Bobby Petrino wouldn’t have been my first choice to coach the Cardinals.
I would have hired Vance Bedford, Louisville’s defensive coordinator of the past four years who followed coach Charlie Strong to Texas. He has a resume that would make Pat Narduzzi blush. He’s been either DC or a secondary coach for five major programs, and has been stupidly successful with four of them. The Cards had the best total defense in the FBS this past year. On top of that, he’s a darn good recruiter, and would have been able to maintain the Miami to Louisville recruiting network Strong built over the past four years. He deserves the chance to coach, and would have afforded Louisville the continuity the need in their first year in the ACC.
But I would have been wrong.
Louisville needed a slam dunk, and Petrino is the closest thing to it available. The Cards want to make an immediate splash in the ACC, and bringing back their former coach gives them the best chance to do that. He won big his first time around in Louisville, he won big at Arkansas, and he even won at Western Kentucky, where he’s been paying his dues for the past year.
We all know his downside. He’s a serial job-hopper who was fired from Arkansas for keeping his mistress on the football payroll. But his programs have always been free from major scandal NCAA scrutiny. Former players are loud in their support of his hiring – that counts for something. He also knows his way around an offense, which is where the Cardinals need the most help this coming year, with Teddy Bridgewater’s defection to the NFL.
Louisville has a tough schedule this year. They play road games against Clemson and Notre Dame. They’ll play defending national champion Florida State at home. They also have a home game against Miami, who will come back stronger than the team beaten 36-9 in the Russell Athletic Bowl. It’s a big challenge for any first year coach, let alone a first-time head coach.
Bedford or Narduzzi would have been an inspired choice. Petrino was the smart choice.