Take 5: Kyler, KD, Cardinals


(Robert Gauthier/Los Angeles Times/TNS)

Los Angeles Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers rolls out to throw a 4-yard touchdown pass to Keenan Allen in the third quarter against the Arizona Cardinals on Nov. 25.

By The Pitt News Staff

Our Pitt News staff had some things to rant about this week, from Pittsburgh sports figures who irk them — that’s right, Shawn Watson and Bob Nutting — to who should take home hardware during awards season.

Shawn Watson needs to go

As the 2018 Pitt football season winds down, it’s hard to ignore the opportunities this team left untouched on the table. Despite the defense making strides and improving as the season progressed, the offense has been inconsistent at best and downright anemic at worst, ranking 91st out of 120 teams nationally with a paltry 368.8 average yards per game. If Pat Narduzzi and the athletic administration are serious about the team’s success, the first step is to fire offensive coordinator Shawn Watson.

When Watson was hired at Pitt in 2017, he was heralded as a quarterback guru, primarily because of his experience developing Teddy Bridgewater at Louisville. But Watson has not shown the same kind of ability with sophomore QB Kenny Pickett.

Pickett proved last year that he has the talent, physical tools and the moxie to succeed, but the play-calling has greatly hindered his development. The Panthers leaned on a run game that only found success by bullying smaller opponents at the line of scrimmage and hoping their big-play backs could break away for a long run. They would then force Pickett to throw deep to the sidelines without mixing in short or intermediate passes over the middle.
The lack of creativity meant that Pitt was taken advantage of by better opponents and often embarrassed when the stage was the biggest. Pitt’s offense has too much talent to be this bad, and a better coordinator could lead to the bright future that Pitt fans yearn for.

— Stephen Thompson, Staff Writer

The Sooner the Better

The Heisman Trophy presentation will happen this Saturday and there’s a whirlwind of debate on who should take home the prestigious award. The three Heisman finalists are all quarterbacks who had incredible seasons and led their respective teams to success. The finalists consist of Alabama’s Tua Tagovailoa, Oklahoma’s Kyler Murray and Ohio State’s Dwayne Haskins.

These three players tore through their opposition with ease while posting gaudy numbers. Haskin led the FBS in passing yards (4,580) and passing touchdowns (47). Tagovailoa had the best touchdown-to-interception ratio with 37 touchdowns to 4 interceptions. Murray was arguably the best dual-threat quarterback in all of college football, passing for 40 touchdowns and rushing for 11.

Tagovailoa seemed to have the Heisman locked up for this season until his atrocious performance in the SEC Championship against Georgia Saturday, creating an opportunity for either Haskins or Murray to snatch it. From a team-performance perspective, Tagovailoa should win the award because he is the leader of the No. 1 team in the nation. From a stat perspective, Haskins should win the award since he led the major passing categories in the FBS.

But the Heisman simply goes to the best overall player in college football for that season and that player in 2018 is Murray. He has the ability to single-handedly win games for the Sooners and he’s easily the most dynamic player in all of college football. That’s why he’ll be hoisting up the Heisman Trophy this Saturday.

— Tyler Moran, Staff Writer

NFL keeps reffing it up

The Los Angeles Chargers defeated the Pittsburgh Steelers 33-30 Sunday night in an exciting, come-from-behind victory. It was a battle between two of the league’s better teams and had big implications for both squads. If you’re a Steelers fan, then the blown 16-point lead particularly stung due to a variety of missed and questionable calls.

The first atrocious missed call of the night came with just more than a minute left in the first quarter. Pittsburgh held a 13-0 lead when LA quarterback Philip Rivers launched the ball downfield and found receiver Travis Benjamin for a 46-yard touchdown. But it was obvious that the play should have been blown dead by the referees from the start. Right tackle Sam Tevi moved before the snap, meaning LA should have been charged with a 5-yard false-start penalty. Somehow the refs missed the call and the touchdown stood.

It’s absurd that we’re in 2018 and missed calls like this aren’t reviewable. Sure, no one wants games bogged down with countless reviews of potential penalties. But false starts and offsides penalties are pretty cut-and-dried — either a player moves before the ball was snapped or they don’t. It would take mere seconds to look at the game film and correct the call. The refs already review scoring plays anyway, so why not make sure the touchdown wasn’t achieved by questionable means? The rules should change so a missed false start or offsides can be corrected.

Fans don’t want games taken over by officiating. But they also don’t want games won in the wrong fashion. Change the rules. End of discussion.

— Nick Carlisano, Staff Writer

Cardinals stock up on talent

The St. Louis Cardinals continue to show everyone why they are one of MLB’s best franchises.

They’ve had just two losing seasons over the past 20 years while making the playoffs 12 times and winning the World Series twice. St. Louis has uncharacteristically missed the playoffs for the past three seasons, but it recently added a major weapon to its arsenal in All-Star first baseman Paul Goldschmidt.

It’s no surprise that the Cardinals would look to beef up their lineup, as the National League Central is one of baseball’s most competitive divisions. But Goldschmidt presents a whole new element, as the first baseman is an absolute terror in the batter’s box, capable of hitting at least 20 home runs per year while carrying a 0.297 lifetime batting average.

As a disgruntled Pirates fan, this invokes envy. The NL Central is a tough division, and whenever three of your rivals are willing to spend valuable resources to improve their ball clubs, Pirates owner Bob Nutting’s stinginess becomes much more apparent.

The Cardinals have a winning culture because they make the necessary moves to compete for division titles and World Series. The Pirates could learn a thing or two by emulating St. Louis, and it starts from the top.

Who knows? Maybe the Pirates will break the bank and trade for a star player who can push them over the top in the near future.

— Sami Abu-Obaid, Staff Writer

KD for MVP?

Not only should Kevin Durant’s name be mentioned when discussing the 2018 NBA MVP race, but he should one of the leading candidates.

Regardless of your personal attitude toward the two-time Finals MVP, you can’t deny that Durant has been absolutely spectacular this season, especially without Warriors stars Stephen Curry and Draymond Green. Durant is averaging 30 points, a career-high 6.2 assists and 7.7 rebounds per game this year.

Many critics will point to the Warriors’ mediocre record, with Curry and Green injured, making Durant look less valuable. But those losses are certainly not Durant’s fault, who has performed nearly perfect recently, including a three-game stretch of 44, 49 and 51 points. That 51-point game came against Kawhi Leonard, one of the best defenders in the league.

Golden State will almost certainly end up winning its third-straight Finals and Durant — with his uncanny ability to make jumpers over defenders as if they don’t exist — will once again be crucial and should be highly considered to win his second career MVP award.

— Alex Lehmbeck, Staff Writer