Memo to John White:
I can be a jerk, and will work for a whole lot less than this guy.
Falcons players bash 'disloyal' Petrino
Former coach called a 'cancer' on team
By STEVE WYCHE
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
Published on: 12/13/07
Flowery Branch — Falcons rookie defensive end Jamaal Anderson, the team's first-round
draft pick from the University of Arkansas, has gotten non-stop calls from players,
friends and associates with the Razorbacks football program. They all want to know what
type of guy their new coach, Bobby Petrino, is.
"Disloyal," said Anderson, Petrino's first pick as an NFL coach. "If he can leave players
here, what makes you think he won't leave the players he's going to coach? I'm
just afraid to see what happens if he does bad at Arkansas. Is he going to leave those \
Players and owner Arthur Blank vilified Petrino Wednesday, a day after he failed to notify
them in person of his decision to resign as the Falcons' coach.
The venom was widespread. An organization that has fought controversy and criticism all
season let it rain Wednesday.
It was a deluge.
Veteran safety Lawyer Milloy taped the "insensitive" farewell letter Petrino sent to
players to his locker. Petrino's copied signature was crossed out in red ink.
"Coward!" was put in its place.
"Everything he preached over the past eight months was a lie," Milloy said. "Everything he
said he stood for was a lie. He came in and messed with a lot of people's lives — he
wasted a year of my life. It was a cowardly act. A selfish act.
"One thing I'm really [mad] at was while he was having a half-hearted approach to games,
he was putting us all at risk. His mind wasn't in it. That explains why he threw a
challenge flag a play after he was allowed to. Why we went for it on fourth-and-9 and
punted on fourth-and-1. Maybe he was on the phone at Arkansas to the AD at that point.
"The cancer was diagnosed. Never would you want it to be your head coach, your general, to
be that cancer, but in our case, it was."
Linebacker Michael Boley said of Petrino's departure: "He took the easy way out. There are
a lot of different ways you can handle that. As a man, call us. Come in here for one last
team meeting. A note in the locker? That's just saying, 'I can't even look you in the face
right now.' That's cowardly."
Added veteran linebacker Keith Brooking: "I've been totally committed to Coach Petrino and
everything that he brought to the table. That's why I feel betrayed. It goes a lot deeper
than just me. It's Mr. Blank and everything that he's given to us. There is anger inside
of me because I bought into Coach Petrino and his beliefs and what he was trying to do
with this football team. I feel betrayed with the decision that he made."
College vs. pro coaching
Blank said Petrino expressed to him last weekend concerns about his passion for coaching
professional football as opposed to college ball, where he spent all but three of his
previous 24 seasons as a coach.
Petrino, hired from Louisville to a five-year, $24 million contract Jan. 8, had never been
an NFL head coach.
Blank would not divulge what Petrino's concerns were, but players said the fact that he
quit when things got tough proved he wasn't up to coaching at this level.
"This league is for men," Milloy said. "Not everybody is built for this league. I think he
realized that earlier than [Tuesday]. I'm glad that I don't have to deal with somebody
who's not into this 100 percent. Everybody's in the boat paddling and he's on the buoy
boat going the other way."
Players said Petrino had not shown any signs that he planned to leave — at least not
before the end of the season — but they sensed something could be afoot. They'd heard the
rumors about him possibly being up for some college jobs over the past few weeks, but they
took him at his word, as did Blank, when he said he'd be back in 2008.
Missed pregame meetings
"We play on Monday night and he's not at the meetings," tailback Warrick Dunn said. "Guys
noticed that. We talked about it before the game. Then word gets out this guy might be
going to Arkansas. I heard this before the game. To be able to look at him face to face
and for him to try and lead you and motivate you is tough.
"He sold us a dream. He put this organization last in his life. He's selfish. He's
definitely a liar. One of the things we have hanging in our meeting room is [a sign]
'Finish.' If he wanted to leave, you can at least finish three more games. It's 18 days.
You can finish it and say, 'You know what, this wasn't for me.' You can respect that. But
to let it go yesterday the way that he did and the disrespectful way that he did it, to me
he has no heart."
College players probably never spoke about him publicly like these pros.
Petrino's brief legacy as an NFL coach was rife with complaints about his lack of
communication with players. He didn't talk to them and he didn't want to
listen. Blank, who said he felt "betrayed" and "abused" by Petrino, said Petrino had gotten better dealing with players over the past few weeks but players said he was "insufferable."
"There's a line of communication that needs to be there and it wasn't," said quarterback
Joey Harrington, who was publicly humiliated on a handful of occasions. "I went to him
with concerns of the team and I was absolutely disregarded."
Quarterback Chris Redman must have felt like a lone wolf Wednesday. The starting
quarterback played for then-offensive coordinator Petrino at Louisville in 1999. After
being out of football since 2003, Petrino gave Redman a shot to make the team last spring.
Redman was Petrino's lone sympathizer in the locker room.
"I hate to see him go and everything," Redman said. "He gave me a job here, so I obviously
owe him for helping me. He put food on the table for me so I can't get too upset with him.
If what he said is true and it's best for his family, then I'm happy for him."
From Dunn, the last word
For most of the season, players have taken the blame for the Falcons' 3-10 record. The
damage wrought by quarterback Michael Vick's dogfighting conviction could be blamed for
much of the slide. And while Petrino took the job in January in part to coach Vick,
players weren't giving the coach a pass, because they had to deal with it, too.
"This guy comes in, they don't want Allen Rossum, they don't want Grady Jackson, they
change the running game from what he did last year and we went from first to almost last,"
Dunn said. "We had a million plays. You didn't hear us complaining.
"This guy affected not just my livelihood but other guys'. He had guys thinking that I
couldn't play football anymore, that I couldn't run. It's not because I wasn't trying. I
felt like he was setting us up to fail, and when you look back on it, he wasn't in it.
"We have to apologize to our fans. It's not because the players are not playing.
Obviously, the guy's half-hearted. It's just one of those things where respect is out the