Wally Hall is the managing sports editor for the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. A graduate of the University of Arkansas-Little Rock after an honorable discharge from the U.S. Air Force, he is a member and past president of the Football Writers Association of America, member of the U.S. Basketball Writers Association, past president and current executive committee and board member of the Arkansas Sports Hall of Fame, and voter for the Heisman Trophy. He has been awarded Arkansas Sportswriter of the Year 10 times and has been inducted to the Arkansas Sports Hall of Fame and Arkansas Sportswriters and Sportscasters Hall of Fame.
Like It Is:
Will Jimbo let Bobby be Bobby?
Missouri State coach Bobby Petrino is shown during a game against Arkansas on Saturday, Sept. 17, 2022, in Fayetteville.
NASHVILLE, Tenn. — It was the most talked about subject on the first day of SEC football media days and ir still had life going into the last day.
Is Jimbo Fisher capable of allowing Bobby Petrino to do his job?
Fisher, the head football coach at Texas A&M, has underachieved with the Aggies in his five seasons, going 23-16 in SEC play but 6-10 the past two seasons.
Last season, the Aggies were 2-6 in league played and ranked 93rd in the country in total offense, averaging 360.7 yards per game, and only 107 rushing.
Fisher needed to soothe the souls of some powerful fans, so he went searching for a new offensive coordinator.
Petrino — who left Missouri State, where he made $350,000 a season, and UNLV, where he slated to make $1.1 million — was the best available and to get him Fisher paid him $1.7 million.
The problem is they are similar in many ways, including stubbornness.
Both played quarterback at small colleges, Petrino at Carroll College and Fisher at Salem University, which has a student enrollment of 250 — and no, a zero or two were not forgotten — and then Samford.
Both went on to become head coaches who loved calling the plays, although Petrino once made a defensive suggestion that allowed Arkansas to come back and beat Texas A&M. Petrino has been a head coach the past 20 years and Fisher for the past 16.
They are used to doing more than calling just plays. They are accustomed to being the boss and having the last word in every situation.
Not trying to say this season at A&M will be like in 2006, when Frank Broyles insisted then-head coach Houston Nutt hire Gus Malzahn and give him control of the offense.
Nutt was not ready to stop calling the plays, but Broyles was also not used to hearing no from his coaches.
It wasn’t a disaster season as the Razorbacks went 10-4, but it was a dysfunctional season that divided the fan base.
Malzahn left for Tulsa after that season.
The money line is Petrino will make one season, but he’ll have packing boxes before the season ends.
There had already been rumors before media days of blow-ups in coaches meetings between Fisher and Petrino. When asked about it, Fisher openly bristled.
He’s a fast talker anyway, but Fisher went into overdrive without confirming or denying there were issues between he and Petrino.
He did say: “As coaches — have you ever been in any staff room that doesn’t have arguments or disagreements? Every coaching staff in America has an argument or a disagreement. That’s part of it.”
That would seem to indicate someone had an argument.
Earlier, when asked about Petrino’s offense, Fisher said, “Do you ever watch Bobby? Bobby is a lot of underneath play action. No, but I’m not going to get into schematics and four-wide. We’ll do everything. We’re not going to get into that.”
So the guy who was hired to run the offense won’t run the offense he prefers or is more comfortable with.
Surely Fisher knew enough about Petrino to know he would not be a puppet. That’s not in Petrino’s mind set.
The dagger to the heart of the matter was when Fisher said, “Hopefully, he’ll call the game. Every coach is always involved.”
What this appears to be is a battle of Fisher’s ego with Petrino’s desire to win.
If Fisher can let Petrino do what he hired him to do, the Aggies will be more precise, poised and unpredictable.
Petrino gives defensive coordinators fits with his play calling that sometimes seems to come out of right field but works more times than not.
It may not take long to see who is calling the plays.
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