By: Chris Gates

PITTSBURGH (93-7 The FAN) — Pitt is a lousy football team right now.

Yes, it’s true. There’s no denying it. But let’s pump the brakes for a second and take a look at the situation.

Let’s remembers that Todd Graham is in his first year as head coach. Don’t forget about five season-ending injuries — four on offense — including one to the best running back in the country, Ray Graham.

Be cognizant of the fact that this is a new system in all phases with players recruited to play something drastically different.

And lastly, recognize how many schools in this area would die to be Pitt right now. Yes, some would kill to be just a lousy football team.

At Pitt, fans aren’t raked through the mud with the football team over scandals. No players have received illegal benifits like at Ohio State. No coaches have committed unspeakable acts like the child molestation allegations and subsequent cover up at Penn State.

Both of those programs were forced to fire their head coaches and have to rebuild. Both schools will lose players to transfers and be denied the ability to compete for championships and post-season accolades in the future because of embarrassing, irresponsible acts by members of each team.

Pitt doesn’t have a coach that gets kicked out of bars and casinos, nor does it have a program that is under probation like the one an hour south in Morgantown.

No. Rather, Pitt has players and a coaching staff that just aren’t good enough yet.

The key word there is “yet.”

I know it’s asking a lot, but Pitt fans need some perspective. We’re not even one full year into Graham’s head coaching tenure and fans and the media are up in arms.

It’s fine to want championships and hope for a ton of success, but it’s also important to realize the situation at hand. If you can’t it clouds your judgement.

For instance, this fanbase was nearly unanimous in wanting Dave Wannstedt fired. What he was doing wasn’t working and he was given more than enough time to win a Big East championship, which never happened.

Now some suggest Graham should dumb his offense down and adopt a style more reminiscent of Wannstedt. Some think it will better serve the team in the win-loss column.

I don’t get it. It’s hypocritical.

Another example rests with quarterback Tino Sunseri. Pitt fans were convinced he was a bad quarterback last year. He has continued to be a largely ineffective quarterback this season.

But when Graham comes out and speaks in disapproval, or when he’s seen scolding Sunseri on the sideline, fans flood the phone lines on “Sports Radio 93-7 The Fan” and say Graham is too harsh and his coaching tactics aren’t correct.

Once again, it’s hypocritical. And talk about cloudy.

I can only think that there is a segment of Pitt fans that have run out of excuses after watching this program NEVER win an outright Big East title. There’s no other way to justify such thinking.

It’s more important to focus on where this program is going rather than where it’s been. The past 30 years of mediocrity would drive anyone completely mad.

Pitt is in great shape, regardless of how bleak things may look right now with a 5-6 team that will likely not play in a bowl.

The much criticized Steve Pederson has gotten the Panthers into the ACC, a conference that has no questions regarding survival for the future like the Big East. He even made the quick decision to fire Mike Haywood after an alleged domestic abuse incident Jan. 1 — a quick decision that Ohio State and Penn State were too gutless to make.

The program will play in higher-profile games, make more money and subject fans to fewer noon starts and weekday night games — just a few perks to start. Pitt won’t have to travel some 900 miles for its closest away game like WVU in the Big 12. It also doesn’t have to enter the ACC under the worst of circumstances like Syracuse, which is in the midst of a child molestation case of its own.

Graham has done some great work on the recruiting trail. He somehow pieced together a sizeable class last year with just weeks left before national signing day. And this year he’s received committments from quarterback of the future, Chad Voytik, and running back of the future, Rushel Shell.

The victories on the field haven’t come at the rate we’d all like. And nobody can guarantee that will ever happen.

But nobody can guarantee it won’t, either. So it’s best to realize how good of shape Pitt is in right now. Nothing is holding the program back aside of execution, and that’s something that can be fixed.

Other schools in the area would die to have fixable problems. They would die to be able to write their own future.

I’ve said it a million times and I’ll say it once again. Few fanbases in the country overvalue their football program like Pitt fans.

It’s not the late 1970s or early 1980s. It hasn’t been for over three decades, and the program can’t be resurrected in one season.

Fans and the media need to pump the brakes, take a step back and realize it’s not armageddon.

It’s Pitt football, and it’s in pretty damn good shape.

Chris Gates | Area 4-1-Zoo Blog

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