Paul Petrino, Paul Haynes & John L Smith Unnecessarily Open Old Wounds To Sporting News

Paul Petrino, shown here blaming somebody else for something. - US PRESSWIRE

After spending all of the 2012 season praising the players for not giving up despite extraordinarily bad circumstances, these three guys decide now's a great time to throw the players and Jeff Long under the bus.

I'm too upset about this to organize a truly coherent essay, so I thought I'd just take the quotes from the coaches in The Sporting News story and say what I think in response each of them. And, yes, I am fully aware that all the coaches involved likely said many more things that didn't make the Sporting News article and they were possibly less inflammatory. But they all know exactly what they said here. This is exactly what they avoided saying throughout 2012.

Here's the first quote from Paul Petrino:

I don’t think an A.D. should ever hire somebody for 10 months," Paul Petrino said. "Players know what that means; they understand that. It hurts the power of the head coach and the assistants....They should’ve hired (Smith) for two years or hired someone else for two years, or just (expletive)-canned all of us."

Please. The players wanted this staff back. They begged Jeff Long to keep this staff in tact. They wanted you to lead them to a great season. They believed in you. The whole reason Long hired John L Smith was to keep you guys around. Players cheered and some tweeted about how happy they were when they found out John L Smith was going to be the coach and all of you were going to stay. They were ready to go.

So many starters were seniors. You think they gave a damn about how long the contract was? They're all going to be gone anyway. Hell, they were the only ones guaranteed to be gone. None of the coaches were. One of you got to keep his job.

Also, as if every interim coach leads a team to collapse. It's just a complete coincidence that two coaches on that staff, Haynes and Taver Johnson (who somehow kept his job despite working with these other guys) went through a year with an interim coach at Ohio State immediately before coming to Arkansas? And how did they do? They went 6-6 and made it to a bowl game. Oh, and they actually lost players in addition to their coach. Their Heisman candidate quarterback quit the team. Four other players were suspended for much of the beginning of the year, and they still managed to get to a freaking bowl.

Even if they had a plan to get rid of us no matter what, which I think they did, you say two years and I think the kids dig in," Haynes said. "When you give 10 months, everyone is on egg shells."

This is complete bullshit. There is not a coach in America guaranteed a job next year. Not one. Not Saban. Not Meyer. And definitely not an assistant coach. Every game is a competition for a job.

I'm sure all the seniors y'all throw under the bus here were really concerned about that second year. They cared about the coaches so little that at the season's high point, the blowout against Kentucky, they gave John L Smith the game ball. The players could have kept it, but they didn't. They gave it to the coach with a 10 month contract.


Said Smith, now the coach at Division II Fort Lewis College: "You look back and, yeah, a little more time would’ve been nice. Does that give you more teeth? Yes."

Well, okay, Smith definitely would have enjoyed a little more time. He really needed the money. Money does buy teeth.

"It was also hard for John L. with assistants," Petrino said, "maybe even with me. And I love John; outside of my brother and my dad, that’s the person in football I love the most. … I don’t necessarily know if he was ever able to be himself all the way."

Yeah, John L not being himself all the way was a problem. Arkansas fans never truly got the full John L Smith experience. What we needed was more John L Smith. We needed more punting on 4th and shorts. More field goal attempts when we're down 7 points. More crazy press conferences and sideline interviews. We didn't SMILE! enough.

There were some seniors who kind of hung it up, to be honest with you," Petrino said. "They were going to worry about their futures more than that team. A couple seniors said they were hurt and I don’t know if they really were."

Look, I'll be the first to admit that it looked like some players quit during the November losses. But you know what? It's the coaches' job to prevent that from happening. The team still had a shot at bowl eligibility until the Mississippi State loss. If they felt like they had nothing to play for, that's on you. How's about explaining to them that they'd be asked about injuries by NFL scouts? That scouts would be able to tell if they're not playing hard? That scouts would ask coaches about toughness?

If a kid’s hurt, he’s hurt. Could some of the guys that were hurt have played with those injuries and continued on? That’s up to those guys," Smith said. But I think some of the players, some of the older guys, said, ‘Why should I continue on?’ They were looking ahead to the NFL."

You're right, why should players try hard for a coach go on who clearly quit himself? Everybody saw John L Smith out of the huddle and away from the decision making at times during those last games. And the point remains, the coaches are the ones responsible for preparing these players for the NFL. They trusted you. If players gave up, coaches let them give up.

How about some credit for a guy like Chris Gragg, who got hurt in the Rutgers game, and was so excited about coming back for the Ole Miss game that he tweeted (in ALL CAPS remind you) his announcement that he'd be ready to play? Only to get hurt, again, in that game against the Rebels. Or Cobi Hamilton battling through double-teams all year to set most all the school receiving records? Or Tyler Wilson? Or Dennis Johnson? Or the many lineman or defensive seniors who played all year?

"I really don’t fault them, to be honest with you," Haynes said. "I don’t fault the kids for thinking that way. Again, there was no stability there. Again, it goes back to, ‘Who am I playing for?’ Once they can’t say, ‘We’re trying to save the coaches’ jobs’—if they’re just playing for the university, sometimes kids feel the university let them down."

Thank you, Paul, for excusing the players for mailing it in.

Coaches have the ability to establish narratives for a team. To create something for players to play for and play against. Nolan Richardson famously went with the "us against the world" motif and it usually worked. So let me ask you, did you really tell the players, or knowingly allow them to think they were playing to save y'alls jobs? Is that what you came up with?

If that's the case, I would have quit on y'all after the ULM game. Cause the coaches blew that. Coaches didn't put players in the right position to win. How's about admitting to that? With Tyler Wilson out and two pretty fresh All-SEC caliber senior running backs set to run the ball, how many run plays did Paul Petrino call in the second half of that game? If Jeff Long had just given the coaches 2-year contracts, I'm sure they would have coached that game more smartly. I mean, hell, who can make sound coaching decisions making six figures on a 10-month contract? These coaches certainly weren't capable of that level of abstract thought.

Sure, it's easy enough for fans to contact players directly in this day and age, and disparaging them after a bad game is horrendous, but it's not an excuse for you guys to let them think the university let them down. How did the university let them down? By keeping you guys around? That's the only mistake I can see the university leveling on the players. Bobby Petrino let them down. The coaches he left behind left them down. Jeff Long screwed up by keeping all of you around with John L Smith, but even that made some semblance of sense at the time. The fans still showed up. Maybe not quite as many at the end of the year and maybe they didn't cheer quite as loudly, but they were there. Even if they were watching on TV or listening on the radio or on twitter or a message board or one of the Expats GameThreads, fans were here.

Perhaps when Tyler Wilson infamously talked to the media after Alabama and said "we" and "people" gave up and quit and didn't do their jobs, he was talking about coaches as much if not more so than other players.

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Doc Harper is the managing editor of Arkansas Expats and is a regular contributor to College Football News and Sporting Life Arkansas. You canemail him here and follow him on Twitter.

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