Bobby Petrino has made a multitude of mistakes during his prolific career. Buying a motorcycle was mistake 1a. Mistake 1b was leaving Louisville for the Atlanta Falcons. Petrino may have an opportunity to rectify mistake. According to ESPN's Brett McMurphy, Petrino interviewed with athletic director Tom Jurich for the Cardinals opening on Tuesday.
The eclectic group of coaches to interview at Louisville includes Clemson offensive coordinator Chad Morris, Michigan State defensive coordinator Pat Narduzzi, Stanford defensive whiz Derek Mason, Charlie Strong's offensive coordinator Shawn Watson and Strong's defensive coordinator Vance Bedord. Three of those men are the finalists. So who are some of these men, you're asking?
Morris may not have the name recognition, but Dabo Swinney made him the nation's highest paid assistant coach for a reason and he’s the candidate that closely resembles Petrino’s skill set. Watson’s offense never really wowed anyone, although he did an extraordinary job developing Bridgewater. The others are defensive minds in the image of Strong.
Who are we kidding though? You're here to read about Petrino.
Naturally, opinions have varied about whether Petrino is too much of a wild card because of the bad press he's garnered in the seven tumultuous years since he left Louisville. Quitting on the Atlanta Falcons in the darkness of the night and taking the Arkansas job without informing his players garnered him a reputation as a disloyal, shrewd mercenary coach. Cheating on his wife crazy glued that label onto him as a man and turned him into a laughingstock. On the other hand, Louisville fans whining about Strong's conservative offense are lying if they say they never thought about seeing Petrino get his hands on Teddy Bridgewater for just one season.
Petrino would be returning to Louisville at just the right time. The school will be making its ACC football membership official in the fall, but to say that Petrino has baggage would be an understatement. Fortunately, Petrino won't even be the Louisville head coach on campus with the most humiliating infidelity story. Rick Pitino's salacious “Italian restaurant quickie with an assistant's wife card” trumps “karmic image of philandering husband's bruised face after the purchase of a mid-life crisis motorcycle he crashed with his mistress in tow” card in certain situations.
I don't make the rules, I just deal the cards. No pun intended.
However, after going through the ringer in the last two years, one gets the feeling that this could be just the time for Petrino to cease soiling his coaching oats and settle down. Howard Schnellenberger, John L. Smith, Petrino and Charlie Strong have all used the Cardinals program as a stool to reach for the next big job opening. Besides his proven track record as a head coach, that's where Petrino could differ from Jurich's other candidates.
The Cardinals and Petrino reunion could be a situation in which both realized they never knew what they had 'til it was gone and decide to make this thang last the second time.
Louisville was Petrino's first head coaching job and it remains the longest he's spent in one position. If Louisville or some other school does hire Petrino away this month, it means he'll have coached more games with the Atlanta Falcons than he did the Western Kentucky Hilltoppers. He even hinted at lessons learned from his tenure at Louisville during his introductory press conference as Western Kentucky head coach last December.
“We’ve always had a cardinal rule about knowing the difference between right and wrong, and I didn’t follow that,” Petrino said. “I chose the wrong avenue to go.”
Petrino is still just 52 years old, so there's a chance that he cleans up his rep and starts getting calls down the line from important people in high places, but by then, Louisville may be one of the big boys. This ain't the Big East anymore. He needs to just chill in one place for a while.
If Petrino's family could forgive him and take him back, presumably his first football family should do the same.