Pitt hires Matt Canada as new offensive coordinator
January 8, 2016 6:50 PM
Matt Canada spent the last three years as the offensive coordinator at North Carolina State.
By Sam Werner / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
One year ago, when Pat Narduzzi was hired as Pitt’s head coach, he had one person in mind to be his offensive coordinator: Matt Canada.
It didn’t work out at the time, as Canada was working at North Carolina State and, as Narduzzi put it, “had a really good contract.”
But now, a year later, Narduzzi has his man.
Canada officially was hired Friday as Pitt’s new offensive coordinator . He replaces Jim Chaney, who recently left for the same position at Georgia after one season with the Panthers.
“When Chaney left, I said we’re going to get a guy as good or better, and I think we’ve done that,” Narduzzi said. “Mission accomplished there.”
Canada also will coach Pitt’s quarterbacks. Tim Salem, who served as interim offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach for the Military Bowl, will return to his position as tight ends coach.
Canada joins Pitt after being fired by North Carolina State last week to end a three-year stint with the Wolfpack. Over that span, his offense averaged 28.9 points per game and improved every season. This year, the Wolfpack scored 33.2 points per game, third best in the ACC.
Canada admitted that he was “surprised” by his dismissal from the Wolfpack’s staff, but declined to elaborate.
Narduzzi, meanwhile, said he had reached out to Canada before his firing was official. The two are longtime friends, having worked together as assistants at Northern Illinois from 2000-02.
Narduzzi said the two kept in touch long after that, often texting or calling to congratulate one another on victories and following each other’s careers from afar.
“You know, even though guys are unavailable sometimes, they’re still friends, so you call and check in with them and see how they’re doing,” Narduzzi said.
Once it became clear that Canada wouldn’t be returning to Raleigh, Narduzzi made his move, adding the offensive coordinator he couldn’t land a year earlier.
“[A year ago,] I felt like that girlfriend maybe that wasn’t good enough for him at the time,” Narduzzi said. “He had a pretty good contract.
“Things happen for a reason.”
Terms of Canada’s contract were not disclosed, but he was earning a base salary of $560,000 at North Carolina State on a contract that had two years left. By terms of that contract, if he makes less than that at Pitt, the Wolfpack will have to make up the difference for those two years.
Canada didn’t mince words about what made this job appealing to him, either. He talked about Pitt’s football tradition and the players the Panthers have returning next year, but the deciding factor was the head coach.
“The main attraction for me is Pat Narduzzi, period,” Canada said. “That is the attraction.”
As for which direction the offense is going to go under Canada, he made it clear that his first priority will be establishing a running game. The Wolfpack ran on 56.6 percent of their offensive plays this season, which was only slightly less than Pitt (59.7 percent).
Still, with the return of reigning ACC offensive rookie of the year Qadree Ollison and — potentially — James Conner, Canada plans to lean on the running game.
“I think, obviously, there’s a toughness with coach Narduzzi’s program,” Canada said. “We’re going to run the football. I think that’s something everybody wants to do. We believe in that and we’re going to do that every chance we can.”
Canada admitted he was not entirely familiar with Pitt’s offensive personnel, having only seen a few games films in passing during his time with the Wolfpack. He mentioned several times, though, that the Panthers will have a veteran offensive line next season.
Four of five starters will return from this past season, and former starter Jaryd Jones-Smith is due back after missing this season due to a knee injury.
“You win up front,” he said. “The guys up front win whether you want to throw it, run it or anything in between. If you’ve got good linemen, you’ve got a chance to win, and we do.”
The details of the offense will be sorted out over time, but Narduzzi said he would give Canada the same kind of autonomy Chaney enjoyed this past season as far as play-calling and game-planning.
“The worst thing a head coach can do is meddle in somebody else’s business,” Narduzzi said. “I’m certainly going to let Matt do his thing.”
Sam Werner: email@example.com and Twitter @SWernerPG
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