Created on Thursday, 21 February 2013 04:33 Written by Dustin Gabler / Senior Staff Writer
For the Pitt football team, defensive coordinator is the second-most important coaching position. And earlier this week, head coach Paul Chryst decided to promote an unproven individual to lead the defense.
After 65 days without a defensive coordinator, Chryst announced on Monday that secondary coach Matt House would be promoted to the top defensive job. The job opened on Dec. 14 when Dave Huxtable left the program to take over the same job at North Carolina State.
Because of Chryst’s exclusive offensive background, the defensive coordinator should be the most knowledgeable defensive coach on the team. While I won’t judge his knowledge, House’s resumé certainly lacks experience.
House has only coached one game as a defensive coordinator at any level of football. That game, Pitt’s 38-17 BBVA Compass Bowl loss to Ole Miss in January, was hardly a shining moment in House’s coaching career.
In his time before coming to Pitt in 2012, House coached at a variety of colleges in different defensive roles before serving four years in the NFL — most notably, a three-year stint as the defensive quality control for the St. Louis Rams.
So, what is a “quality control”? At first, it sounds like a huge blemish on House’s resumé, but it may be the shining star of it.
In a New York Times article, Greg Bishop breaks down the job. Basically, they’re underpaid and overworked coaches who see more film than most head coaches and know the team’s system better than those who teach it to the players.
While a defensive coordinator does help coach players, his main duty is to call plays on Saturdays. Even though House has no experience calling plays, his time as a quality control coach in the NFL might be second best to on-the-job experience.
But what was Coach Chryst doing for 64 days if he was just going to hire internally?
“There was a window after the Bowl where we kind of, in earnest, interviewed guys for the coordinators job, and then once we did that, we had to kind of finish out the recruiting,” Chryst said. “And as that was finishing up, we started compiling a list of guys that would be good fits in the assistant role.”
Even so, the job sat open for more than another month, raising the hopes of many Pitt fans for a bigger name, perhaps an NFL assistant coach.
Teryl Austin, a Pitt graduate and current Baltimore Ravens secondary coach, and Jim Tomsula, a Pittsburgh native and current San Francisco 49ers defensive line coach, were both rumored to be in consideration. There has been no proof that they were interviewed or even considered.
No recruits this year mentioned that not having a defensive coordinator led them against choosing Pitt, so it’s hard to say that Chryst’s approach failed.
How much stock should fans put in the defense’s poor showing against Ole Miss under the leadership of House?
Not too much. After Mike Gottfried was fired 1989, Paul Hackett served as the Pitt interim head coach for the John Hancock Bowl, now the Sun Bowl, and led the Panthers to a 31-28 victory over Texas A&M. Hackett was then hired as the new head coach and went 13-20-1 in three years before being fired, himself. His hiring is still considered one of the worst personnel decisions in Pitt’s history.
That’s just one of the many examples of a one-game scenario not speaking to actual coaching ability.
But the next job opening just can’t take 65 days to fill.
Pitt fans are a special bunch — a group that worries about the amount of invitations sent for a junior day, the value of an on-campus stadium and a nostalgic love of a logo created in the 1970s.
After enduring the coaching carousel of Dave Wannstedt to Phil Bennett to Mike Haywood to Todd Graham to Keith Patterson to Paul Chryst, a little stability at all coaching positions on the football team would be nice.