Thursday, December 22, 2011

Pitt would like Paul Chryst to stick around plz

It took Pitt about half as long to settle on a replacement for Todd Graham as it took ASU to hire Todd Graham, which is impressive since ASU actually knew a coaching search would be necessary and Pitt obviously didn't. The replacement: Paul Chryst (not Mario Cristobal despite the bajillion reports that claimed Cristobal was the favorite).

So ... Paul Chryst. He's interviewed for roughly 483 jobs in the past year and finally got one. The reason he's interviewed for 483 jobs: 483 places have been interested in hiring him (or at least talking to him) because of the pretty awesome things he's been doing at Wisconsin for the last seven years and Oregon State for the two years before that. A hypothetical and uber-subjective list of the best offensive coordinators in the country would probably include Chryst somewhere near the top.

I'm going straight to the numbers here:

2011 Wisconsin: 15th in yardage, fourth in scoring
2010 Wisconsin: 21st in yardage, sixth in scoring
2009 Wisconsin: 30th in yardage, 25th in scoring
2008 Wisconsin: 47th in yardage, 37th in scoring
2007 Wisconsin: 46th in yardage, 49th in scoring
2006 Wisconsin: 35th in yardage, 26th in scoring
2005 Wisconsin: 45th in yardage, 14th in scoring
2004 Oregon State: 54th in yardage, 49th in scoring
2003 Oregon State: 10th in yardage, 22nd in scoring

There's nothing mind-blowing there, but keep in mind that he hasn't had a single below-average season at any point and has been consistently very good with a pro-style-ish offense at two places with (typically) less-than-elite talent in major conferences. There's no question about quality of competition or ability to duplicate success or whatever. Interestingly, Oregon State was actually extremely pass-heavy back in 2004, when Derek Anderson went ham on the Pac-10; Chryst apparently got Alvarized upon moving to Wisconsin but has been no less successful seeing as how Wisconsin's running game has finished no lower than 37th since Chryst arrived and no lower than 21st in any of the past five years.

That probably seems like the norm because Ron Dayne was a truck, but the Wisconsin offense wasn't that great when Chryst got there: The total yardage rankings the previous three years were (chronologically) 83rd, 41st and 93rd. The offense has been at least as good as it was in the best of those seasons every year since. So yeah. Chryst can definitely run an offense regardless of what he's given.

That's good news for Pitt since this year was ... ummm ... not good (except for Ray Graham's half a season). Todd Graham's supposedly awesome passing game was not awesome with Calvin Magee calling plays and Tino Sunseri throwing ducks, and Sunseri might not be back anyway (even Chryst doesn't know for sure). Ray Graham will definitely be back, though, which is swell since he was on his way to 1,500 yards before blowing out his knee and is probably one of the top 10-ish running backs in the country if/when healthy. I could see him putting up ginormous numbers next year with Chryst running the show and presumably still lacking a good quarterback.

As for the bigger picture, I wouldn't count on a Wisconsin-style offense every year since the Oregon State numbers paint a different picture, but I am counting on a pro-style-type thing even if the next Dan Marino shows up at some point in the near future. Chryst isn't Todd Graham; he also isn't Dave Wannstedt since his offenses have a pulse. The question is what he'll do on defense since D-coordinator Keith Patterson is expected to head to ASU after the BBDFKDSFJSA Compass Bowl. The unemployed pickings are gettin' slim since it's almost Christmas (although Mike Stoops is still out there).

Speaking of employment, this tidbit is pretty unsurprising:
Athletic director Steve Pederson said (Chryst's) contract includes a "very significant" buyout.
I mentioned this late last week but will repeat it here for amusement's sake: Chryst is Pitt's sixth head coach in the last 12 months! And that includes three permanent hires!!! Think about that and then laugh a little bit. It doesn't seem unreasonable to have a head coach stick around for more than a couple weeks. Chryst is only 46 and could presumably be there for many years if he wins.

Pitt's a tough place to figure out. The stadium experience blows because of the off-campus thing with Heinz Field, but Western Pennsylvania is loaded with talent, the facilities are pretty new and there's enough money and tradition that Pitt seems like (at least on the surface) one of the more desirable locales in the Big East. Winning doesn't seem impossible ... it's just that nobody's really done it since Jackie Sherrill inherited the Johnny Majors juggernaut. The 2009 team that went 9-3 and then won the Sun Bowl was probably the best in like 25 years (the '04 team played in the Fiesta Bowl but went 8-4, which lol Big East). So Pitt is basically ASU Northeast. It's also worth noting that Pitt is en route to the ACC, where 8-4 records probably won't be sufficient for BCS bids. The overall quality of competition is going up a notch.

I don't have much doubt that Chryst is an excellent playcaller; being an excellent coach is a little different. There are a lot of variables that are currently unknowable, specifically on defense and in recruiting (Chryst is listed as lead recruiter for one of Wisconsin's commits this year). I do think being the polar opposite of Todd Graham will be a benefit for the obvious reason that Todd Graham is The Devil right now. Here's Chryst's amusing and un-coach-like answer to ESPN's relatively vague "who are you" question:
The good news is I’m someone that doesn't talk about himself as much as try to represent who he is with what he does.
That's the entire response. He's a lifelong Upper Midwesterner and therefore not a smooth-talker. I'm pretty sure the fans will like him after the whole Graham debacle; they'll love him if he can turn Pitt into the regular ACC contender it should probably be.


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