On Bobby Petrino and Employee Obligations

Bobby Petrino is stepping down today as head coach of the Atlanta Falcons to do the same job at the University of Arkansas. The Arkansas job will be his third job in less than two years. He is only the second coach since the NFL/AFL merger–Lou Holtz being the other–to quit during his first season as an NFL coach.

Drawing the ire of many for his vacillations, ESPN.com’s Pat Forde was so incensed that he was moved to call Petrino “the disingenuous drifter,” stating that Petrino, “loves himself, his playbook and his bank account.” Forde was so enraged he, “impeached” Nick Saban and replaced him with Petrino as “President of the Liars’ Club.”

Where does this indignation come from? When did career ambition become something to bemoan? Who, in a similar position to Petrino, wouldn’t do the same?

Bobby Petrino was supposed to be coaching a decent team when he left Louisville for Atlanta. They weren’t likely to make a Super Bowl appearance this year, but they had as good a chance as anyone in the watered-down NFC to make the playoffs, be competitive and improve as a franchise with a new skipper. Then Michael Vick was indicted on federal conspiracy charges. Atlanta is now a franchise with no franchise player, no direction, little promise and at the beginning of the rebuilding process. Abandon ship!

Who can blame this guy. Perhaps he is a little flaky, but shouldn’t he be? We treat team sports jobs as though people owe their employer some type of loyalty because their fans do. What is more ignorant, leaving a team when its future shifts from promising to hopeless, or continuing to follow that team regardless of the incompetent decision making it displays. Granted, Atlanta certainly couldn’t have assumed that Michael Vick career would end up like this, but they should have had a clue about Petrino. The Falcons’ hired a guy whose record vividly displays a propensity for this type of fickleness, now their fans saying they were victimized by Petrino. They were victimized by Arthur Blank and the Falcons’ management.

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