Petrino Agrees to Coach Falcons

The Associated Press
Sunday, January 7, 2007; 11:46 PM

ATLANTA -- From his very first year at Louisville, Bobby Petrino's name kept coming up for other coaching jobs. On Sunday, he finally decided it was time to go. Petrino left the Cardinals to become head coach of the Atlanta Falcons, who needed less than a week to find a replacement for Jim Mora.

After firing Mora, who never seemed to get the most out of Michael Vick's enormous potential, the Falcons went with a coach who guided high-scoring Louisville to a 12-1 season, capped by a 24-13 victory over Wake Forest in the Orange Bowl.

"This is an exciting day for the Atlanta Falcons franchise," owner Arthur Blank said in a statement. "Bobby Petrino is an extremely talented football coach who has done some tremendously innovative things as both an offensive coordinator and head coach."

The 45-year-old Petrino met briefly with his Louisville players Sunday night to let them know he was leaving, said Kenny Klein, the school's sports information director. The Falcons planned a formal announcement Monday at the team's training complex in Flowery Branch.

Petrino said he took what "I truly feel is the best job in the National Football League."

"I am excited about the challenge that awaits me in Atlanta, and I'm equally excited about the potential that I see in this team," he said in the Falcons' statement.

His first order of business: Getting more production out of Vick, who became the first quarterback in NFL history to rush for 1,000 yards but never seemed comfortable in the West Coast-style offense installed by Mora and his offensive coordinator, Greg Knapp.

This season, the Falcons were last in the league in passing and 25th in scoring with their average of 18.2 points.

Louisville never had any trouble putting up points under Petrino. In 2006, the Cardinals ranked second in the country in total offense (475.3 yards per game) and fourth in scoring with a 37.8-point average.

Petrino had a 41-9 record in four years at Louisville, leading the school to the Big East title and its first Bowl Championship Series appearance in the Orange. He had just completed the first year of a 10-year, $25 million contract. said he agreed to a five-year, $24 million deal with the Falcons.

Petrino's name repeatedly came up for other coaching vacancies, including an embarrassing episode in 2003 when Auburn set up a clandestine interview while Tommy Tuberville was still the Tigers coach.

Petrino met with LSU after the 2004 season and turned down the Oakland Raiders' job a year later. Louisville twice renegotiated Petrino's contract, giving him hefty raises in hopes of keeping him.

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