Wow. Bobby Petrino is your new Arkansas Razorbacks football coach. It's not just "sources" saying it anymore...they had a press conference and everything. (Do. Not. Mention. Dana Altman.) Although the reality of this still hasn't quite sunk in yet, to say that this hire exceeds our expectations would certainly be a massive understatement.
And we admit it: we were a little off base on this one. We derided Jeff Long and definitively announced that there was no way that an NFL coach would wind up at Arkansas (thus proving, as we've said before, that we really know nothing). Big-time props are in order for Long, Chuck Neinas and everyone else who made this happen - this is a major coup for the Hogs.
Along with the rest of the Razorback blogosphere, we'll certainly have plenty more Petrino coverage in the coming days. In the meantime, here's a quick list of our early pros & cons (we always strive to present the complete picture, you know) of the new Head Hog:
* He wanted the job. That's not quite as pathetic as it sounds...he actually took pay cut of well over $1 million/year to come to Arkansas. And after a depressing few weeks in which it seemed like every coach in America was using us to get a raise, the fact that a legitimate A-lister got on that Razorback Foundation plane is reason enough to celebrate.
* He wins. Ok, not in Atlanta, but he probably didn't count on Michael Vick becoming a felon either. Before that, he compiled a 41-9 record with two top 10 finishes in four years at Louisville. Winning 80% of your games might be impossible in the murderer's row of the SEC, but we still think he'll do quite well with the Razorbacks.
* He knows a thing or two about offense. New York Giants head coach Tom Coughlin called him "the best play-caller I've ever been around" (Petrino was offensive coordinator under Coughlin in Jacksonville) and Steve Spurrier is a noted admirer. He has a distinguished record dating back to the 80s, but really established his reputation as an offensive mastermind (and developer of QBs) at Louisville. Even a detractor like Pat Forde of ESPN.com calls him "the best offensive game-planner and tactician since Steve Spurrier's heyday at Florida." Think Casey Dick is feeling pretty good about life right now?
* Everybody else wanted him, we got him. Petrino has been one of the hottest names on the coaching rumor mill over the past few years, having been linked to jobs at Auburn, LSU and the Oakland Raiders, among other places. His winding up at Arkansas is probably mainly a matter of great timing (he gave the NFL a shot, hated it and wanted out all at the same time our job was becoming open and the LSU and Auburn jobs were closing up), but it's still pretty sweet to be able to rub this in the noses of the many Hog-haters out there.
* His hiring will unite a fractured Razorback fan base. Frankly, Arkansas fans needed something they could agree on (besides the fact that D-Mac deserved the Heisman). For now, at least, Petrino has the support of all but the most hardened cynics (and/or Malzahn supporters) in Hogland.
* He's used to banners flying overhead. On his first day at practice with the Falcons, he was greeted with a banner flying above that read "New team name? Dog Killers?" If that's not great preparation for the Arkansas job, we don't know what is.
The flip side:
* He was not well-liked by the Falcons team. He lost the team early on in the season and never got them back...the Falcons' locker room has been in open revolt for weeks now. And a league source told SI's Peter King that Petrino was "one of the worst communicators in pro sports.'' While we're in an optimistic mood, we'll chalk it up to a matter of style...coaching a bunch of college kids is certainly a different animal than dealing with a team full of millionaires with their own agendas and egos.
* The Bobby Petrino era in Atlanta did not end well. He went 3-10 and then quit on the team mid-season. We don't like the quitting part on principle (although it will certainly help with our recruiting schedule), but at least you can argue that he was dealt an unexpectedly tough hand in Atlanta. Does this foreshadow a bad ending to his time with the Hogs? Maybe, but why worry about that now...if you have a chance to go out with the prettiest girl in school, you take it without dwelling on the inevitable breakup.
* This is not a long-term situation. The down side to hiring any big name is that, if he wins, you'll be dealing with rumors of him jumping ship to a bigger program every off-season. Petrino, in particular, is known for having very happy feet. But you know what? If he wins, we don't care. Having your coach potentially hired away because he's too successful is one of those good kinds of problems.
* Success is not guaranteed. Nick Saban and Steve Spurrier haven't exactly been setting the world on fire since returning to the SEC after their failed stints in the pros. Nonetheless, we're more comfortable rolling the dice with Petrino than the buffet of ACC coaches who turned us down.
Our final analysis:
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!