Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Cignetti Gone to Pitt

Cal offensive coordinators: disappearing like Spinal Tap drummers.

It's official. Cignetti will be announced as The Wannstache's new OC at Pitt today.

The message boards are ranting about how Tedford drives away all his OCs because he won't give them control. I don't see it with this one (or with Dunbar's resignation either, for that matter). Cignetti comes from a famous football family in Pittsburgh, where his father and grandfather (I believe) are well known football names. He was a grad assistant at Pitt, played at IUP and then coached under his father at IUP. He has roots and family there. This is a nice chance for him to go back home.

That said, even Tedford is the best guy in the world to work under as an OC, it is undeniable that no one will ever have 100% control of the offense. Cignetti is getting that at Pitt. Throw in the family connection, and it's hard to argue with his decision.

Don't take my word for it. Here are quotes from Cignetti today to Jim McGill at Bear Insider (who always seems to get these interviews first):

"First off, I'd like to thank Coach Tedford for how he handled the situation," said Cignetti. "He was unbelievable. What he said to me was, 'Look Frank. I don't want to lose you but I know what Pittsburgh means to you and your family. I want you to do what's best for you and your family and if there's anything I can do to help you either way, please let me know.' He was very supportive of me if I stayed or went and I'd like to thank Coach for everything he's done in the past year. It was a tremendous experience for myself and my family. I couldn't have asked anything more of the University of California and Coach Tedford in the year I spent there."

There was a recent rumor that there perhaps was some dissatisfaction on Cignetti's part at Cal but if that was the case, the former Bear OC did all he could to dispel that notion.

"No, I really like Jeff Tedford both as a football coach and as a friend and as a person," said Cignetti. We were very happy at Cal. It could not have been any better for us there. That's what makes this hard, because of the relationships not only with Jeff but with the entire staff. We worked well together. We had success together. The university is second to none. You look at the academics, the environment, the new high performance center on the way, but, once again, we're talking about the ability to go home to Pittsburgh and to a university that also has academic and athletic excellence.

"Obviously, when I got the initial phone call from the University of Pittsburgh, there was an interest because of location. It's my hometown, it's where my parents live, where my grandparents, aunts and uncles and all my cousins live. So that sparked the initial interest. But you're not going to leave a great job unless you feel like the other job is really great, too. So as I got a chance to meet with and get to know Coach Wannstadt and his staff, spending time with the athletic director and chancellor, spending time at the facility, there's no doubt in my mind that going to the University of Pittsburgh was the right thing for the Cignetti's, both personally and professionally."

As to pay and responsibilities, every indication is that Cignetti's job and pay will be similarly structured at Pitt.

"The responsibilities will be the same," said Cignetti. "I'm going to be the offensive coordinator and I'm going to coach the quarterbacks, just like at Cal. It came down to making a decision about what was best professionally and personally for the family and as we sat down and looked at both those areas, we felt like it was an opportunity we couldn't pass up.

"I'll say this and I mean this: I told Coach Tedford that there's not another job in the country that I would've left for other than the University of Pittsburgh."

In terms of what this means for the team this year, I think it could present problems.

First off, Riley needs some continuity. Longshore got to study under Rodgers and got schooled in the traditional Tedford QB mold for two years before he played a full season. Riley never really had that. Riley's true freshman year was under Dunbar. Then Dunbar left, and it was Daft in 2007, who never played under Tedford. Then Cignetti came in. Now it's going to be someone new.

Riley's mechanics were already an issue, and now they are going to get messed with again. Cignetti changed some things, for example the lifting of the back foot in the follow through. If you watch Rodgers, Ayoob's or Longshore's 2006 highlights, they did not do that. But Longshore and Riley both did that this season. Might seem minor, but for a young guy who is trying to get comfortable with the offense, another methodology is going to muddy the water a bit.

Second, Cignetti changed the pass protection schemes. Now that will have to change again, which means one more potential execution problem.

Third, if someone new comes in, they are going to have to integrate what they do with what Tedford's offense does. That is going to take time, and there are going to be hiccups.

Finally, if Tedford ends up calling the plays and game planning, it is going to take away from his management of the team and the big picture, which is his job as a head coach.

A lot of people were down on Cignetti's playcalling this year. I disagree. I thought he called very good games. The problem was execution. In that regard, I think this loss is going to hurt a bit more than people realize. Plus, the table is set for a nice run this year, getting USC early, having all conference talent at d-line and cornerback, a heisman candidate runningback, and returning starters at the skill positions on offense.



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