Why Bobby Petrino for Texas A&M Makes Sense - If Jimbo Fisher Lets Him Do His Job

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There were three basic criteria for Jimbo Fisher when looking for an offensive coordinator for Texas A&M:

  1. The coordinator must run an attack that works in 2023.
  2. The coordinator should have enough juice in the deal and internal self-confidence to tell Fisher where to put him, should Fisher decide around game three or four that he would like to resume play calling duties.
  3. The coordinator must be willing to accept the work.

When you boil it down like that, Bobby Petrino makes perfect sense. That doesn’t mean Texas A&M’s long-awaited hiring of Petrino to run the offense will work. It will revolutionize an Aggies scheme that has become obsolete or explode in spectacular fashion. There really is no in-between, which will make this exciting for Texas A&M fans or positively hilarious for Texas A&M haters.

But first let’s explain why it basically had to be Petrino. (Although we wish for an SEC Network show that’s just a live feed from the offensive Texas A&M boardroom.)

Many coaches fit criterion #1. There are youth position coaches, former position coaches, current coordinators, former head coaches, and NFL coaches who can competently run an offense today. But the pool shrinks considerably by the time we get to number 2.

Fisher has been his team’s top caller since becoming the first head coach at Florida State in 2010. For 12 years prior to that, he was a play-call offensive coordinator at Cincinnati, LSU and Florida State. He won one national title and three ACC titles running and calling his offense. Until midway through the 2022 season, Fisher insisted that he wanted to shut down the plays. The offense on John James Fisher’s team has always been John James Fisher’s baby.

So if you’re, say, TCU offensive coordinator Garrett Riley, you’re a perfect fit for the #1 qualifier. TCU can run wide open and create big plays in the passing game, but the Horned Frogs also devour chunks of yardage in the floor. But Riley is 33 years old. His older brother, Lincoln, was the head coach at two branded programs, but Garrett is trying to reach that level.

Fixing a Texas A&M offense that didn’t score more than 28 points by the end of the season would make Riley a Power 5 head coach candidate. the luxury of having a situation like this implode? People on all sides of this quest confirmed that Fisher made it very clear that this coordinator would call the plays and run his own offense. But that’s easy to say now.

What happens if the offense has a bad game or two in early 2023? If Fisher decides before the Auburn game in Week 4 that he wants to close out play again, what’s a coach in Riley’s position to do? Refuse to give up the role? Threaten to quit? If the young coordinator misunderstands this situation, he can poison his future prospects.

Now let’s imagine Petrino in this situation. He is 61 years old. He was an NFL head coach. He was head coach for the SEC. He was head coach for the ACC. Like Fisher, he coached a Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback. Petrino, who coached Missouri State for three years before briefly taking over as offensive coordinator at UNLV in December, likely still has Louisville money sitting in the bank or appreciating in the form of a beach house.

Fisher and Petrino coached against each other in the 2014-18 ACC. (Michael Chang/Getty Images)

While he operates differently, Petrino’s personality is just as strong as Fisher’s and Petrino essentially loses nothing from a reputation standpoint – for reasons we’ll detail below – if this blows up in everyone’s faces. He knows that if Fisher decides to change the plan, Texas A&M would have to pay more for him not to work than for him to do the job he was hired to do. And Petrino, who never bothered with education at any point in his life, would have no qualms about telling Fisher where he could tuck his game sheet if Fisher decided to retrieve said sheet.

And just like with the younger coach, Petrino could have the chance to be a Power 5 head coach again if he corrects that offense. This is quite remarkable considering Petrino’s body of work, but it also shows the degree of difficulty of this particular task.

No AD would hire Petrino as head coach because AD would want to work with Petrino—which is saying something, considering Petrino is 137-71 as a college head coach in programs that haven’t been traditional powerhouses. Here is a list of Petrino’s most colorful job interactions:

2003: Petrino goes behind the back of his Louisville bosses to an interview with Auburn. This is discovered, and future U.S. Senator Tommy Tuberville is able to retain his job at Auburn and go 13-0 the following season.

2007: Petrino, now head coach of the Atlanta Falcons, leaves the team with three games left in the season to take over at Arkansas. He leaves a 78-word note that is placed in each player’s locker. His NFL career record was 3-10.

2012: Petrino is fired with cause in Arkansas following a motorcycle accident involving Petrino and an employee with whom Petrino was having an affair. Petrino was not fired specifically over the affair, but for hiring the woman while in a relationship with her and for initially lying to then-athletic director Jeff Long about the circumstances of the situation.

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2018: Years before the Wall Street Journal wrote its first story on the subject, Petrino had mastered the art of “quietly giving up” in Louisville. Two years after helping Lamar Jackson win a Heisman Trophy and lead the Cardinals to a 9-4 record, the Cardinals barely had a pulse and recruiting had stalled. Petrino was fired after a 54-23 loss at Syracuse – the seventh consecutive loss for the Cardinals – and received a $14 million buyout.

It’s quite a list, but we’re still talking about Petrino because no matter how one feels about the man himself, no one would deny that he has a brilliant offensive mind. One factor that suggests this might work is the answer to this question:

How is Bobby Petrino’s offense?

You might be able to answer that in basic jabs, but you can’t spot it as easily as you could spot Fisher’s offense. Fisher’s attack is easy to spot. The quarterback must handle the ball a certain way. Ideally, he reads the defense the same way Jameis Winston did at Florida State in 2013. Fisher added concepts as the game changed, but he insisted on a Cheesecake Factory menu from a playbook rather than a custom menu of the plays his players play. performed better. Fisher could always find the right call on one of these pages, but in later years it might not necessarily have been a play his players felt comfortable executing.

Petrino’s team looked different when Brian Brohm was QB and Michael Bush carried the ball for Louisville than it did when Tyler Wilson was playing for Jarius Wright in Arkansas. It looked very different when Jackson led the Louisville attack.

That’s what Texas A&M quarterback Conner Weigman should be excited about. He’s no Lamar Jackson, but Petrino’s body of work suggests he can build an offense around whatever a quarterback does best. Also, unlike Fisher last year, Petrino has historically run the plays his players are most comfortable with as opposed to calling plays that might work in a perfect world but might not work with the current Texas A&M staff.

In the meantime, this would allow Fisher to focus more on CEO duties. That’s something he probably wished he could have done last season with a dressing room that – while full of talented players – had a number of problem players creating problems. Most of them hit the transfer portal. The group that’s left wants to be at Texas A&M, and it’s a talented enough group to earn big.

But that only happens with a functional offense. Petrino might not be the cutest figure in sports, but he’s committed plenty of functional crimes over the years.

It will be up to Fisher to decide if he will let him.

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(Main photo: Wesley Hitt/Getty Images)


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