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In Year 5, Sam Pittman Must Treat Every Game Like His Last

Sam Pittman
© John David Mercer-USA TODAY Sports

Sam Pittman has gone through the cycle that nearly every coach in sports history has had to endure: Be hired, have success, be praised, start to falter and have their head immediately called for.

Now, in what will be his fifth season as the coach at the University of Arkansas, Pittman must treat every game like it could be the last time he prowls the sideline in Fayetteville.

In 2020, Pittman and the Razorbacks provided three Southeastern Conference victories, spoiling Razorback fans who had been made to sit through the disastrous, 4-18 tenure of Chad Morris. In 2021, Pittman took Arkansas to heights it hadn't seen in a decade, winning nine games, including the Outback Bowl. Arkansas won games against the likes of Texas, Texas A&M, LSU and Penn State to return the once-dead program to national relevance.

Then came 2022, a year where Arkansas started off 3-0 and looked to be even better. However, it seemed like a KJ Jefferson goal line fumble against Texas A&M dictated the script for the rest of the season, as Arkansas listlessly floundered to a 6-6 record. Barely even being able to close out a bowl game, Arkansas nearly allowed Kansas to come back from a 24-point deficit in the Liberty Bowl before winning in triple overtime.

Pittman's Fall From Grace

The way the Razorbacks ended 2022—kicking, screaming, and longing for consistent results on both sides of the ball—should've been taken as a sign for what turned out to be a disastrous 2023 season. All of a sudden, Pittman's favor with Arkansas' fanbase fell apart quicker than his offensive line.

Sam Pittman
© Nelson Chenault-USA TODAY Sports

The 2023 season came to be known as the season where Arkansas wasted a year of watching the best quarterback in school history, Jefferson, get destroyed in the back field on nearly every snap. Not even a dramatic, overtime victory against Florida in "The Swamp" could get Pittman back into good graces of fans, as blowout home losses to Auburn and Missouri quickly brought forth flashbacks to the harrowing, short-lived Morris era that most Razorback fans willingly choose to forget.

Pittman's Future at Arkansas

Entering his fifth season as coach, Pittman's mantra for 2024 should be a simple one—treat every day, snap, quarter and game as if it could be your last as the football coach at Arkansas.

Treat every day at the school you loved as a boy growing up as not just a job you are obligated to fulfill the duties of, but as an opportunity to once again prove why Arkansas can be an elite program when the stars align.

Sam Pittman
© Nelson Chenault-USA TODAY Sports

One more embarrassing loss—whether it come against Pine Bluff, UAB or a conference opponent—could be the final nail in the coffin for a tenure that has brought forth mixed results. While that might mean a promotion for offensive coordinator Bobby Petrino, it would be unwise for fans to root for Pittman's downfall in order to receive a boost of nostalgia.

Pittman Has Nothing to Lose

For Pittman, everything has come together in a symbolic way for a do-or-die season. In a year he must treat as a fresh start, he has new faces at offensive coordinator, quarterback, running back and various other places of the field. In a new-look SEC, he gets a chance to renew a once-legendary rivalry with Texas in what should be a packed Razorback stadium.

For a coach with everything to lose, he must treat 2024 as if he has nothing to lose. Questionable, meek strategy calls have been the downfall of several tight games under Pittman's watch, and sometimes it seems as if the former offensive line coach is afraid to pull the trigger in a situation where he must be aggressive.

The thing is, there can be no more tepidity or anxiety in Year 5 of the Pittman era. In a sink-or-swim season for a man who clearly loves his job as much as any coach in the country, it's time to treat every game like the national championship and swing for the fences.

Welcome to the hot seat, Pittman. Let's see if you can turn down the thermostat.


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