For those of you who might not remember, it was exactly one year ago today, April 1, 2012 when former Arkansas coach Bobby Petrino hopped on his motorcycle and rode into the sunset and right into a ditch with a blonde Arkansas staffer named Jessica Dorrell literally in his hip pocket.
Safe to say to say it was a moment that changed a lot of things, specifically Arkansas' football program forever. In the year that has since followed, Arkansas has fired Petrino, named John L. Smith an interim head coach, suffered through a comically bad 4-8 regular season and finally found some new found stability with Bret Bielema coming from Wisconsin to take over the job full-time.
It also raised an interesting question from some in Arkansas on Monday: Is it possible that the Razorbacks program is actually in better shape today, April 1, 2013 than they were a year and a day ago before Petrino's accident?
It's an interesting debate, and one I open to you, the humble and all-knowing staff of Crystal Ball Run?
Was Arkansas better off in the long-run with Petrino's motorcycle accident?
Aaron Torres: I'll get this one going by saying that it boggles my mind that someone in the media had the audacity to even propose this idea. Yes, Petrino was a morally unkempt person, and frankly someone that none of us would've liked to deal with in any kind of professional capacity. But is the program really any better without him?
Well, the proof is in the pudding, and since Petrino was fired that pudding has been sour and funky-tasting. The 2012 season was a disaster, one which should have plenty of reverberations for years to come. It's not only about the losses, but about the fact that it was a lost year for so many players on that team.
Furthermore, I'd like Bret Bielema to, you know, actually coach a game before we even broach this discussion. Frankly, I'm been largely underwhelmed by Bielema's "schtick" since showing up in Arkansas, and frankly, I think the guy is in for a rude awakening when games are actually kicked off this fall. This ain't the Big Ten, and there are no Purdue's, Illinois' and Indiana's on the schedule. And until you beat an Alabama, A&M or LSU, maybe you should stop running your mouth, and start figuring out how your vastly under-talented team is going to compete on a week-in and week-out basis.
Point being that we need to pump the breaks on any and all discussion on the Arkansas program for the time being. Petrino might not have been a good person, but he was a great coach.
And in a couple years (let alone a couple months) my guess is that Hogs' fans are much more likely to be longing for the old Petrino days, than celebrating 10-win seasons and SEC Championships.
Kevin McGuire: Until we see Arkansas coached by Bielema in an actual game, I have to agree that it is much too soon to fairly break the Arkansas situation down, but I'll roll with the discussion. Simply put, before Petrino rode his motorcycle in to a ditch with his mistress, the Razorbacks were widely discussed as a national championship contender for the 2013 season. If you look at them today, are we saying the same thing? Honestly, no. Not at all.
Whether or not Arkansas would have had a much better season with Petrino as the head coach is a realistic possibility but it would also be unfair to assume the Razorbacks would pick up 11 or 12 wins had Petrino been in charge. Arkansas had some issues last year but they still had largely the same roster we saw a year ago today and the assistant coaching staff was still in place. The reason John L. Smith was brought in for the short term basis was because of his familiarity with the program and the staff. Of course, last year ended up being a (motor cycle) wreck of unpredictable levels, but now the Razorbacks have lost footing in recruiting and are now in a division that appears to be much tougher with Alabama being Alabama, LSU always a viable threat, Ole Miss shocking the recruiting world and Texas A&M surging in 2012 and expected by many to be a force again in 2013.
I do have faith that Bielema will be able to turn things around at Arkansas relatively quickly, but the Razorbacks have a steeper mountain to climb now than they did before Petrino was fired.
Michael Felder: The Hogs lost a genius. That's the most simple way to put it. Sure, his coaching staff was largely in tact, but the fact is they lost a genius and replacing that is tough. Unlike LSU, who lost a genius in Nick Saban, the Arkansas job is not one where you can just let the players do the work. Especially when LSU, Alabama, Texas A&M are going to out athlete the folks in Fayetteville, more often than not.
That is not so much a knock on Bret Bielema, as it is the reality of the
situation. Petrino, in all of his splendor, could not beat Nick Saban. Now, Bielema comes in and is going to out Saban, Nick Saban? With guys who are not as good? It will be quite interesting to watch. As it stands now, with the brain drain the program has gone through, not sure how anyone can argue that they are better off now than they were when Bobby was at the helm.
Allen Kenney: The author of that article, Doc Harper, actually makes some interesting points about the direction of Arkansas' program. Under Bobby Petrino's leadership, the 2012 team might have reached double-digit wins. He's that good of a coach.
It also would have been Petrino's fifth season in Fayetteville. If you buy the idea that coaches have a limited shelf life at any one job, and I do, five years seems like kind of a natural inflection point in his tenure. Petrino was making enough money to essentially guarantee his job security, barring a boner the size of the one that he pulled. The fact that he fast-tracked the hire of his mistress as recruiting coordinator also hints at a certain level of complacency or Petrino simply taking his eye off the ball.
I don't think it's entirely out of the realm of possibility that Bret Bielema will inject some energy and enthusiasm into Arkansas football. He has definitely done some big talking, which is one way of setting the bar high and motivating a team.
The problem is that I don't view Bielema as being anywhere near Petrino's league as a strategist and gameday coach, which is what it takes to win at Arkansas.
Ultimately, I don't find the suggestion that the Hogs are in better shape now than they would have been with Petrino utterly ridiculous. That said, color me skeptical.