I’m just as shocked as many of you are that the Falcons hired Bobby Petrino. It was a candidate out of left field, and it seems rather obvious at this point that at some point in the past month the Falcons had identified him as their lone target, and simply went through the motions with all these interviews. The Fritz Pollard Alliance won’t be happy, but the Falcons did obey the rules.
I know there are many out there that hate the idea of a college coach taking over the Falcons job, especially when all this Saban stuff hasn’t even settled. But Petrino is one of the few out there that probably could work in the NFL. We’ll finally get to see if the spread offense as it has been recently “perfected” on the collegiate level, will work in the NFL. And I really have no qualms whatsoever with Atlanta being the experiment where it takes place.
Although the stats seem to state otherwise, I really think that the only offense where Michael Vick really has a chance to be a proverbial “round peg” is in the spread offense. And don’t for a second believe that the spread offense is a re-hashing of the Run N’ Shoot. Yes, the spread does have its roots in that offense, but it’s evolved from it’s Glanville-esque beginnings. Petrino employs a power running game at Louisville, as evidenced by monster backs Michael Bush and Eric Shelton handling the loads under him. So I think you might see the Falcons target a big back this off-season to team with Dunn and/or Norwood, which might be Bush himself via the draft.
Now that Petrino is the man, the next big question is who will be on the staff. I suspect Petrino himself will be the play-caller here in Atlanta, so whomever his offensive coordinator is (currently his younger brother Paul at Louisville) will be nominal. But it will be interesting to see if he transports his Louisville staff to the pros, or if he dips back into his older pro connections. My hope for defensive coordinator would be for him to exploit one old pro connection and hire Dom Capers, currently contemplated his future with the Dolphins. In the six years that Capers has simply coordinated a defense and not been head coach, his units have produced a Top 8 scoring defense five times and a Top 5 total defense four times. And the two non-Top 5 total defenses ranked 9th and 12th. Pretty impressive. And of course he’s going to have to filter through which Falcon assistants he wants to retain. DeCamillis’s departure would be the only one I’d lament. We know that Alex Gibbs isn’t coming back, but if there’s a positive to that it means the Falcons are thankfully free to use early draft picks on offensive linemen.
So I’ve said all this much, but haven’t really commented on whether I like the hire. Well, I do. I would have been more excited if the Falcons had hired Whisenhunt or Cameron, but I definitely like Petrino more than I would Rivera or Singletary. I’m glad Blank & McKay stuck with an offensive coach. And let’s face it, they hired Petrino to “fix” Vick. So although there are rumors that the Falcons aren’t married to Vick over the long-term, they definitely are for the short-term, and this hire clearly shows that. Petrino has a strong QB background, something that only one other candidate (Cameron) had. As I said earlier, I think the spread attack is the only offense that Vick’s unique skills project well in. The West Coast was not as bad a fit as people made it out to be, but it was far from a good one. This new offense should give Vick the space he needs to throw and run more effectively. Now we just have to get the pieces around him to make it work. Why couldn’t Deion Branch be on the trading block this off-season?!