Sweaty Men Endeavors

The sports blog with the slightly gay name

Monday, January 08, 2007

A Nick Saban in training?

This might be an unfair comparison to make, but when I heard the news last night that the Atlanta Falcons had hired Louisville's Bobby Petrino to be their new head coach, the first thing thought I had was, "Another Nick Saban in the making."

No, he hasn't moved around quite as much as Saban. At least not yet. I realize that coaching careers are typically nomadic, as you jump from staff to staff, trying to build your resume. But now that Petrino's made the jump from a college head coaching job to the NFL, let's see what happens.

If there's been a job opening at a school in a major conference or in the NFL, Petrino's probably been mentioned as a candidate. (Of course, this doesn't mean he actually expressed interest in the job.)

Ole Miss? Notre Dame? Florida? Washington? LSU? A particular highlight was when the Auburn athletic department snuck behind Tommy Tuberville's back to offer Petrino his job back in 2003. And last year, Al Davis offered Petrino the Oakland Raiders job (more than once), which he turned down.

If you signed up to play for Petrino at Louisville, how does it feel when your coach is attached to another job every other week? Is that just a part of doing business these days? Or do you go to a school with the hope and expectation that the man who convinced you to play for him will be there throughout your college career?

Meanwhile, the Cardinals athletic department did everything it could, burying Petrino in extra money and contract years, to get their coach to stay. Just last summer, he signed a 10-year, $25-million extension with the school. And this year, Louisville looked like a program that could (along with the Big East conference) possibly establish a presence in college football for years to come. (Would John L. Smith have left Louisville for Michigan State if he knew what might happen four years later?)

So much for that. You have to pounce while you're hot, right? Nick Saban did the same thing when he left both MSU and LSU. No one sticks around for 15-20 years anymore. Petrino has obviously kept an eye on the NFL since working in Jacksonville as an offensive coordinator, so when Atlanta offered virtually the same amount of money with half the years, he figured it was time to bolt.

I'm kind of surprised the Falcons didn't hire Ken Whisenhunt or Cam Cameron. Those guys have shown they're creative enough to do something with Michael Vick. But maybe Whisenhunt's staying with the Steelers, and Cameron could be busy with the Chargers for up to another month. And Petrino is known for innovative and explosive offenses. Anyway, they seem pretty happy with the hire in Atlanta.

However, given the recent success rate of college coaches going to the NFL, if you're an athletic director, keeping Petrino on your list might not be a bad idea. He might be available in the next couple of years, after deciding that the pros just aren't suited for him.

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