What Happens In Vegas, Stays In Vegas … Unless You’re Bobby Petrino, Who Just Left … Again

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UNLV offensive coordinator – oops.

I mean, Texas A&M offensive coordinator Bobby Petrino has always been a man ahead of his time. And his current job.

His offenses and play calling have been ahead of the curve since his days as a coordinator at Nevada, Utah State and Louisville in the 1990s, and in the early 2000s at Jacksonville in the NFL and at Auburn. That carried on through his head coaching stops at Louisville from 2003-06 and at Arkansas from 2008-11, and he won big at schools that were not winning. He also won with innovative, pass-oriented offenses.

Bobby Petrino has also been exploiting the no-delay, Transfer Portal long before the NCAA adopted it in 2021. He has been beaming around the country in the Coaching Transfer Portal since he left Nevada for Utah State after one season in 1994. Many coaches have done the one-year stand for decades, but Petrino keeps doing it. And he has perfected the dramatic exit like virtually no one else.

JIMBO FISHER-BOBBY PETRINO: A MATCH OF FALLEN COACHES MADE IN HEAVEN?

Petrino left the Atlanta Falcons head coaching job before the end of his first season at 3-10. After signing a five-year, $24 million contract, he skipped town for Arkansas, leaving only a note for the players in the locker room. Later that night, he was on ESPN calling out the Hogs, or pretending to do so.

Following a sex scandal with a young female athletic department employee when Petrino was Arkansas’ head coach in 2011 that was discovered after a motorcycle wreck, Petrino was fired. Western Kentucky brought him back to coaching in 2013 after a year hiatus. He rewarded Western Kentucky by coaching the Hilltoppers for one season and bolting for Louisville.

And he just did it again.

Then-Missouri State head coach Bobby Petrino argues with officials during a game at Oklahoma in the 2020 season. (Photo by Sue Ogrocki-Pool/Getty Images)

Petrino, 61, left the Missouri State head coaching job last Dec. 15 to be the UNLV Runnin’ Rebels offensive coordinator. (OK, they only call the basketball team in Vegas the Runnin’ Rebels, but this just fits too well.) He took that job after interviewing with A&M for the offensive coordinator post, but did not get the offer.

JIMBO FISHER HAD TO GIVE UP A JOB TO KEEP HIS JOB

Then on Wednesday, news broke from ESPN’s Chris Low that Petrino is Leaving Las Vegas to become Texas A&M’s offensive coordinator. God, if Elvis could have had that brief a stay in Vegas, he may have lived better and longer. Petrino’s assignment will be to rework the troubled offense of Aggies’ head coach Jimbo Fisher, who will relinquish his play calling duties to Petrino because he was told to do so.

Petrino is expected to make in the $2 million range at oil cash-soaked Texas A&M after making a desert, $300,000 base at UNLV.

That’s job No. 20 in 40 years for Boltin’ Bobby.Yep, new one every two years. But this is his quickest one yet, and one of the briefest stays in coaching history.

Petrino may also be the first coach in history to do the first interview for a job while at one job and the second while at another.

Bobby Petrino Switches Jobs Like He’s on Petro Fuel

Vegas is in Petrino’s rearview mirror quicker than he could switch license plates – legally or otherwise. His stay from Dec. 15 through Jan. 3 is about two weeks less than UNLV students’ Christmas break, which started on Dec. 17 and ends on Jan. 17.

So, if you’re a 2022-23 UNLV student, you conceivably could have never been in town at the same time as Petrino. That’s fast. Petrino probably didn’t even play any slots. He had been actively recruiting to UNLV just in the last few days. Three weeks. That’s not a job stay. That’s a vacation.

“Today, we accepted the resignation of coach Petrino and wish him well in his future endeavors,” UNLV coach Barry Odom said in a statement Wednesday. “I look forward to introducing our new offensive coordinator soon. As I continue to build our UNLV staff, what stands out to me is the energy around the program right now.”

Moving van energy, at least. Odom just became coach on Dec. 6 after leaving the defensive coordinator post at Arkansas, where he went against Petrino’s offenses as a safeties coach at Missouri from 2009-11. Obviously, he liked what he saw. Petrino may be a sliding journeyman rock star who was recently playing Holiday Inn lounges instead of stadiums, but he probably still has some offensive genius in the tank.

He is not the first vagabond coach. College and NFL assistant coaches tend to be constantly moving. Nick Saban had six assistant coaching jobs in eight years early in his career in the 1970s and ’80s. There was a one-year head coaching stint at Toledo in 1990 and two years with the Miami Dolphins in 2005 and ’06 before finally deplaning at Alabama from 2007 until now.

The Hank Williams Of Coaching

But that’s just it. Petrino has never really deplaned. He sort of taxis on the runway everywhere.

His longest ever stint was five years as Louisville’s head coach the second time around from 2014-18. He was at Missouri State three years, UNLV three weeks and Texas A&M two days. There is still plenty of time before spring practice for another move.

I give him two years max in College Station, a stop on the Houston and Texas Central Railway beginning in 1860. Bobby Petrino is coaching’s Hank Williams. He can always hear “that lonesome whistle blow.”

Texas A&M coach Jimbo Fisher was an offensive guru when he left Florida State for College Station, Texas, after the 2018 season for $75 million over 10 years. But his offense floundered along with A&M. (Photo by Joe Robbins via Getty Images)

But maybe he’ll get A&M’s offense, which has been in a no-fly zone under former offensive genius Fisher, moving again. Petrino may not be as good as he once was. Missouri State’s offense was not exactly state of the art. But Petrino can still be as good every now and then as he ever was. And that will be better than what 5-7 Texas A&M was last year on offense, which was No. 93 in the nation and 12th out of 14 in the Southeastern Conference.

Petrino was clearly not Fisher’s first choice. He wanted someone younger and rising instead of finishing out the string. That’s why Petrino was not hired when he was still at Missouri State. TCU offensive coordinator Garrett Riley, 33,and younger brother of USC coach Lincoln Riley, could have had the job. But he stayed at TCU. Recently fired Tulsa head coach Phillip Montgomery, 51 and a former Baylor offensive coordinator, could have had the job. But he went to Auburn instead for the OC job.

Jimbo Fisher Settled For Bobby Petrino

Fisher possibly could have had Arkansas offensive coordinator Kendal Briles, 40 and the son of former Baylor offensive wizard Art Briles. There was interest in North Carolina offensive coordinator Phil Longo, 54, but he landed as Wisconsin’s OC.

Petrino clearly looks like a settle hire. But this may be best for Fisher, 57 and a bit of a hard head, in at least one way. I can’t see Fisher really listening to somebody in their 30s or 40s or mid-50s telling him how to run an offense. I think he’ll take it from Petrino, because he’s older. Petrino was making a name for himself in the big time while Fisher was a budding quarterbacks coach at Auburn in the 1990s and a progressive offensive coordinator at LSU from 2000-04. Fisher respects his coaching.

But will the Fisher-Petrino combination of how offense used to be somehow join forces to enter the modern game? Will they even get along?

Will Petrino listen to Fisher? Petrino has not been an assistant coach since 2002 at Auburn, unless you count the three weeks at UNLV. And he’s not exactly a flowing personality. When he interviewed for the head coaching job at LSU in person to replace Saban following the 2004 season, LSU athletic director Skip Bertman often saw just the back of his head. Bertman did not offer him the job, though Petrino was much smarter and much more accomplished at the time than the man Bertman hired – Les Miles.

There is a good chance Fisher and Petrino will bang heads and argue while the offense flounders. The only time they may get along is while swapping wild Auburn stories.

At the moment, this looks like one last money grab by Petrino and a desperate move by Fisher.

Written by Glenn Guilbeau

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  1. Bobby Petrino has a lot of nerve, I’ll say that for him. He coached against Barry Odom, last season’s OC at Arkansas, while he (Petrino) was at Missouri State. If he had any sense, he’d be grateful to make the leap from Missouri State to a much bigger school, A&M, and he’d try to get along with his boss, Jimbo Fisher. But Petrino has demonstrated over and over again, as you listed above, that he doesn’t have the sense God gave a goose.

    It should be interesting.

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