Cortland native Dan Pitcher: From local star athlete to coaching in the NFL (Exclusive Interview)

(Photo from

Cortland native Dan Pitcher is moving up in the NFL, as he has recently been promoted to quarterback coach for the Cincinnati Bengals. Earlier this week, we were able to secure an interview with him.

“I’m very excited!” said Pitcher. “It has been a goal of mine to get to a position like this. I’m grateful that the people here have the confidence to put me in this role.” 

Pitcher’s story began in Cortland, playing quarterback at Cortland Jr/Sr high school, and then at SUNY Cortland from 2008-2011. 

While completing grad school, Pitcher coached the Red Dragons’ wide receivers for the 2012 spring semester. Upon finishing grad school, Pitcher was hired as a scouting assistant for the Indianapolis Colts. In 2014, he was promoted to ‘pro scout.’

You may be asking yourself, how was Pitcher able to go straight into the league after college? Well, Pitcher gives a lot of credit to Paul Alexander, a SUNY Cortland graduate who was the offensive line coach for the Bengals at the time Pitcher met him. 

“I spent time with him in Skaneateles lake,” said Pitcher. “He had a home there and needed help with manual labor around his house. So myself, my brother, and a couple of teammates would go up there and help him in the summer. We developed a relationship that way. When I got done playing, he took it upon himself to help me get some opportunities to meet people, and eventually got my foot in the door at Indianapolis.” 

According to Pitcher, he was doing crossover work with the coaching staff during his final year at Indianapolis. He then applied for a quality control role in Cincinnati (as Alexander helped him get an interview for the Bengals), and was offered the job. 

Pitcher has been working with the Bengals since 2016. He transitioned from being an offensive assistant coach with a focus on wide receivers, to being an assistant quarterback coach, to quarterback coach.

With his recent promotion, Pitcher will be completing different tasks. These tasks include preparing the meeting room everyday, having video clips ready for players, having a list and materials ready to have all the coaching points for what the team will be doing in that particular week, and more. 

”During the season, it's a very regimented week-to-week schedule, where you are working to get prepared to play the next game,” said Pitcher. “You know what you need to accomplish each day, so that at the end of the week you can check off all of the boxes and say you’re ready to play the game.”

“During the off-season, the focus shifts a little bit,” added Pitcher. “You're evaluating yourself as a team on what you did well, and what you will need to improve on. You’re also significantly involved in the scouting process for the upcoming draft on players that you may want to add to your roster and free agents that may become available.”

This year the Bengals will have the first overall pick of the draft, taking place on April 23rd. 

“It’s going to be a chance for us to add somebody that can really help us win football games, and that is exciting,” said Pitcher. “Every year, you get excited about the draft for a chance to get better. Certainly when you’re picking as high as we are this year, you feel even more so.”

With Pitcher having so much success out of college, we asked him to give our young local athletes advice on how to make it to the professional leagues as a player and as a coach or staff member. 

If you are really dedicated in wanting to continue your playing career, the odds are stacked against you regardless of what college you are coming from; but it’s not impossible. Every year, there are guys in Division 2 & 3, Junior College, and all of those places that get an opportunity to play at this level. It’s really just about being completely dedicated, both physically and mentally, and of course have the ability. If you do, you will have a chance and you just have to take advantage of the opportunity when it presents itself.

In terms of coaching, you have to embrace the parts of the game that translate into coaching as you’re playing. For me, it was diving into film study and the game planning process. It was really embracing the teaching element, especially when you find yourself in a leadership position on a team like I did. You teach your teammates; and in order to teach, you have to make sure that you know. That puts the urgency on yourself to dive in and have confidence to communicate to other people.