A lot has been said about Pitt Panthers’ quarterback Tino Sunseri over the years and despite putting together a solid 2012 campaign, for the most part Pitt fans still hate the fact that Sunseri is still under center for the Panthers.
Much of that has to do with his up-and-down performances, but a lot more of the issue is the fact that Sunseri has failed to improve both on and off the field in three years as the Pitt starter.
For me, the problem with Sunseri doesn’t have much to do with his performance. There are plenty of worse Division I quarterbacks currently under center right now. My problem with Sunseri is that he still doesn’t do the things a quarterback is supposed to do, both on and off the field.
The final straw on his career as a Panther came following Pitt’s triple overtime loss to Notre Dame when the senior signal-caller told reporters that Pitt lost the game because they missed a field goal in overtime.
“We missed a field goal. That’s why we lost the game,” Sunseri said. “It came down to a special teams play. We didn’t make the play. Give credit to Notre Dame for being able to finish it off.”
Was that true? Yes, but we all know that one play doesn’t decide the outcome of a football game. Even so, a quarterback doesn’t say that. A leader definitely doesn’t say that. It’s the quarterback’s responsibility to take the blame on his shoulders. That’s why he’s the quarterback. He’s supposed to be a leader. Sunseri doesn’t even qualify as a leader.
Much of the reason that Sunseri comes under a lot of heat as the Pitt quarterback is that he has said some stupid things over the years, but this latest comment shows what he’s all about.
It’s a shame that the Panthers had to bring Sunseri out to face the media for a second time after the Notre Dame game just to do some damage control, but by then the damage had already been done.
Much was made last year about Todd Graham constantly throwing Sunseri under the bus, but given the opportunity to learn, Sunseri naturally didn’t and did the same thing to his teammates.
But could Pitt have lost because Sunseri had his worst game of the season, throwing for only 164 yards? Could the fact that the Sunseri-led offense converted only 1-of-14 third downs on the night? Could it even be that the defense gave up 522 yards and a late touchdown and two-point conversion?
The answer to those questions are yes, yes and yes.
A quarterback is supposed to lead his team to wins but in three years as a starter, Sunseri has never once led Pitt to a win when they trailed by any margin the fourth quarter.
In three years, he also has never won a big game. Sure, Sunseri has shown that he can beat the Temple’s of the world, but in a big game all he has shown is that he can’t handle the pressure. That is a problem Sunseri hasn’t fixed in three years and it already cost the team a game at Syracuse this season.
In Saturday’s fourth quarter alone, Sunseri dropped back to pass 11 times and threw for only 18 yards, was sacked twice and fumbled once (he recovered). In overtime he missed on both of his pass attempts and was sacked once.
Had Sunseri looked in the mirror, he should have realized that he was as big a part of the problem as kicker Kevin Harper.
Sure Harper’s miss decided the outcome, but it should have never come to that. Maybe if Sunseri makes a couple of plays down the stretch it would have never come to that.
Even if everyone knows that the missed field goal proved costly, the quarterback still has to step up and put things on his shoulders.
That’s a way to earn respect in and out of the clubhouse.
One week ago I covered a Duquesne game in which their comeback fell short and the Dukes lost to Monmouth 28-27. Even though he played a whale of a game, their senior quarterback Sean Patterson looked at me and said “I didn’t make enough plays for us to win.”
That’s called being a leader.
I know Sunseri was frustrated when he made his comments, but leaders don’t allow that to affect them.
There’s a reason why Sunseri hasn’t gained any respect as the Pitt quarterback over the past three years.
One day maybe Sunseri will look in the mirror and figure it out.
Photo Credit: South Bend Tribune