Petrino to have impact on Vick
The new Falcons coach knows how to get the best out of his athletes.
FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. (AP) -- Bobby Petrino will have an impact on Michael Vick and the Falcons. Just ask team owner Arthur Blank.
Blank sees Petrino, who was hired away from the University of Louisville, "as a difference-maker."
"Bobby knows how to motivate," Blank said Monday. "He knows how to teach. He knows how to get the best out of his athletes. ... He'll push Michael Vick to higher levels."
The Falcons, first in the league in rushing but last in passing, ranked 25th in scoring in their disappointing 7-9 season that cost third-year coach Jim Mora his job.
Vick made history this season as the first quarterback to rush for 1,000 yards. He also passed for a career-high 20 touchdowns, but his 13 interceptions, 52.7 completion percentage and 75.7 quarterback rating were indicators he had not made satisfactory progress as a passer.
Petrino, 45, polished his reputation as a top offensive coach in four seasons as Louisville's head coach. His 41-9 record included a 12-1 mark and No. 5 national ranking this season. The Cardinals ranked fourth in the nation in scoring and second in total yards.
After three years with Mora, who came to Atlanta with a background in defense, general manager Rich McKay and Blank agreed it was time to bring in a coach whose specialty is offense.
McKay and Blank spoke with other candidates but moved quickly on Petrino, making the hire Sunday -- the same day they had their first contact with the coach.
McKay said a provision of the agreement on a five-year, 24 million deal is Petrino will pay his 1 million buyout from his Louisville contract.
"I was certainly committed to the University of Louisville and staying there," Petrino said. "I did not go out and seek any other jobs and did not go make a phone call to any NFL teams, and then this came up."
Upon being introduced as Falcons coach, Petrino was hit with so many questions about Vick and his plans for the quarterback that finally he declared, "Michael Vick is our starting quarterback today. There's no question about that."
Looking forward to Vick
"This is my first day on the job," added Petrino, who said he had not yet talked with Vick. "I'm really looking forward to getting to know him and watching him and developing and working at it. We haven't been able to get out on the field yet. We haven't been able to get in the video room yet. But I know he's a great quarterback and a great competitor."
McKay said he was looking for more than a new quarterbacks coach for Vick when he recommended hiring Petrino.
"I really believe you don't go into it saying you've got to hire the right coach who fits one player, because that player could get hurt," McKay said.
Petrino called the hiring a "whirlwind" process. He said he had calls about other NFL jobs but "immediately told them no."
"I think the No. 1 thing that drew my interest was Rich being here," Petrino said. "I was able to see the commitment that has been made here. I believe this is truly the best football job in the NFL. It was an easy decision for me."
Petrino was quarterbacks coach for two years (1999-2000) and offensive coordinator in 2001 with the Jacksonville Jaguars. Mark Brunell, another left-handed quarterback, threw for 3,640 yards in 2000 and 3,309 yards in 2001.
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