Barring extreme circumstances, I’m no fan of evaluating coaching tenures in fewer than three years. Bobby Petrino’s stint at Louisville is an exception.
Petrino’s Cardinals fell to 2-4 Saturday, losing 41-21 to ACC Atlantic counterpart Florida State. Louisville squandered a halftime lead, getting absolutely bombarded out of intermission for 35 second-half points.
Jimbo Fisher and his staff made halftime adjustments that exploited a Todd Grantham-coordinated defense celebrated as Louisville’s strength. It wasn’t so much Dalvin Cook’s 163 yards and two touchdowns that made the Cardinal defense look suspect — Cook’s registering such numbers routinely.
Everett Golson, who had been incredibly limited through the first half of the season, absolutely torched the Cardinals for 372 yards passing, three touchdowns and no interceptions.
Still, despite the unusual circumstances, Saturday is Louisville’s first lopsided loss this season. The Cardinals had their opportunities to beat each of Auburn, Houston and Clemson previously; the latter two are undefeated and ranked.
Saturday outcome’s hardly a singular indictment on Petrino’s abbreviated tenure, one in which he’s on the right side of .500 at 11-8.
Even in the ADD world of modern college football commentary, I’m not so jaded as to suggest one game should inch the temperature of a coach’s seat.
Not singularly, anyway.
Louisville’s re-hiring of Bobby Petrino never sat well with me. People make mistakes, as I know I have and anyone reading this has. We all deserve, and presumably were given, chances to make good on our errors.
Petrino’s been given chance after chance, regardless of circumstance, and he’s done so quickly.
It was April 2012 when the series of errors committed over years, in stops at Louisville, with the Atlanta Falcons and Arkansas caught up to Petrino. He was out of coaching less than a year — well less — when Western Kentucky came calling.
No toiling as a coordinator. No climbing from the obscurity of FCS or Div. II. Bobby Petrino went from his firing at Arkansas to a Football Bowl Subdivision job in roughly nine months.
He thanked Western Kentucky for bringing him back into the FBS coaching fraternity by leaving after one season once the more prominent Louisville gig came open.
Petrino was called up to the Louisville and the ACC for the same reason he was brought on board at Western Kentucky: He’s won football games.
So, when judging Bobby Petrino’s tenure and future job security, wins and losses weigh considerably more relative to him than I believe it should other coaches.
As noted above, Petrino’s won at Louisville. Last year’s Cardinals went 9-4, and despite this year’s struggles, they face a much softer back half of the schedule and should finish on the positive side of .500 again.
But in a year-and-a-half, the man who was hired for his ability to win above all else is absolutely dreadful in big games.
Saturday’s loss drops Louisville to 0-2 against Florida State, matching its record against fellow ACC Atlantic pace-setter Clemson. The 20-point margin of defeat is Louisville’s largest since the 37-14 rout against Georgia in the Belk Bowl.
The Cardinals opened 2015 with the opportunity to erase the bad taste of the previous year’s SEC loss. With the nation watching Week 1, they lost to a thoroughly mediocre Auburn team.
Louisville’s best wins under Petrino are against a Notre Dame that utterly crumbled down the stretch a season ago; the coach’s debut last season against middling Miami; and its two defeats of NC State.
Tom Jurich accepted years of baggage to be slightly ahead of NC State in the ACC pecking order.
The two remaining marquee games are on the 2015 Cardinals’ schedule are season-ending road trips to surprising Pitt and in-state rival Kentucky, and the latter is highly debatable.
Should Louisville plod to 7-5 or 6-6 without a signature win, does it owe Bobby Petrino yet another chance? Why shouldn’t Jurich and UL brass seek the next big coaching prospect in the same way Petrino left Louisville, then Atlanta, and later Western Kentucky for the next big job?
Precedent says he’ll get another gig — and soon — no matter what.