional notes and thoughts here:
  • It's kind of amazing that the same guy who put Pitt football on the map (Majors) was also the same guy who almost ruined the program in his second tenure with the team.
  • That Pitt won 11 games three seasons in a row under Sherrill is amazing.
  • That Pitt has had two men retire from football after leaving Pitt and another essentially banished from the game after his month-long tenure at the University is simply comical.
  • Pitt has really been stuck in neutral ever since Sherrill left.  After Foge won 9 and then 8 games in his first two seasons, Pitt hasn't had a coach average more than 7 wins per season.
  • Pitt has searched far and wide to find the right coach.  After Sherill left, Pitt has gone the promotion route (Foge & Hackett), head coach at a Power 5 conference route (Gottfried & Majors II), the former NFL head coach route (Wanny), the head coach at a smaller school route (Haywood and Graham), and the coordinator/position coach from a bigger school route (Harris, Chryst & now Narduzzi).
  • It's reasonable to say that Majors I and Sherrill are the outliers and not the norm here.  It's also safe to say that the tenures of Foge, Gottfried, Hackett, Majors II, Haywood and Graham were failures.  Harris deserves major props for restoring the program, while Wanny gets some love for leading Pitt to its only double-digit win total (10 in 2009) in Pedro Favre's lifetime.  As for Chryst, Pedro Favre gives him an incomplete as he feels Chryst has Pitt headed in the right direction despite only winning 19 games over the past three seasons.
  • Narduzzi really has the opportunity to become Pitt's greatest coach in the last 30+ years.  If he can take what Chryst has done with the offense and use his expertise to improve the defense, there is no reason to believe he won't experience great success (well, at least in the 9-10 win range) at Pitt.  Here's just hoping that he isn't on a plane heading back to East Lansing after three seasons!

Monday, December 22, 2014

The Duz

Michigan State defensive coordinator Pat Narduzzi has emerged as a focus of Pittsburgh's head coaching search, according to a source.  Narduzzi views Pittsburgh as a destination position, which is critical to the school after having been through massive turnover in recent years.  Narduzzi's prominent candidacy for the Panthers' head coaching position was first reported by Yahoo! Sports.

Pedro Favre is good with this, if only for the fact that it provides a clean break from the Steve Pederson era of Pitt Athletics (at roughly the same time Paul Chryst's hire was announced by Wisconsin last week, Pittsburgh announced it was parting ways with athletic director Steve Pederson).  Additionally, Michigan State head coach Mark Dantonio has indicated that Narduzzi is prepared to be a head coach and former Pitt head coach Johnny Majors, for what it's worth, indicated that lineage is important when hiring an assistant coach with no head coaching experience (Narduzzi's father, Bill, built Youngstown State into a Division II national power during his coaching tenure with the Penguins from 1975-1985).

Narduzzi has been a candidate for several head-coaching jobs in recent years – he turned down Connecticut and interviewed with Louisville last year, and also was in the mix at Cincinnati before it hired Tommy Tuberville two years ago.  The 48-year-old Narduzzi has been one of the top assistant coaches in the country, coordinating a Michigan State defense that consistently has been among the nation’s best. The Spartans this year were ranked No. 7 in total defense, their fourth straight season in the top 10 in that category. During the 2013 season, when it won the Rose Bowl, Michigan State was No. 2 and Narduzzi won the Broyles Award, annually given to honor the best assistant coach in college football.

With no head coaching experience, Pedro Favre believes it is imperative that Narduzzi surround himself with a quality staff should he indeed decide to become Pitt's next head coach.  Two obvious choices for prominent roles, at least from this seat, would be Jim Bollman and Ron Burton.  Bollman, currently the co-offensive coordinator/tight ends coach at Michigan State, has 37 years of coaching experience, both at the collegiate and professional levels, including 11 years as the offensive coordinator/offensive line coach at Ohio State (2001-11).  A former offensive line coach at Michigan State in the mid-1990s, Bollman's insight has also played a critical role in developing one of the top offensive lines in the country.

Burton, currently the defensive line coach at Michigan State, is a 22-year coaching veteran who also played four seasons in the NFL.  Prior to his stint in East Lansing, Burton spent 10 seasons (2003-12) as the defensive line coach at Air Force.  For his efforts in 2013, Burton was named the national defensive line coach of the year by FootballScoop.

In addition to his fellow Spartans coaches, Pedro Favre believes it would behoove Narduzzi to assume a few coaches from Pitt's current staff.  Greg Lewis, in his first season as Pitt's wide receivers coach,  played six seasons in Philadelphia (2003-08) and two with Minnesota (2009-10) in the NFL.  Following his playing career, Lewis coached receivers in the college ranks the past two seasons, spending the 2013 season at San Jose State and 2012 with the University of San Diego. He began his coaching career as a summer intern with the Philadelphia Eagles in 2012.

John Settle, a former NFL running back who has 20 years of experience coaching in the college and pro ranks, is in his first season as running backs coach at Pitt.  Prior to coming to Pitt, Settle spent three years coaching running backs in the NFL after spending five seasons as running backs coach at the University of Wisconsin (2006-10) and eight seasons as running backs coach at Fresno State (1998-2005).  Settle broke into the coaching ranks at his alma mater, Appalachian State, coaching the Mountaineers' running backs in 1994. He also served as an offensive assistant and special teams quality control coach with the Browns (1995) and Baltimore Ravens (1996-97).

NFL experience from a positional coach seems to work in both Lewis' and Settle's favor as attractive options for a new coaching staff.  Settle, in particular, could be a good guy to keep around if only for the notion that four-star running back Darrin Hall may decommit if Settle leaves:

Asked if he will honor his commitment to Pitt if Chryst leaves, Hall said, "It really depends on who's leaving with him."
 
The Austintown Fitch (Ohio) High star is ranked No. 22 among running backs nationwide by Rivals.com and has developed a close relationship with Settle, who played and coached in the NFL.
 
"If Coach Settle leaves, I'm out," said Hall, who is recovering from a torn meniscus in his left knee and likely will resume running Dec. 29.
 
Now, if there's a position that Pitt has depth, outside of the offensive line, it's at running back.  Still, losing someone the caliber of Hall wouldn't exactly be ideal. The Panthers could survive his loss, but he's an extremely talented kid and not one you'd want to lose.
 
In any case, it appears that Pitt may be closer to finding its next man in charge.  For the sake of the program, let's hope that The Duz is the right guy!

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.