John P. Lopez – Brace yourselves, Ags: Petrino will make everything neck-and-shoulders better

Missouri State Bears head coach Bobby Petrino leads the Bears as they take on the UT Martin Skyhawks at Plaster Stadium on Thursday, Sept. 8, 2022. Tmsu Football V Ut Martin01143

John P. Lopez – Brace yourselves, Ags: Petrino will make everything neck-and-shoulders better

By John P. Lopez

The sanctimonious barbs arrived to College Station quicker than Amazon Prime on a motorcycle.

Yeah, that motorcycle reference was intentional. So was the headline.

And they were, because that’s the gist of this whole Bobby Petrino-to-Aggieland thing. There will be judgment. There will be contrived hand-wringing. There will be skepticism, pointing and laughing, and enough high horsing to embarrass a Clydesdale.

But as Aggies everywhere come to grips with a controversial hire that doesn’t exactly reflect Texas A&M’s revered code of honor, the questions Aggies really must ask themselves are these:

Would you rather be embarrassed by a few disapproving head-shakes from analysts and opposing fans? Or Appalachian State?

Would you rather feel the sting of some hypocritical commentators pursing their lips? Or a 5-star recruiting class delivering a one-star Yelp review?

In a perfect college football world, the Aggies would not be here. Jimbo Fisher’s offense and play-calling touch still would be as adroit and exceptional as his recruiting. The Aggies would not have been one of college football’s biggest disappointments in 2022 despite having one of the most talented rosters.

And the Aggies would not have Petrino roaming the sideline with pie and road rash on his face, after deciding a decade ago to get his honey where he got his bread.

But here the Aggies are.

When it comes to compromising a bit of integrity, here, most every college football program in the country is, one way or another. And anyone who thinks otherwise is ignorant and/or naïve. That’s not to say there isn’t a line when it comes to universities compromising morals and integrity for the sake of a few more dubs.

There most certainly is a line. Just ask Art Briles.

But when Jimbo hired Petrino as offensive coordinator Wednesday, it brought back images and memories of one of college football’s juiciest, most scandalous, and jaw-dropping stories. It was a story that had it all — deceit, infidelity, crashing motorcycles, lies, even thousands of dollars of cash under a mattress.

That Aggie code of honor? Aggies don’t lie, steal or cheat – or tolerate those who do.

Welp. Hiring Petrino pretty much shot that out of the water.

Still, all the high-horsing notwithstanding, these are desperate times. And once the backlash settles, the Aggies will realize they just got exactly what they needed. They just got the guy who very well could fulfill the promise.

The Aggies remain every bit the threat they ever were, potentially speaking. Talent abounds on both sides of the line of scrimmage. Flustered players who bolted into the transfer portal have been replaced by incoming transfers and yet another top-12 nationally-ranked recruiting class.

The last ingredient the Aggies needed, they just got.

That’s how good Petrino is as an offensive mind and play-caller. But most important, Petrino isn’t just what the Aggies offense needed, but exactly what Fisher needed.

From an Xs and Os standpoint, Petrino’s “power spread” offensive approach combines newer concepts that highlight mobile quarterback play and simple spread- and run-pass schemes, with old-school Jimbo-like power-I formations. It’s a mix of the pound-it-down-their-throats style Fisher loves, with what Petrino has called an “FTS” priority. That is, Feed The Studs.

Petrino consistently has put together winning game plans and winning teams, everywhere he has been. Former New York Giants and Jacksonville Jaguars coach Tom Coughlin called Petrino the best play-caller with whom he’s ever worked. As a head coach and play-caller, Petrino’s teams consistently won 10-plus games and featured the likes of Lamar Jackson at Louisville and Ryan Mallett at Arkansas. The beauty of his offense is in the simplicity and creating space. He’s been called brilliant, innovative, and an offensive genius.

But that’s still not the most important part of it all.

He won’t bow to Jimbo’s ego. He won’t be a Yes Man. He won’t submit to Jimbo’s every whim and suggestion. He’s been there. He’s done that. He wouldn’t have come to Aggieland unless he had true control of the offense and play-calling. The Aggies needed Petrino as much as Petrino needed the Aggies, if not more so.

At its worst this season, it was difficult to tell what was more inflexible – the offense or Jimbo’s pride and ego. He never let go of the play sheet. When things got bad, he shuffled his offensive staff, changed titles, allowed subordinates to work with players in practices, and said all the right things. But once the lights were on, Fisher clutched the play sheet like grim death.

Now, he’s given it up, as he should have. It will help Fisher focus more on his incredible recruiting touch, the big-picture of the program, and game-management. And it is exactly what the Aggies needed. It’s exactly what Jimbo needed. It’s definitely what Petrino needed.

Buck up and buckle up, Ags. And don’t forget to wear your helmet; it’s going to be a fun, wild ride.

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