That's the question on many minds during, the bye week. As we get a welcome break to actually sit down and think about the team without having to look forward to them lifting their legs and taking a collective pee on the fanbase. Yes, it's a time to ask whether Petrino is succeeding in his capacity as head coach.
The early returns aren't promising. Pet Rhino came into town with all those shiny orange stickers proclaiming him an offensive genius, and that label rarely stays on from college to the NFL. So far Petrino has been remarkably stubborn about the running game and failed to generate offensive fireworks even when they're sorely needed. Part of that can be blamed on the poor play of the offensive line, but running poor Warrick Dunn into the pile over and over again isn't making anyone happy. The one bonus has been the emergence of what some might call "a passing game," most notably the improvement of Roddy White.
The defense has actually been pretty decent, though their numbers sag a little because of blown coverage on deep balls and the fact that they're on the field all the freakin' time. A lot of credit in that case does have to go to Mike Zimmer, who has proved in the past he can get it done with personnel most people have never even heard of. Still, good with the bad, so I have to give kudos to Pet Rhino because the D has improved under him.
Special teams gets a tacked on mention because they're, well, nothing special. As usual.
But it's the PR front where Petrino is catching flack from writers, players and handsome bloggers like myself. He is quite simply one of the least communicative people I've ever seen, a human bland quote machine like Bill Belicheck. He also hasn't made a bunch of angry proclamations in public, either. He just sits there with that thin smile and watches it all happen.
Which is exactly why I think he's going to outlast this. I personally think he's done a pretty poor job this year, but it's fair to ask what he can do with his personnel and with some distance from every disaster the Falcons have gone through this season. Grady Jackson can make noise about being cut, DeAngelo Hall can complain and Terence Moore can write all the miserly columns he wants. Petrino is just going to sit there and take it and wait for his chance. Next year, he probably thinks, I won't have to deal with these guys.
As a fan, I find it difficult to find the right and wrong here. On one hand, it's hard to shake the feeling that Pet Rhino is unhappy with his personnel and is willing to blow up the team if that's what it takes. I'm not sure that's going to improve the team in the long term and it definitely won't in the short term. On the other hand, I think a lot of the veterans were spoiled by Mora. His hands off approach resonated with them, clearly, but it also provided no incentive to bust their asses. Now that Pet Rhino is trying to shake up the team and demand something more, there's an awful lot of whining.
Unless he flees at the end of this year (gotta love these qualifiers), I still believe Petrino's legacy with this team will be something memorable. This year is rapidly becoming a total wash and it's time for him to get a real look at the players he wants and will buy into his philosophy down the line. If that means Grady Jackson gets cut in favor of Trey Lewis, then so be it. But that means it's time to take a real look at Jerious Norwood over Warrick Dunn, Chris Houston over Lewis Sanders, and Daren Stone over Lawyer Milloy. I want to see if the young guys will carry us, give us the spark we need down the line. Ultimately, Petrino has to decide whether he's going young, trying to win with vets, or some combination of the two that isn't what he has been doing.
After all, if he's bad enough this year he won't get a shot at a legacy.