It was a little over a year ago. Bobby Petrino was attending the Louisville Football kickoff luncheon. He took the stage wearing a suit and a smile. Immediately the fans heard what they wanted.
“It’s about time we light up the scoreboard again,” He told them. “Every time we take the field we expect to score a touchdown.”
Now let’s go forward four months. Petrino inks a new seven-year contract. A contract worth $31.6 million. A contract that made him the third-highest paid in the ACC.
“This is a very competitive business, and there’s a very, very small number of great coaches in this country. It’s obvious we have one of them,” Athletic Director Tom Jurich explained.
Go forward once more. This time advancing six months. Lamar Jackson becomes the first Louisville Football player to win the Heisman Trophy. In a lot of ways, the two previous things had been building up to this. This led to big-time talk around Louisville Football, especially from the staff in the off-season. A conversation that included winning a national championship. Seriously. That was A quote verbatim in a CN2 Sports interview.
“Our goal is to win a National Championship,” Petrino explained.
See? I told you.
Now, we’re here.
Louisville Football has a 4-2 record and trending every direction but the right one. Still with the guy who won the Heisman Trophy playing Quarterback. Still with the coach who scored a seven-year contract extension. However, what they have on the field is troubling. It’s a mounting body of work that suggests a team regressing rather than progressing.
It’s a team that has failed to cash in on a once-in-a-decade talent in Lamar Jackson.
A team that gets throttled by defending National Champion Clemson at home. That same team that Louisville believed it was a yardstick away from, rather than several miles.
It’s a team getting beat by NC State, a team that you were sure you had surpassed some time ago. NC State with a coach in Dave Doeren who has never won more than eight games during his ACC tenure. The same coach who expressed nothing but confidence in his quarterback shredding your defense. The coach who turned out to be accurate in having that assessment.
This, of course, all happening after Louisville finished last season losing it’s final three games. Two games in which destruction occurred and the other in which they lost to Kentucky.
You now have a writer in me grasping at straws for ways to defend Bobby Petrino. It’s getting harder by the moment. I’ve never found a needle in a haystack, but can’t be harder than finding ways to believe what Tom Jurich said a year ago.
Where’s the proof?
It’s not found in the 1-9 record against Top 25 teams in Petrino’s second go-around in Louisville.
It’s not found in his clock mismanagement. It’s happened three seasons a row in the three biggest games of that season. It’s been so bad, Andy Reid would blush.
It’s not found in the 41-9 record he amassed his first time at Louisville. That was a nearly a decade ago. Despite what so fans will tell you, Bobby Petrino scoring 50 points with Brian Brohm against a Big East school means nothing now.
It’s not found in blaming the defense for their mistakes, the tone he struck finely on Monday.
Hey, Bobby. Those are your mistakes, too. You hired Peter Sirmon and you wanted previous Defensive Coordinator Todd Grantham gone. You don’t get to use that card twice.
The proof is not there now. It’s not with this team. It’s not with the results that have been produced. I can’t find it.
The legend of Bobby Petrino is decaying. Even more pressing, it’s running out of time to be repaired. How many of you would take Jeff Brohm at Head Coach today?
You can only run off a College Gameday victory against Florida State for so long. Eventually, it becomes stale. You need new evidence to prove your worth. Or, at the minimum, you need more evidence.
Louisville’s next three games may present that chance. The slate would figure to provide the answers as much as anything. It has a fair variety. It starts out with a home game against Boston College. A game in which a loss would spell utter doom. Two road games follow this up. Two road games that Vegas bettors would agree on in calling 50/50.
To call for a coaching change right now seems erratic. It’s pushing the alarm button too quickly and quite frankly it’s exercising negligence. Petrino shouldn’t be feeling the heat. At least not yet. There are too many points to fall back on that end up going Petrino’s way. A big one I continue to hear is that Louisville technically finished tied for first in the ACC’s Atlantic division. I’ll grant you that because it matters. It’s a big deal even if you didn’t actually play in the Conference title game.
As time passes, though, those things mean less and less. For the first time ever at Louisville, there is a slate of games that could go a direction in which Petrino would face some serious heat.
Go 1-2 with back-to-back losses? 8-4 becomes a reality. You give the new potential for going 7-5. In the year four of Petrino, that would be an utter disaster. That’s not a guy you suffer a PR hit to hire. That’s affirming that the greatest accomplishment you made with a Heisman trophy winner was a Citrus Bowl appearance you got destroyed in. That’s something that shouldn’t be tolerated.
It’s time for Bobby Petrino to prove himself, and that time is ticking away quickly.
Photo Credit: AP