Jimbo Fisher was faced with the single biggest and most defining decision of his career thus far—who to hire at OC. He’d gone through the process of recognizing the need to give up the offense, and now it came down to who he was going to trust enough to do what he thought only he could do at a high level.
And he hired Bobby Petrino.
I say that with no snark or judgment. I also don't think Jimbo struck out on guy after guy. The only two other people we’ve seen legitimately connected with the job were Washington Huskie OC Ryan Grubb and TCU OC Garrett Riley—and Petrino’s name was one of the earliest names to be thrown out there with Billy Liucci mentioning him as a possibility as early as November 15.
So when faced with the single biggest decision he’s had to make thus far as a head coach, Jimbo went with Bobby Petrino. And I have mixed feelings about it. Let’s talk about it.
I mean the bad is obvious. Petrino has a reputation built on more than a few missteps and incredibly public humiliations. We know about the way he left Atlanta, who among us hasn't made a motorcycle joke or two and we know a bit about him essentially being fired from his second go-around at Louisville. For those of us old enough, we remember Petrino being the dude on the tarmac hanging out in an Auburn airplane with some Auburn boosters who, oops, hadn't yet told then coach Tommy Tuberville that he’d be fired!
His reputation proceeds him. And to put him on staff with guys like DJ Durkin and Steve Addazio...both of them have their own reputations...is a lot to take in. I get that and I feel all of that. Trust me I do.
Like wildly enough there is some good to this hire. Petrino has had some pretty successful offenses and some really successful QBs too. A&M fans should be well familiar with his offense beginning with the ass-kickings we took from Petrino when he was at Arkansas. Remember that time we were up 35-17 against Arkansas in 2011 and then lost 42-38? That was a Petrino-led offense that did that to us...and that team finished 11-2 and #5 in the country!
And then there was the 2015 Music City bowl with a freshman Lamar Jackson. That year they finished #51 in total offense, and in 2016/2017 they finished #3 in total offense both years. That wasn't that long ago!
Even this year...A&M averaged 22 points a game with a veritable cornucopia of talent. Missouri State averaged 27 points per game with less talent than the rest of their conference. 5 more points a game gets us 4 more wins this year. Maybe that’s a low bar, but again I’m searching for the good here.
Point being is that Petrino has a history of putting together some pretty productive offenses led by both running QBs and passing QBs. It’s reasonable to expect that he’ll put a good offense together here at A&M.
As I said... a high ceiling in what he could do with the talent on hand, but a low floor given his past transgressions. There was likely another hire out there that could have given us similar offensive production without the reputational risk...but guess what. Jimbo didn't trust those guys to turn the offense over to. I believe we could have had a Phil Longo or a Phil Montgomery before they left for Wisconsin and Auburn respectively, but Jimbo didn't want either of those guys. For better or for worse, when faced with the single most important and defining decision of his career he put his faith in Bobby Petrino. And, on paper, I can see the logic. But like, in the papers, I see the downside.
Ultimately Jimbo is paid to do one thing: to win dadgum football games. That’s it. And he didn't do that this year. And he’s gotta do it next year.
I think Petrino can win us some football games next year. So perhaps right now it’s time to make peace with the off-field stuff and hope that Petrino can channel some of the on-field success that he’s had in the past few years to get the job done.