Atlanta Falcon’s owner Arthur Blank made a big media splash this week with his hiring of University of Louisville Coach Bobby Petrino. Petrino brings a successful college record with him to the Falcons. However, I don’t think his college success will translate to the NFL.
Steve Spurrier is one of college’s best coaches. However, he was below average when it came to the NFL. Nick Saban had some success with the Dolphins but not enough for him to want to stick around for more than a couple of seasons.
While Petrino has an amazing record at Louisville (32-6), we need to put his success into perspective.
First, he has only 3 years of experience as a college head coach. And, while he has a winning record, has never coached his team to a national title. In comparison, Spurrier coached for 9 years and had one national title and Saban had 8 years experience and also had a national title. Even Butch Davis, who went 24-32 as the Cleveland Browns head coach from 2001-2004 was more successful at the college level than Petrino.
Petrino does have some experience in the NFL as an assistant coach, which experts will be quick to tell you make a difference. However, he only served as an offensive coordinator for one season. During that season, 2001, the Jaguars finished 6-10 and were ranked in the bottom half of the league for total offense. Granted, his college offenses have been explosive. But, NFL defenses tend to be faster and better than college defenses so you’re not going to see him putting up 50 plus points a game in the NFL.
Not helping his cause is having Michael Vick as his quarterback. Vick, while an exciting player, is not an accurate passer. He is the reason former coach Jim Mora and his predecessor Dan Reeves are no longer employed and I don’t think a coach will have a successful career with him as the starting quarterback.
There are rumors that Blank would be willing to trade Vick to another team if Petrino feels he is holding the Falcons back. But, that means having to develop another starter and will likely mean him struggling for a season or two.
I think Petrino has the potential to be a successful NFL coach some day. But, his timing with this decision will set him back. He should have stayed at the college level for a few more years and then made the jump to a proven program with a successful quarterback.
Because he didn’t, I think you’ll see Petrino returning to college football within the next 2-3 years.