CRAWFORD | It's too early to tell the story of Petrino 2.0 - WDRB 41 Louisville News

CRAWFORD | It's too early to tell the story of Petrino 2.0

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 LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- This is not a column about Bobby Petrino, "the new man." Nor is it a column about Bobby Petrino, former coach at the University of Louisville, or Arkansas, or Western Kentucky, or Atlanta Falcons.

In 2014, surely we have reached a level of sophistication high enough to know that we don't really know public people at all. A few of them, maybe, who have been around for decades. But then again, a Penn State scandal pops up, so maybe not.

They are products. They are promoted by their schools, by public relations professionals, by the sides of themselves that they show to the media. Some of them are better at that than others.

Petrino, over the course of his career, never was really good at that side of things. Among football coaches, he's not alone.

He has shown a few different sides since arriving in Louisville this time around, to be sure. Establishing a foundation. Talking about caddying for his daughter. A more welcoming presence around media, increased access to players, assistant coaches, practices. These are all good things.

Are they signs of a better person or a better public relations push? I have no idea. For me to say would be ridiculous.

All I can say about Petrino at this point is that he is trying to put a better face forward, and in fact is putting a better face forward.

Beyond that, as U of L prepares for its first season under Petrino 2.0, I can't tell you with any certainty what to expect of Petrino moving forward, nor can anyone else. I wrote, before he was hired, a pretty skeptical opinion, but the fact of the matter is that we all have a chance to re-write our stories. Some of us just need more editing than others.

Sports Illustrated went to some length last week to tell the story of who Bobby Petrino has been. The story came out, did not generate much buzz, and faded away. This week, the magazine in an online story gave additional information, including an unnamed source who said Petrino and defensive coordinator Todd Grantham are so much at odds that Petrino would've replaced him if he wasn't saddled with such a large contract.

Was this the rumor an original SI story said Petrino reacted angrily to and blasted his staff for? We have no way of knowing. It was a strange bit of original reporting because of some of the ambiguity. And this most recent reporting is strange because the magazine apparently didn't ask for Grantham's input.

The fiery defensive coordinator did a short interview with FootballScoop.com in which he said of the most recent SI blurb, "This is the first I had heard of it. No one has asked for a comment or even questioned me on that. That's why it puzzled and shocked me that something like that would come out. To be honest with you, I kind of laughed it off and moved on."

A former player, Jamaine Brooks, took some shots at Petrino, saying, "He's a mean guy. He cusses you out. You're never doing enough."

Breaking news. Coach cusses players. More breaking news, college football coaches are pains in the posterior. They bicker and fight.

Of course Grantham is a pain. That's why Petrino hired him. These guys are not collaborators. One is trying to build an offense that will score points. One is trying to build a defense that will stop that. Every day, they clash on the field, and I'd be surprised if they didn't clash off it. Is that good or bad? I suppose we'll find out.

"From a camp standpoint, this is one of the best camps I've ever been in for working situations, for working formations and different personnel groups," Grantham told FootballScoop.com. "That's a credit to the offense and coach Petrino and what they do to challenge us."

A U of L spokesman said Petrino wasn't interested in responding to anything from SI.

I get that unnamed sources on these kinds of sensitive stories are sometimes necessary. I used several myself in a story on Petrino and his time at Western Kentucky before he was hired as coach at U of L.

The people I talked to described a coach who was very much like the coach I encountered at Louisville years ago.

But I concluded that, in many ways, that's exactly the coach U of L wanted to hire, the one who went 41-9, who sent players on to the NFL, who showed no mercy on the football field and precious little off it.

I speculated that a person can't go through the things Petrino went through and not be changed in some way. I do believe that.

But talking about "a changed man" now less than eight months into a guy's tenure is not worth a whole lot. Petrino will have a chance to prove that over time in Louisville. No press release or profile story is going to answer that question.

What little insight I can give is that Petrino seems more at ease to me when I've seen him at events. I had dinner with him at the ACC Media Days in Greensboro, N.C., and he was relaxed and engaging, talked about topics away from football. What does that mean? Nothing, really. It's just one snapshot. I'm sure there are others. If anybody expected Petrino to be anything less than the fiery, abrasive guy he's always been on the football field, I expect they'll be disappointed.

There are difficulties during coaching changes. At U of L, that's compounded because coaches sometimes leave after successful tenures, not just when the program is in trouble. Petrino replaced Charlie Strong and a highly popular coaching staff. Lorenzo Mauldin said he still speaks with former Cardinals assistant Clint Hurtt often. If there's one go-to coach he has right now when he needs encouragement, or is having a personal problem, that's still the guy he trusts. He also said Petrino's faith in him when he arrived and now, "means a lot to me."

There's no short cut to any of this. I'm not in any hurry to proclaim Petrino as this or that. We all know where he's been. I'd only caution that it's pretty rare for us to really know anyone in the public eye. We see glimpses. We're given public relations. We hear stories crafted by people who want us to believe one way or another.

Sometimes the only thing we know for sure is that we don't know. And in sports, sadly, sometimes the only thing that separates the good guys from the bad is winning.

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