The most disappointing and revealing aspect of Pat Narduzzi’s latest Bombastic Blast of Blowhard isn’t that he chose to take unprovoked shots at another one of his departed offensive coordinators or that he insulted the Big Ten in general and Michigan State in particular for no good reason.
It’s that he buried the lede.
“I think we’ve built a program in Pittsburgh,” Narduzzi insisted last week during the ACC Football Kickoff in Charlotte. “It’s not just a one-year splash, Kenny (Pickett) did it all and nobody else did anything.”
There was also this:
“We’d like to win a national championship. We want to be in the playoffs. That’s where we want to be.”
That should have been the story.
The headlines should have been about all the heavy lifting Narduzzi has done at Pitt to establish a program that’s clearly on the rise, a program that last season was about more than just an eventual first-round pick at QB and a Biletnikoff Award-winning wide receiver.
And the narrative should be about how last season’s ACC Championship was a mere step, not a destination, for the Panthers.
Instead, what resonated was grade school-level whining and crying over a game that was played more than six months ago, and a ridiculous contention that Pitt would repeatedly win a conference that’s perceived by many to be superior to the one in which Pitt resides.
It’s not the aggressiveness that betrayed Narduzzi in this instance.
The way he shot from the lip as the defensive coordinator at Michigan State was part of what earned Narduzzi a cult-like devotion among Spartans fans. His players, too, always seemed to love the attitude and the rough edges.
In 2015, the time was right for Pitt to hire just such a guy.
But Narduzzi is a head coach now, a program CEO.
He needs to better pick his spots (maybe there’s a better platform than a podcast with a car salesman, for starters).
And when doing so it would help to maintain at least a grasp of reality.
Had Narduzzi stayed in East Lansing for just one more season, he’d have been with the Spartans when they ventured into Columbus, Ohio on Nov. 21, 2015 and beat No. 2 Ohio State on the way to the College Football Playoff. The Spartans did so with their No. 2 and No. 3 QBs filling in for injured starter Connor Cook, proof positive it’s actually possible to win big games
against quality opposition when challenged because of what you happen to lack on a given Saturday.
It’s also easier to pull such things off when you don’t blow a double-digit lead in the fourth quarter.
Pickett wouldn’t have gotten to Payton Thorne, covered Jayden Reed or contained Connor Heyward in the Peach Bowl.
Nick Patti wouldn’t have, either.
And this was a Spartans team that was playing without running back Kenneth Walker III, a player every bit as valuable to MSU as Pickett was for Pitt.
As for the conference Michigan State represents, the last time Pitt played a Big Ten team prior to the Peach Bowl was in 2019 at Penn State. The Panthers lost that one, 17-10 (Pickett played). Part of Narduzzi’s master plan that afternoon was to kick a field goal on fourth-and-goal from the 1-yard line with less than five minutes remaining in regulation.
Should Pitt ever get the opportunity to actually play in the Big Ten, that’s probably not the way to “win it every year.”
Same goes for losing 44-41 at home with Pickett to Western Michigan, a team that had lost to eventual Big Ten-champion Michigan, 47-14, before engaging the Panthers last September.
To quote Narduzzi, “What are we talking about here?”
What we should be talking about is what a phenomenal season Pitt had last year, the entertaining and winning brand of football Pitt has taken to playing under Narduzzi and where Pitt might be headed from here.
Since we’re not, we probably ought to re-examine whether Narduzzi has the perspective and polish to navigate the next step he envisions.
He’s entering his eighth season on Pitt’s sideline, and that’s a claim no Pitt head football coach has been able to make since Walt Harris (1997-2004; prior to Harris it was Jock Sutherland, 1924-32).
But to finish the job he’ll need to rise above his nature on occasion.
It also wouldn’t hurt to grasp an appreciation of when to take the high road.
No matter how hard that apparently is to find from Oakland