Thursday, December 13, 2007

Regarding Petrino ...

Tens of millions A billion billion pixels have been spent discussing the Bobby Petrino hire by the University of Arkansas, and even though I am chiming in on a subject that has been flogged mercilessly for the last two days, I really do want to say something about this guy. Why? Because I live in Louisville, Kentucky, and I know more than I ever wanted to know about Petrino.

There have been endless regurgitations of the fact that Bobby Petrino is nothing if not a nomadic mercenary. This something everyone has mentioned, and there are many people who have impugned Petrino's character. Unfortunately, few of those people have impugned his character enough.

Not only does Petrino lack a personality (unless, that is, you can call a perpetual state of anger a "personality"), he also lacks an identifiable soul. Looking into his eyes is like looking into the eyes of a reptile -- there is nothing there but killer instinct, with nothing even remotely resembling a moral compass to interfere with decisions. This man reminds me of the comic book character Galactus, except instead of devouring living planets, he devours all the good out of a program. When he moves on, he always leaves them worse than he found them no matter how much success he had while there. Programs that Petrino passes through have a foul residue left behind like you would expect from some kind of snail, tumescent with persistent nastiness that his successors must try to clean up. As Kragthorpe has found, it is not only disgusting, but it's hard to get rid of.

Petrino, as we have seen by his now-famous note to his Atlanta Falcon players, has nothing resembling courage of conviction or moral fiber anywhere in his "personality." Unctuousness is his stock-in-trade, and he isn't the least bit abashed about that. At Louisville, he was as despised for this characteristic as he was beloved for his success on the field.

I have only one story about him which I haven't seen related elsewhere lately, and that is about Kentucky offensive lineman Brad Durham. Petrino offered Durham a scholarship, which Durham accepted. It was a verbal, and a handshake deal, just like most football scholarships until signing day. Petrino then withdrew the scholarship offer and told Durham he wasn't good enough to play for Louisville. Of course, the Louisville press defended the act, claiming it was probably best for both parties, because trust them, if Petrino said he wasn't good enough, you could take it to the bank. Others further away from the problem saw it for what it was -- a harbinger of what was to come.

Of course, Kentucky was happy to take Durham off Louisville's hands, and he is now UK's second-string right tackle as a true freshman. Need I note that Kentucky beat Louisville this year? No? Well, I think you see where I'm going with this. This is truly despicable behavior in a coach, and the fact that he was defended for it by anyone is absolutely an indictment of every one of those defenders. It's understandable, if not desirable, that 17 and 18 year old kids break their word. It is downright unacceptable for a college coach to do so.

Bobby Petrino is a man who has no concept whatever of loyalty, or anything that might cause him to have to sacrifice something of his for the greater good. The man isn't just selfish, he is the living, breathing definition of ends-justify-the-means narcissism, almost to the point of mania. I don't characterize many people as "evil", but Petrino surely qualifies for consideration. Arkansas, I really do hope this works out, but trust me, the odds are against you. I know for sure that you have just made it very hard for anyone who knows this guy to pull for your team. As I say, good luck with that -- you are going to need it. I'll be there for you even though I am a fan of another school, but don't expect your new coach to be -- it's way too much to ask of him.

Now for a couple of reactions from around the SEC bloggers.

Arkansas bloggers are understandably elated, and I don't blame them, really -- Petrino, whatever his faults, is a successful football coach, and the Houston Nutt tenure had become a 3-ring circus. Razorback Expats concludes:

Even factoring in the cons, this is a great hire. Here at Razorback Expats HQ we’d been feeling down about the football team…with D-Mac and the other stars leaving and the uncertain coaching prospects for next year it was looking like a return to the “glory” days of the early 90s was inevitable. But no longer…we are officially very excited about the 2008 season. Go Hogs!
I understand your excitement, guys. I wish you luck, but most of all, I pray that there is something left of your program after he leaves in a few years.

The Hog Blogger is also ecstatic:

15 hours later and we’re still in shock. After dealing with ineptitude and downright clownery in the football program for the last 15 years, finally something happens that makes us think this program could be truly great.

For all our harping on Lane Kiffin for the past two weeks, leave it to Jeff Long and Chuck Neinas to go out and land a coach even better than the man who orchestrated one of the most prolific offenses in the history of college football. Petrino’s offense next year won’t be what it was in his final two years at Louisville, but it will be considerably better than what we and most other Hog fans were anticipating following the departure of Darren McFadden and Felix Jones.

As a Kentucky fan, perhaps no one can understand better than me how it feels to hire a coveted coach after you have grown tired of the old one. Been there. Done that. Got the T-shirt.

But here is what the Hog Blogger says to people like me, from the same post:

Now, to the jealous detractors warning Hog fans of Petrino’s indiscretions:

We. Do. Not. Care. Sure, Petrino may leave in 3-4 years. We have reasons to believe he won’t. Regardless, for the last few years it’s been very difficult to be 100% behind a program whose leader we couldn’t support. Now, that isn’t a problem. Going to games just got a whole lot more enjoyable. The offense is (eventually) going to be exciting, balanced, high-scoring, and a lot more fun to watch. That’s something we can get behind. After dealing with Nutt for 10 years, we’ll take a few years of actually having a professional (by that, we mean in the way he carries himself, not the fact that he coached in the NFL) coach who can actually string together a complete sentence and not make an idiot out of himself in almost every situation. If we don’t have to hear the words heart, special, winner, or fighter ever again, it will be too soon.

Well, he's right about one thing -- Petrino won't make an idiot out of himself, but I don't know if the Razorback fans will be proud of what they have left after he leaves. Euphoria is a wonderful thing, and far be it from me to rain on the Razorback's parade, but Petrino leaving is not the worst thing that can happen -- maybe it's the best. I know this man a lot better than you do. Be careful what you wish for.

Kyle King at Dawg Sports has thoughts about the Petrino hire:
Coach Petrino reportedly phoned in his resignation to the Atlanta Falcons. I am torn between the obvious joke ("Coach Petrino appears to have phoned in his entire N.F.L. coaching career!") and the observation that this guy is about as smarmy a self-interested weasel as you are liable to find anywhere. He left Louisville in the lurch when he bolted for the City Too Busy to Hate, then he cuts and runs before the Falcons' season is even done. (Officially, I mean. Technically, the Falcons' season has been done since August. Or 1966. Really, it's all in how you look at it.)
And continues with this:
How big a target does this guy have on his back from day one? Over the course of the last year, the Razorback fan base has developed such a reputation that Kentucky basketball fans look at the Arkansas faithful and say, "Those guys take this just a little too far!" Coach Petrino's honeymoon will be over by his third loss, if not before. Add to that the fact that the man he replaced (Houston Nutt) and the man he would have replaced had that man been fired (Tommy Tuberville) both coach in the Hogs' division, and it becomes clear that a lot of folks are going to be gunning for Coach Petrino. Games against Kentucky aren't liable to be a picnic for the former U. of L. coach, either.
Regarding Kentucky vs. Petrino, Kyle could not be more correct. I only wish Brooks was not such a professional, and had a Spurrier-like mean streak in him, but only for the Arkansas game. But alas.

Next, Third Saturday in Blogtober argues that Petrino wasn't unjustified in leaving Atlanta:
Before we slide into full argument mode, we need to get one thing clear: I do not fault Bobby Petrino — aka Pignocchio – for tossing aside the Big Peach for all its worms. When you enter a situation with one of the most exciting, entertaining (albeit underachieving) and marketable superstars in Michael Vick, and he ends up stabbing your franchise in the back, all bets — and contracts — are off. When superstars on the team publicly question your decision-making and personnel moves and vehemently attack you in the press, what can you do? The river of loyalty flows both ways.
I can't argue with that, because it is absolutely dead-on true. But this? I mean, seriously, the very least one can expect from a coach leaving is a speech, or a video, for God's sake. But a typewritten letter left in the locker room? I have no words, and that is saying something.

Finally, GeauxTigers at And The Valley Shook gets this one absolutely right:
I think even the vast majority of the Saban-hating LSU populus (of which we are not a member, we're part of the "Saban's still okay but Bama sucks anyway" populus) would have to agree that we now have an even more monumental prick in our division. Bobby Petrino, kick 'em while they're down why don't ya? I'm certain every big name recruit will take your word when you tell them that you'll be there to see them through all four (er, three) years of their careers. Anyway, Geaux Saints for destroying that rat bastard in his final game with the Falcons, and now as a Saints fan I have to say, as much as I hate the Falcons I can't help but feel sorry for the franchise's fans. I won't wish them success, not while we share the division, but I do wish 'em SOMETHING better ahead. Good riddance to bad rubbish, and I'll love LSU beating the tar outta the Hogs henceforth (although it might be difficult if Petrino actually does manage to get some talent with which to work). Anyway, head over to The Falcoholic for their grumblings over the whole ordeal.
I had to find somebody who would call Petrino a "rat bastard" -- I'm just too damn prim and proper for my own good, I guess.

UPDATE: Rick Bozich of the Louisville Courier-Journal nails it.