Moving swiftly to fill their head coaching position, the Atlanta Falcons lured erstwhile Louisville head coach Bobby Petrino to fill their vacancy with a contract of 5 years, $24 million. Now, the question with Petrino, as it is with any coach moving from the college ranks to the pros, is will his coaching skills translate to the unique challenges of the NFL?
Petrino does have a few things working in his favor:
1. He inherits a team that, if it ever played up to its potential, could easily back in the playoffs next year in the mediocre NFC. There's talent there on both sides of the ball, but they have to make the most of their ability and hope to avoid injuries that hurt them in 2006.
2. Regarding the big question of how he will be able to maximize one Michael Vick's talents, he does have a good deal of experience with similarly mobile quarterbacks. He was quarterbacks coach and later offensive coordinator in Jacksonville when Mark Brunell was firmly entrenched as starter. He also was at Arizona State to aid the development of Jake Plummer in his first two years. Who knows if that will mean anything in the end, but it's at least a promising start.
3. This is a job he really seems to want, meaning he's committed for the long haul. Following Nick Saban's about-face, spurning the Dolphins for Alabama, there will now be scrutiny attached to the commitment of college-turned-pro head coaches. However, this wasn't just the first NFL job he was offered. He turned down an offer from the Oakland Raiders in 2005, because it wasn't the right job. He's of course saying all the right things, calling the Falcons job, " the best job in the National Football League." So on the surface, the Falcons should be getting the best of Petrino.
Now comes the hard part, building a consistent winner for a team that has never had consecutive winning seasons in its history.