Arkansas hires themselves no coach

Vince Lombardi would be rolling in his grave if he knew how a man of his great profession has acted in recent days. Heck, even less legendary coaching figures who have failed in the NFL after jumping from the college ranks before returning back to their passion of coaching student-athletes — Dennis Erickson, Pete Carroll and Nick Saban — must be shaking their heads in regards to how their colleague, Bobby Petrino, left the Atlanta Falcons.

One compatriot who has been already reached  for comment, the Baltimore Ravens’ Brian Billick, was none too impressed.

“For my profession, I’m always very disappointed when things like this happen,” Billick said. “Kind of leave it at that. This profession needs to handle itself better at times.”

The Falcons, mired in a miserable 3-10 season, filled with the misfortune of committing to a star quarterback Michael Vick by trading away a solid three-year back-up QB in Matt Schuab, only to see Vick indicted on dog fighting charges, subsequently suspended indefinitely by the league and then on Monday, sentenced to 23 months in prison. On that same day, the Falcons went out after watching their QB receive his jail sentence and took another shellacking — this time courtesy of the New Orleans Saints 34-14.

This season wasn’t supposed to be like this for Atlanta. Owner Arthur Blank fired previous coach Jim Mora Jr.  after a losing season felt he replaced him with the perfect man for the job in Petrino, another losing season certainly not to be repeated. Yet here they are in week 15 of the NFL season, left high and dry with a 3-10 record by a coach who they signed to a 5 year, multi-million dollar contract.

“The best way to describe the way we feel,” Blank said, “is betrayed.”

And Blank has no reason not to feel betrayed. He sat down and talked with the man he hired 11 months ago to turn the franchise around and addressed the concerns Petrino had hours before the team’s Monday night game with the Saints. According to Blank, they shook hands in parting and Petrino assured him “you have a head coach.”

Twenty-four hours later, Petrino tendered his resignation and hopped on a private jet to Arkansas to be announced as the school’s new head coach. All he left behind was a 78 word letter for his players and a front office feeling around for that knife in their back.

This isn’t an argument against Petrino leaving Atlanta for a college coaching offer. This is an indictment over Petrino as a man and how he acted in his departure.

To lie point blank to an owner who entrusted you with his franchise with such high regard that he gave you a five year, multi-million dollar contract, is complete cowardice. To not even face the players that you led into battle, that you asked for sacrifice and commitment to a team that you were hired to lead for five years is completely unprofessional and disrespectful.

Falcons safety Lawyer Milloy is right that the NFL isn’t for everybody. Apparently there are some people that are better suited for coaching kids than men. Petrino wasn’t able to treat his players like the adults they were nor garner their respect, something incredibly vital to the job.

On Tuesday, December 11th of 2007, the Arkansas Razorbacks hired themselves no coach, they hired a fraud.

A coach is supposed to teach their players about hardwork, dedication, sacrifice, commitment and above all, teamwork. How can any future player under Petrino trust anything that comes out of his mouth from this point forward?

Commitment? I guess that doesn’t apply to a five year contract.

Sacrifice? He’ll gladly sacrifice your career to benefit his own.

Teamwork? Only if the definition of team involves him and his family. A family that he certainly does not consider his current team to be a part of.

The current players at Arkansas inherit a person (we can’t call him a man) who has no backbone, no allegiance save to himself and certainly no integrity.

One Arkansas alums has already voiced concern over the hire. Atlanta rookie DE Jamal Anderson, when asked how he would describe the coach to his alma mater, said, “One word: Disloyal.” Another former player under Petrino, Kansas City Chiefs running back Kolby Smith (at Louisville) said in reference to his former coach’s actions: “He snuck out in the middle of the night like the Baltimore Colts did.”

Lombardi would certainly not approve.

According to Lombardi, “Individual commitment to a group effort — that is what makes a team work, a company work, a society work, a civilization work.”

I certainly don’t see his new team “working.”

I would hazard a guess that Petrino does not know the first thing about commitment.  How long will his latest “commitment” as head coach of the Arkansas Razorbacks football team, last? Hopefully, for his own credibility, longer than 11 months. If I were a diehard Razorbacks fan, I would be happy to see it last only 11 days.

What did Arkansas hire?

A coward, yes. A coach? Most definitely not.

A word of warning to Petrino: Once you learn to quit, it becomes a habit.

Oh, that was Lombardi too.


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