We probably should have seen this coming at the end of last year. We were lulled into a false sense of security after facing 2 joke opponents in our first two games. We still thought there was some hope following the Michigan State loss. Uconn and Virginia made us forget all of the hope we once had a mere 3 weeks ago.
Many people, including Jason Jones are calling for Wanny to be unemployed following this season. I however am not. I am not saying he should not be fired because he is doing a poor job, I don't think he should be fired because he is under contract for 2 more years. In that 2 years he's going to be bringing in a huge paycheck. Realistically, Pitt does not have the greatest support from a donation/athletics standpoint. We aren't the type of program that can fire a coach with 2 years left and bring in someone new. If things don't change next year, I believe you will see a Walt situation where either Mustache Jones will step down following the 2008 season, or Pitt will let him finish up his contract through 2009 without offering him an extension.
The only hope that Pitt fans who want Wannstedt to leave have is if he somehow gets offered the AD job (I don't buy that he is a serious candidate) and resigns as coach. So just for arguments sake, lets just say that Wanny will be back next year. Here are the 6 quick hits that should be made to improve the team.
1. Paul Dunn must go. This move is more crucial to our success than letting Cav and Rhoads go. Under Walt, we always felt our lines were sub-par and Wanny promised to improve them. Well, our defensive line is playing very well (kudos to Greg Gattuso), but the offensive line is horrendous. Otah has played solid in his time here and CJ Davis has been a serviceable guard. However, Vangas, Thomas, Villani, and McGlynn have all been disappointments during the Dunn era. John Simonitis was the only former Panther under this squad who really played better than expected under Dunn. Dunn did have some impressive stops at Kentucky, Kansas State, and Syracuse, but here at Pitt he has been a failure. Most of us have no idea if it is 100% Dunn's fault or if there are other factors (the head coach for example) that are preventing him from succeeding at Pitt. Dunn has had 3 years to work with Dom Williams, John Bachman, Chase Clowser, and Craig Bokor (when he has been on the OL) yet none of them were even expected to be a factor this year. Bachman is now starting a guard replacing Joe Thomas. The last two seasons have been very clear to us that we really need as much talent and depth on the line that we can get. With Pinkston out for the year, and Lumpy redshirting, also due to injury, it is very evident that Dunn hasn't proved his worth here at Pitt. With this season virtually lost, we should really see what these other guys can do. Next week, here is my proposed starting OL. LT - Otah, LG - Davis, C - Chris Vangas, RG - John Bachman, RT - Dom Williams. If ANY of these guys are not playing well then pull them. Yes, i'm talking about all of them, even Jeff Otah. Bokor, Clowser, Karabin and Corson are all on this team for a reason, let them get a chance to play so we can see what they can do in game situations.
2. Matt Cavanaugh - The play calling is stale, the lineups don't make sense, and the guy has never been an effective offensive coordinator. I think he could be one hell of a quarterbacks coach, but OC is not his specialty. We lost Walt's pass happy offense to replace it with a Paterno-esque conservative run first and run only offense. In all actuality, I would recommend that Cavanaugh step down immediately or else I'd fire him on spot. We have several assistant coaches on this team that are capable of running the offense for the rest of the season. Baltimore fans and Pitt fans can attest that Cavanaugh is very bad at what he does. It's just a shame he doesn't play Grambling every week or have a 2000 Raven's defense to carry him every year. I would also look at trying to bring in the coordinator from TCU, Boise State, or Tulsa to replace him. They always find creative ways to use their talent to put points on the board. Cavanaugh on the other hand is just sticking with the same failing playbook he has been using for years, a playbook that is not built for this team.
3. Paul Rhoads - After the MSU game I was willing to give him a pass. He took a team that was scored on at will and proved that we could shut down a big 10 team that destroyed us the year before. Instead, he let a team that he shut down put a ton of points up and proved that the only reason we were in the game last year vs UConn was because Tyler Palko and Derek Kinder saved us. He has had too many chances here. He will be able to find another job relatively easy and is somehow still on the potential head coach radar. Hopefully he finds somewhere else to go very soon so that we can get a real defensive coordinator in here. Open up a full search and find a coach that can teach and knows how to design defensive schemes based upon the talent at hand. Find a coach who isn't afraid to use the nickle or dime package. Find a coach that knows how to call a BLITZ!! Under Rhoads i'm not sure if I can ever remember seeing a blitz. The linebackers only rush when they are shadowing the qb or rb. I can't tell you the last time I saw a DB blitz.
4. Keep Brian Angelchio. He has done a very good job and deserves to remain on the new (and hopefully improved) staff. Buches, Strong, Pelusi, and most importantly Byham have all played great working under Angelchio. Let him have more of a say in the offense and give him a chance to let his tight ends not named Strong to catch the ball.
5. Keep Chris Ball. Getting him from Alabama was a steal, thank you Nick Saban. Ball has had Alabama in the top 5 twice in passing defense over the last 4 years. He is a great coach, teacher, and mentor. I really fear for the development of Aaron Berry, Ricky Gary, Dom Dicicco, Buddy Jackson, Elijah Fields, and others if he is not retained on this staff.
6. Do not fire Buddy Morris. People are up in arms about the amount of injuries we have had this year. What people are failing to see is that most of these injuries are unrelated and occurred at all different times. Gus went down at heinz field with an acl, Collier got hit with a helmet, Pinkston's shoulder came at MSU, Stull was hit by an opponent and had his thumb bent backwards, and the only two related injuries are Kinder and Jacobson both with leg injuries at the practice fields. That isn't related to Buddy Morris, that is related to a streak of bad luck. Pitt has played well in the second half this season, something we did not do well last year.
Pitt, if you follows those 6 Quick Hits, we will be in a much better situation come 2008.
~ The One and Only ~