Petrino already may be losing locker room in Atlanta
Posted: Wednesday October 10, 2007 1:24PM; Updated: Wednesday October 10, 2007 7:11PM
Somewhat unexpectedly, Tuesday turned out to be a pretty good day for the Atlanta Falcons, who learned that an arbitrator had ruled in their favor regarding their quest to recoup almost $20 million in bonus money from disgraced quarterback Michael Vick. The grateful Falcons will take any victory they can get, even if it shows up only in a financial ledger. Because in almost every other quantifiable category, the losses keep piling up in the first year of the Bobby Petrino coaching era in Atlanta.
It's not just that the Falcons are 1-4 and floundering on offense. That much comes as no surprise given the aftershocks of losing their franchise quarterback just before the opening of training camp. One way or another, Vick's absence figured to serve as the backdrop of the season, and it has thus far.
But there's more to Atlanta's troubles this year than a lack of No. 7, and though it's still early October, the situation seems to be rapidly wilting down south in Flowery Branch. With player discontent on the rise and now a topic for public debate, folks are wondering whether Petrino's most costly failure this season will include the loss of his own locker room?
Things are not quite to the point of disarray in Atlanta, but you're starting to see the vague outline of that sorry state, and that's never a good development.
Two weeks ago, the first sign of storm clouds was DeAngelo Hall's sideline meltdown against Carolina, and the swift and decisive $100,000 fine and benching the Falcons cornerback received from Petrino. That move was largely applauded, and seen as the type of discipline Petrino needed to apply in Atlanta.
But then this week came more player news of the wrong kind. The unhappy headlines have been about tight end and team captain Alge Crumpler's doubt-laden assessment of the coaching staff's motives, the play-calling, and the direction of the team in the moments after a frustrating 20-13 loss at Tennessee on Sunday.
Yet another topic has been Petrino resorting to that first, sure-fire sign of a team in turmoil -- a quarterback change, and particularly in this case, one that bore no apparent fruit when Byron Leftwich took over for the struggling Joey Harrington in the fourth quarter against the Titans.