Who is the best choice to replace Bobby Petrino at Arkansas?

April 11, 2012
  • Bobby Petrino was fired as the Arkansas Razorbacks' football coach Tuesday.
Bobby Petrino was fired as the Arkansas Razorbacks' football coach… (Chris Graythen / Getty Images )

Writers from around the Tribune Co. discuss who is the best choice to replace Bobby Petrino, who was fired as the Arkansas Razorbacks football coach Tuesday. Feel free to join the conversation by leaving a comment of your own.

Chris Dufresne, Los Angeles Times

First, Jeff Long deserves athletic director of the year consideration for firing Bobby Petrino instead of going the Ohio State route and saying something like "I hope he doesn't fire me." Petrino is a good coach who always seemed the kind of crass guy who might crash his motorcycle with a mistress on board. The movie starring Petrino would be "Uneasy Rider." Glad he's OK, and good riddance.

Sure, expectations were high, but Arkansas football has never won a Southeastern Conference title so what will fans really be missing? My advice: Don't panic and try to hire Lou Holtz back. And Bill Parcells just turned down a better babysitting job. Get through spring (and maybe the fall) with assistant Tavor Johnson. Give first-year Arkansas State Coach Gus Malzahn one season to realize he's made a terrible decision and that his "dream" job has always been the one Petrino just threw away after joining the Dumbbell's Angels.

Former quarterback Ryan Mallett is touting another "GM" in former Hog assistant Garrick McGee. I hear some SEC rivals are cynically suggesting a young coach with a motor that doesn't quit: Harley Davidson.

Teddy Greenstein, Chicago Tribune

Arkansas needs to do what Bobby Petrino did not do — slow down.

Razorbacks athletic director Jeff Long should toss the keys to interim coach Taver Johnson, even though the former Ohio State defensive backs coach only began calling Arkansas home in January. Then Johnson can do for Arkansas what Luke Fickell did for the Buckeyes last season — provide a bridge to an accomplished, big-name coach.

Arkansas paid Petrino $3.5 million per, so cash won’t be a problem. Signing talent won’t be a problem. There are no problems with the Arkansas job, as long as the next coach promises not to lie repeatedly.

So Long will have the 2012 season to evaluate USF’s Skip Holtz, Arkansas State’s Gus Malzahn, UAB’s Garrick McGee or perhaps try to woo Texas Tech’s Tommy Tuberville or "Monday Night Football’"s Jon Gruden. Gruden is John Daly’s first choice. So that could be a mark against him.

Matt Murschel, Orlando Sentinel

Arkansas athletic director Jeff Long had barely made the decision to fire head coach Bobby Petrino when the thought had to cross his mind, "What now?"

The Razorbacks are coming off an 11-2 season and feature enough talented players to make a strong run in the Southeastern Conference as well as a push for a BCS bowl bid.

However, replacing a coach in April isn’t ideal and my guess is that the school will go with an interim head coach, possibly Taver Johnson, for the rest of this season. Meanwhile, don’t be shocked if Long focuses his attention to a familiar name to take over the program in 2013 — Gus Malzahn.

Razorback fans are familiar with Malzahn, an Arkansas native who was the offensive coordinator in 2006. He also brings familiarity with the SEC, having been an assistant coach with Auburn for two seasons including winning a national championship in 2010.

David Teel, Newport News Daily Press

Had Bobby Petrino’s breathtaking arrogance and stupidity — really, dude, you hired your mistress? — surfaced earlier, Arkansas’ search for a new football coach wouldn’t be so dicey. But at this late hour the Razorbacks will be asking prospective candidates to abandon their current team during or just after spring practice.

Moreover, two potential candidates — UAB’s Garrick McGee and Arkansas State’s Guz Malzahn, both former Razorbacks assistants — haven’t yet coached a game at their respective schools. But the lure of a top 10 team led by quarterback Tyler Wilson and tailback Knile Davis will prove too tempting for some. If Arkansas wants a coach universally respected by his peers for integrity and ability, look no further than Jim Grobe. If you can win at Wake Forest, you can win anywhere.


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