By now you’ve all read that Bobby Petrino has quit 13 games into his first season as an NFL coach to go become the head coach at Arkansas. This got me wondering, what other NFL coaches had quit in the middle of his first season as an NFL head coach…that list was small.
Since the AFL/NFL merger, only one coach quit in the middle of a season, Lou Holtz. Coincidentally, Lou went to go coach Arkansas after quitting just 13 games into his first season as a NFL head coach (for the Jets). Lou fared pretty well with the razorbacks, going 60-21-2 with 6 bowl games. After getting fired and going to Minnesota, then moving on to Notre Dame, well, people forgot that he was a quitter in the NFL.
So the question is, will that happen with Petrino?
Well, Petrino was a pretty good head coach at Louisville, but he has only been a head coach for 4 years at the collegiate level and about two thirds of a pro season. Holtz, on the other hand, coached 7 years in college at two schools before his job in the NFL, where he quit with just one game left. Edge goes to Holtz on this one, he was a pretty established coach already. Petrino just had one recruiting cycle to prove himself and he didn’t do anything in the pros to show he could coach on much more balanced playing field.
Coaching skills aside, the real reason Petrino will never be seen as anything more than a quitter is that he is really lacking is some personality. Holtz had (and still has) that in spades. Some people describe Petrino’s personality as “that of a doorknob“…that doesn’t bode well in the rewriting of his history. The media and fans will eat him faster than his former players did. Who wants to consider Petrino’s side of the story when no one can stand the guy? He might always be “a quitter”.
Bobby Petrino has pretty much shot himself in the foot. He will be adored only by Arkansas fans, but only if he wins. If he loses he will be castigated there like he currently is throughout the nation and it might very well end his career as a head coach. Nick Saban hasn’t recovered from his quitting the Dolphins one year removed from doing so and it will be awhile before people forget that. This looks to be way worse. If he doesn’t win in Arkansas, he is probably done.
(note, if my 5 seconds of research on this issue is wrong, do let me know!)