Big Lead Sports Bar

11/29/2010

Pitt = The College Equivalent of the San Francisco 49ers



Due to a mini family emergency last weekend, I was unable to watch the Backyard Brawl live and subsequently unable to provide any semblance of a timely, relevant recap. But some time has passed,  many people have aired a their opinions on the state of the program, and I've come up with some thoughts of my own. If that's of interest of you, there's more after the jump.


As for the Brawl itself, I can say I'm extremely disappointed but not surprised. Sadly, this is what I've come to expect over the years as a Pitt fan, even more so during the 2010 season. They toy with your level of expectations. When they're low, they pull off 13-9 in 2007. When they're high, 2010 happens. They've pulled off the fine art of tearing your heart out and showing it to you while it's still beating. That's a skill not easily done by a pro team, let alone a college program. That's my Pitt Panthers.

I was recently thinking back on this incredibly disappointing season, and while watching promo after promo for the awful Monday Night Football game between the 49ers and Cardinals, it came to me: Pitt is the college version of the 49ers.

The similarities, once they're on paper, are uncanny. Pitt plays in the Big East, the worst of the BCS conferences. The 49ers call the NFC West home, easily the weakest of the NFL divisions. 

Both teams were heavily favored to win their conference/division going into 2010. The perception of their coaches is very similar: likable guys who oversee underachieving teams, now finding themselves on the hot seat.

Personnel is another area of similarity. Going into 2010, Pitt ran PR campaigns and websites for Dion Lewis, Jon Baldwin, and Greg Romeus, all expected to be contenders for postseason accolades. The 49ers have a roster featuring the likes of Frank Gore, Vernon Davis, Michael Crabtree, and Patrick Willis, a solid nucleus to build around by anyone's account.  Unfortunately, both teams have quarterback play that's simply not as good as it needs to be, usually the kiss of death at these levels of football.

But the biggest similarity, beyond the affinity for literally the same players (San Fran has four former Panthers on the payroll), is that these teams have been incredibly disappointing in 2010. The 49ers were 3-7 going into MNF, owning only wins over Oakland, Denver, and St. Louis - all sub-.500 teams. They started the season slow (0-5), yet could be only one game out of first place with a win over Arizona on Monday night. 

The Panthers mirrored the 49ers once again with a slow start to the season, dropping their first three games against legitimate competition (Utah, Miami, Notre Dame), beating only New Hampshire and Florida International in their first five games. They were a ho-hum 6-4 heading into the Backyard Brawl, yet needed to win only that game to clinch the conference and a BCS berth. We all know how that turned out.

So what's the lesson to be learned, other than the fact that pro and college teams can both underperform? First, I think it's dangerous to give preseason hype too much credibility. That's a given.

Second, you've got to look at the track record of the men in charge. Dave Wannstedt was 82-87 as an NFL coach, winning two playoff games in 11 seasons. He's been on the staffs of great teams, but as the head man he's simply never gotten it done. That's not opinion, it's fact. And it hasn't changed while he's been at Pitt.  Other than "13-9", he doesn't win the big games where he's the underdog. The bigger problem is that he doesn't even win the games where he's the favorite. That played out over an entire season in front of our very eyes, and that's why there are dozens of columns like this being written in late November.

Singletary, although a dominant player in his day, has been a part of one winning season since starting his coaching his career in 2003 - linebacker coach for the '03 Ravens, who went 10-6 and lost in the first round of the playoffs. He's 16-19 as an NFL coach and has never had a season above .500. That doesn't sound like a coach who's ready to make a serious playoff run, especially saddled with Alex Smith at QB.

QB is the final part of the puzzle. Without a good one, you're doomed. Smith simply lacks the skills and the moxie to get it done as an elite QB at the NFL level. For his career, he's thrown 52 interceptions to 46 touchdowns, and has a passer rating of 70.2. Couple that with a sub-.500 head coach, and you're not exactly in Belichick-Brady territory. In retrospect, their crash should surprise no one.

In Pitt's case, the final chapter has not yet been written in the Tino Sunseri Story. He had some good moments and some bad moments in 2010, but on the whole did not play up to the level of a BCS-qualifying quarterback. Maybe he can someday, but it wasn't this year. In Pitt's five losses, Sunseri threw four touchdowns and five interceptions; not enough production, too many mistakes. He played behind an iffy offensive line and sorely missed the two tight ends who graduated to the NFL. To make things worse, his top wide receiver showed glimpses of giving a weak effort at times, as those players sometimes do. So the blame's not totally on his shoulders for Pitt's season, but he didn't exactly put the team on his back and will them to wins, either. 

This is not the way I wanted to remember the 2010 Pitt Panthers, writing a lot of words comparing them to another dog of a team while fans and media play another fun round of Pin the Blame on the Panther. But I broke one of my own rules and bought too much into the hype entering the season. And that blame can only be pinned on me. This was clearly a team that was not ready for prime time - literally. Maybe the 49ers can draft more of them sometime down the road. It should be a seamless transition for most of them.

Mondesi's House: The Director's Cut (more links, commentary, etc): twitter.com/mondesishouse
Email: mondesishouse@gmail.com

18 comments:

Bababooey said...

I really don't know how the Pitt fans were able to buy into this hype that Pitt was going to be a BCS contender this year. Pitt vs. Utah..."if they win its easy sailing for the Big East title and a National Championship slot, blah blah blah." What happened? Oh..same 'ol Pitt. Pitt vs. Miami on national TV, embarrassed. Notre Dame, loss. Backyard Brawl = Pukefest. Obviously they can't hang with the big dogs when it counts.

I want to know where the media, the school, and the community gets off saying that Pitt has any chance of being a BCS caliber team, or a contender for that matter. Because its a complete JOKE! The talent level just does not stack up to the level they play against on Saturdays. At least against a respectable opponent.

Here is a post from Mark Madden from his yesterday's X column, "Sunseri's rookie mistakes, Greg Romeus' injuries, Jon Baldwin's inconsistency, Dion Lewis' sophomore jinx...the fact is, Pitt just isn't a very good football program. Everything bad is fruit of that tree."...That's hitting the nail on the head right there. And let's not forget Wannstedt's inept ability to inspire, because I think that team has quit on him.

I can't wait for TCU to come into the Big East and really show Pitt, WVU, UConn, etc. how to really contend for a national title. It's going to be like the old Miami days when they ruled the Big East.

BurressWithButterflywings said...

I don't believe any true Pitt fan could EVER seriously use the words National Championship contender when talking about their team.

Pitt had a lot to look forward to going into this season and a lot of talented players coming back from a 10 win team that was 1 point shy of being in a BCS game last season. I don't see why Pitt fans are not allowed to have aspirations for their team.

We get all of these fans from other schools, one in particular, who come on and rip anything and everything positive posted about Pitt.

Here is the story: Pitt choked. They always choke and they probably always will choke. But this same media that ranked Pitt 15th to start the season also had Penn State 14th. Despite what all of the kool-aid drinkers say, they didn't exactly have a blowout season either.

It's hard enough to be a Pitt fan and put up with exactly what Don said, disappointment and having your heart trounced on. We don't need to hear it every time they fall on their face from fans of other schools who aren't exactly setting the world on fire either. I, for one, don't go trolling around other sites to try and piss in other fans Wheaties every time they don't live up to expectations.

Preseason predictions, rankings, etc are all freaking worthless. How often does a team go #1 wire to wire? Rarely. How often do 4 #1 seeds make the final four? How often do the "experts" on ESPN correctly predict the Super Bowl matchup in August? Almost never.

It's the same everywhere you go and as a Pitt fan I am not ashamed that we want our teams to win and do well every single season and take any bit of media exposure that comes our way when you're in a market with 2 of the best Pro Sports teams in their respective leagues.

Honestly, I've said it before and I will say it again, save your venom for BlackShoeDiaries.

Bababooey said...

I wasn't trying to "spit venom" or rub salt in the wound. And I'm not trying to mention Penn State(they have their own problems). I'm just saying it is what it is, and Pitt has a lackluster program. One that fails to live up to expectations.

I for one, would love to see Pitt be as successful as they are in basketball but it just disappoints. I agree all the preseason predictions and all that hype is worthless, but by looking at the other teams and the consistency they show, you can tell where teams will end up by year's end. To be honest I would much rather not make a bowl game at all than to have 8 or 9 wins, and play in the "whatcha-ma-call-it.com bowl". But that might end up being the case.

Louis Lipps is my homeboy said...

I like non-Pitt fans who AFTER we failed come in here and laugh at us.

Very easy to do after the fact you sanctimonious jerks.

The fact is, you NEVER trust a football program replacing their offensive line and quarterback no matter what they're ranked preseason.

That contributed GREATLY to the early season failures, and set the tone for the rest of the year.

Not that Pitt's in the same league with Florida or Texas, but even those giants fell flat on their faces trying to replace QBs and offensive linemen, despite being ranked high going into the season.

I'm not letting Wannstedt off of the hook for his lack of imagination and discipline. The UConn loss and the WVU debacle were totally on him. There was NO excuse for that and he needs to be fired for those two games alone.

Trust me, there's talent on this team, it's just badly mismanaged.

People will look back in 5 years and see how many of these guys are in the NFL doing well and wonder "How the hell did Pitt lose the games they did back in 2010???"

I seem to recall the mighty Penn State falling on their faces this year too, but nobody's saying that their program is a failure that will never amount to anything again.

The talent is at Pitt, the coaching isn't.

Buddy said...

Wannestache is great at recruiting but as a coach....not so much.

Maybe we should just make him the A.D. instead?

We always seem to have the talent but I think the players tend to buy into the hipe just as much as we do. Then of course the season comes and they apparently feel they have already won without actually playing.

It brothers me to see year in and year out that the NFL combine comes up and you hear great things about Pitt players. Don't get me wrong I love seeing them suceed in the NFL but if they are the great how come Pitt just can't seem to put it together?

The Abiding Dude said...

Never thought Pitt had a chance at the National Championship...that is just absurd to even imagine.

I did have high hopes for the team, that were not entirely impossible for them to attain (1 or two loss season, but BigEast Champs with a legitimate shot at a BCS win).

They need a QB and if you didn't realize Sunseri was it by the New Hampshire game, you were foolish. I have NEVER seen a QB that stares down the receiver as much as this kid does. Hopefully the jitters are out of him and he returns next year, just ready to make me a believer...but doubtful.

New coaching changes need to be made...helluva recruiter Wanny is, but he just can't coach.

Eric said...

"helluva recruiter Wanny is"
He can recruit the hell out of those mediocre western PA players!

Joe Kumpf said...

I am a die hard Pitt fan, and no way did I ever think this team had a chance to compete for the national championship or even win the Big East this year.

Wanny can recruit but he cannot assemble a staff, coach (teach) or put together a comprehensive and imaginative game plan.

What you saw the last two years was about as good as it is going to get, Pitt is a mediocre football program and Wanny will never lead this program to a Big East Championship!

Wanny is a step down from Walt Harris, at least Harris was consisitant in taking them to bowls, Walt's teams went to six bowls in eight years. Remember Wanny was hired to take Pitt to the next level!

Wanny has been at Pitt for six seasons and has taken Pitt to two bowls with a chance for a bowl this year but this year is still up in the air, if they lose to UC they might stay home and it will be two bowls in six years!

He was a bad hire because he was not a consistent winner in the Pro ranks and his defensive claim to fame was being associated with Jimmy Johnson. Johnson was the genius behind the scenes, Wanny just made coffee and carried a clipboard doing what Johnson told him to do!

Wanny never takes responsibility for anything, time for him to go!

BURGH08 said...

Being a "BCS contender" in my view would be contending to win your BCS conference, which Pitt was until last Friday.

Although I think anything more than that was fringe comments that more of the Pitt haters seem to hang their hat on. I think it was realistic to think Pitt could challenge Utah (which they did), to beat Notre Dame (which they did the last two years), and to give Miami a good game at home (the same Miami team that lost to Virginia and USF last week).

I don't find Wanny the genius recruiter that others claim. He has strengths in getting defensive linemen and running backs, mixed reviews on offensive linemen, and yet to get (or at least develop) a quarterback. He clearly has and has had the talent to compete with BCS calibur schools.

The question is, and remains, what can he do with it on gameday. Or better yet, can he change his philosophy to the strengths of the talent?

0 for 2 if you ask me.

BurressWithButterflywings said...

Wanny brings in good skill position guys but has not done much @ QB or O-line.

Stull was a decent QB, a game manager, but you need a QB that you can rely on to win you games. Not a QB that you hope doesn't LOSE 'em for you.

There are a lot of shortcomings in the Pitt program. I am not certain if bringing in a new coach will solve anything or whether it will.

I guess we shall see how it plays out vs. UC satruday and if there is a Bowl Game. Then, we'll see if Myers is the guy at QB people have said he is.

AJ said...

Don... you forgot another part of the comparison.

Both teams were better in the 80s when they had higher payrolls.

Bababooey said...

I know its late, but what was the situation with Pat Bostick? I thought he was highly recruited out of Lancaster, and now he's an afterthought. Any reason why he hasn't been thought to replace Sunseri? Since he's starting as a Freshman, is the program going to continue to build around him for the years to come?

The Abiding Dude said...

Some sources claim that Bostick is content on being in the role he is and wants to take it to the next level as a coach?

There are rumors floating around that he is not mentally stable, after finding some things out about a girlfriend years ago. And I am serious.

I don't know what to believe, but he was "supposed" to be the man at QB but isn't for whatever reason.

BurressWithButterflywings said...

I have heard, from excellent sources, that Bostick is not all there mentally.

The Abiding Dude said...

I have as well Buress...

BURGH08 said...

Ditto on Bostick, but here is an example about the 'experts' that talk about recruiting.

He was highly decorated, a Super Prep All American, and incredible numbers. Ranked highly at his position in the state and in the country.

You watch him throw a ten yard out and you know why Stull and Sunseri were picked ahead of him.

Bababooey said...

Wow, didn't know Bostick turned into a headcase. I guess its in part to some tragic events taking place. Too bad.

Burgh, sometimes in life things happen and they stick with you. Apparently that unexpected trip he had to make home were some related issues to his psyche. Stull wasn't that great and Sunseri barely cuts it at this point. I think if you take away his mental state, Bostick lives up to those accolades. But we'll never know.

BURGH08 said...

All I know is that his physical attributes that made him the player he was didn't translate to college. For whatever reason, he isn't as physically gifted as Stull and Sunseri (although at times maybe he should have spelled him more this season).

That's not meant to be defending Stull or Sunseri in any way. It also makes me wary of all the talk surrounding Mike Meyers as a freshman.