The man who built Louisville football with one foot out the door has finally left, accepting a job with the Atlanta Falcons. Bobby Petrino has interviewed for various jobs for years, most famously the Auburn job when Auburn’s president and boosters tried to replace Tommy Tuberville.
Petrino will get $24 million over 5 years, or a little more than Nick Saban will get each year from Alabama. It is roughly on par with Steve Spurrier’s contract with the Redskins, and interestingly enough, he also leaves after winning the Orange Bowl, which was also Spurrier’s last game before going to Washington.
Petrino says he believes it’s the best job in the NFL, which had better be right for someone who a year ago signed a 10-year contract extension and announced he was there for the long haul. The Cardinals players are understandably in shock. If there was any doubt that Brian Brohm and Michael Bush were going to the NFL, I think it’s pretty much gone now.
According to ESPN’s writeup, the leading candidate to replace him at Louisville is Tulsa’s coach Steve Kragthorpe, which makes sense since he took Tulsa from being a terrible team to one of the better mid-majors. *I also expect Jimbo Fisher’s name will be linked to the job since he is no longer a candidate for the offensive coordinator job at both FSU and Alabama. He apparently wanted more time than those programs wanted to give him (because of recruiting) because he might replace Chan Gailey at Georgia Tech should the Miami Dolphins hire Gailey away. Personally, I think the Louisville job is a better job at this point, so if the Louisville leadership is not set on having someone with head coaching experience, Fisher might have a shot. (Note: see update below)
So will Petrino be any good? His only NFL experience is two years as quarterbacks coach and one year as offensive coordinator during three of the four worst years in Jacksonville Jaguars history. Granted, that was the fault of management, who was gutting the roster to get under the salary cap. However, he doesn’t have a long history or anything else to suggest that he’ll be good as an NFL coach. At the same time, the Falcons need a great quarterbacks coach as much as anything else, and Petrino fits that bill. He is creative enough to figure out a way to turn Mike Vick into some kind of Vince Young clone, or something even better.
To be honest, Petrino strikes me as a classic college coach and not NFL material. I could be wrong, but I doubt it. He’ll flame out in 3 or 4 years probably, then return to college, perhaps to replace Saban at Alabama when he takes off for whatever else his heart desires. It’s worth a shot for the Falcons since there aren’t a whole lot of appealing coaches with NFL head-coaching experience available right now, but it’s still an awfully big risk.
*UPDATE: Fisher is going to FSU after all, and Louiville appears near to having Kragthorpe. Well, that didn’t take long. It appears that ol’ Jimbo would rather take his chances with succeeding Bobby Bowden than waiting on the unlikely (I think) premise that the Dolphins would hire Chan Gailey.