You can put a lot of labels on former Arkansas coach Bobby Petrino.
Liar; cheater; jerk; snake oil salesman; a few others I can’t repeat here. You get the point. Most, if not all, of the adjectives used to describe Petrino are inherently negative because, well, he’s done a thing or two during his carousel of a coaching career to merit them.
He left the Atlanta Falcons organization in 2007 before the end of the regular season without even so much as a personal goodbye to take the job at Arkansas. Not five years later, he was fired from that job for committing a quid pro quo with former UA football office employee Jessica Dorrell and then lying to his boss about her presence during his motorcycle accident in April.
Everything I’ve ever been told about Petrino is the same: he’s a first class you-know-what and nobody enjoyed working with him.
But, he’s one hell of a college football coach, and he wants the chance to be on the sidelines again. What do coaches do? They coach. What do they know? Coaching. That’s why Petrino really agreed to an exclusive interview with Joe Schad of ESPN, the World Wide Leader in sports. He wants to sell his repaired, softer image so that someone in some athletic department will say “Boy, that Bobby Petrino… he’s a changed man.”
That’s what coaches do: they sell. All the time. Not to you and me — you really think Petrino cares about what we think of him now? — but to his future employer.
So is Petrino really remorseful for his affair with Dorrell, for the pain he caused his family? I don’t know and I don’t care. He’s not my father and he’s certainly not my role model. He’s a college football coach who gives great quotes so that I can feed the beast.
Which is funny, because some of the quotes Petrino gave Schad were as scripted as the Sugar Bowl hat he wore during his initial press conference following his motorcycle accident.
On why he hired Dorrell:
“There’s no justification, no excuse for having her in the interview pool. Having her on the back of the motorcycle. When I look back on it, there is no good answer.”
(Well, there is. He just didn’t give it.)
On what his biggest weakness is:
“How could I possibly do this? How could I drift away from what was important to me. I made mistakes and I’m going to be a better person because of it. I’m going to keep a better balance. I think I’ll be a better coach.”
(There it is!)
Look, I’m not typing all of this like I’m offended by Petrino’s interview or anything. That would imply I had expectations for him to begin with. Petrino is a coach to me. Nothing more, nothing less. What he does privately is of no concern to me. But, there is a lesson to be learned from Petrino’s mistake: he’s human, and humans by nature are flawed. Thinking your coach or players are otherwise is setting yourself up for massive disappointment.
Not that Petrino was glorified by anybody, of course, but it’s easy to dismiss the shortcomings of a successful coach.
What Petrino did today was essentially a job interview. It was unnecessary for most of us, but to the people who matter to Petrino (future employers), he probably did well enough to merit another one down the road.