Wednesday, December 12, 2007

And the Coaches Go Round and Round

Early in his career, Rick Pitino was famously called Larry Brown on training wheels. Petrino isn't Larry Brown on training wheels; he's Larry Brown in a Maserati. ~ Pat Forde, ESPN

Well, well. I wonder who it was that wrote back on November 25: "Oh, and let us not forget Bobby Petrino. The whole Falcons thing has turned into a nightmare, very little of which is due to Petrino. I suspect that every major opening over the next couple of months will have a Petrino angle to it. Which would be perfectly normal, wouldn't it?"

I know, I should have been more specific about where he'd end up, but at the time there were more jobs open.

To say that Bobby Petrino is being criticised by sports writers and talk show hosts is putting it mildly. Petrino is being blistered. Mike Greenberg on ESPN's Mike and Mike In the Morning reminded us that in about 18 months Petrino has signed 20 years' worth of contracts (10 at Louisville, 5 in Atlanta, and now 5 at Arkansas). In the article linked above, Pat Forde describes Petrino in terms normally reserved for former Enron executives. Forde does think Arkansas may actually get to keep the "disingenuous drifter" as he calls Petrino: "
The good news for Arkansas is that it might be the last school willing to give this guy anything more than what he deserves: a one-year contract and a monitoring device on his ankle."

Ouch.

As I said here, the solution is simple. The NCAA should mandate one-year contracts with a one-year option for all coaches. If the school loves the coach to death, they can renew his option early; if the coach loves the school to death, he can accept it. One rule, though: Contracts can only be extended one year at a time, beginning at six months prior to expiration. Otherwise, some bright AD would pick up the coach's option for the next five years.

Which brings us to Les Miles.

You remember ol' Les. He's the guy who swears on the Eye of the Tiger that he's never, ever, ever leaving LSU in one breath while talking about his undying love of Michigan in the next. He's got permission to talk to Michigan, then he's got a new contract at LSU. Then, lo and behold, he's talking to Michigan again.

Now, by the usual rules of the game, Miles have given a denial-denial, which should have him staying at LSU. But, frankly, something stinks in Baton Rouge here. What is really going on is that Miles stands to make a pile of money if he coaches in the BCS game; $2.8 million can put a longing for Ann Arbor way on the back burner.

Now for a little wild speculation with no basis in fact other than some logical thinking. Here's what I think went down.

Michigan secures permission to talk to Miles. As I've said before, this sort of thing is a formality, and it can probably be assumed that someone close to Miles has talked to someone in a position to deal at Michigan. So a potential deal was struck with a huge proviso. If LSU would win the SEC championship and the other dominoes fell into place to get the Tigers to the BCS, then Miles would coach the championship game and collect the fat paycheck.

After that, Ann Arbor, here he comes.

I've got nothing to go on here, except recent history which says that all contracts are signed in disappearing ink. But, I'd put the price of an extra-large diet cola on "Miles goes to Michigan."

Speaking of coaches jumping contracts brings us back to Atlanta and Arthur Blank who has to be wondering what he did to deserve what's happened to him. I've got a solution for Mr. Blank, which is so obvious I'm surprised it hasn't already made the rounds. Hire Bill Cowher.

Yes, I know, Cowher retired. So did Joe Gibbs, Bill Parcells, Dick Vermeil, and Led Zeppelin. When he called it quits, a lot of people felt it was a sabbatical to recharge the old batteries. Well, he's had a year of TV appearances and sitting around the living room now, and I suspect he's ready to come back. And, for Arthur Blank, he can come back for a whole lot more cash than the lowballing Rooney family was willing to pay.

Frankly, Mr. Blank could do a lot worse than Bill Cowher. Cowher is a good judge of talent, knows how to rebuild a team, and is a player's coach, all of which the Falcons desperately need. The ex-coach's name has been bandied about for college jobs, most notably Michigan (not going to happen; Les is checking out real estate in Ann Arbor), but a successful NFL coach doesn't want to end up like Charlie Weiss. Cowher is smart enough to avoid that. At least, Bill Cowher wouldn't be jumping a contract.

Miles to Michigan and Cowher to Atlanta. It could happen.

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