Louisville Coach Headed for NFL's Falcons

Bobby Petrino received plenty of offers during his four years as Louisville coach.

Finally, he got one worth taking.

Petrino has accepted a five-year, $24 million offer from the Atlanta Falcons to become their new coach, replacing Jim Mora. ESPN.com's Pat Forde reported the hiring and contract details earlier Sunday night.

A formal announcement was set for Monday afternoon at the Falcons' suburban training complex in Flowery Branch -- exactly one week after Mora was let go.

"This is an exciting day for the Atlanta Falcons franchise," owner Arthur Blank said in a statement. "Bobby Petrino is an extremely talented football coach who has done some tremendously innovative things as both an offensive coordinator and head coach."

Mora, who never seemed to get the most out of Michael Vick, will be replaced by a coach who guided high-scoring Louisville to a 12-1 season, capped by a 24-13 victory over Wake Forest in the Orange Bowl.

The 45-year-old Petrino met briefly with his Louisville players Sunday night to let them know he was leaving for what he feels "is the best job in the National Football League."

"I am excited about the challenge that awaits me in Atlanta, and I'm equally excited about the potential that I see in this team," he said.

"Bobby Petrino did a great job here at Louisville," Louisville athletic director Tom Jurich told ESPN's Chris Mortensen. "I'm proud of what he accomplished. I just wish we could have kept him longer. He will do a great job for the Falcons."

Petrino's first order of business: getting more production out of Vick. The Falcons star became the first quarterback in NFL history to rush for 1,000 yards but never seemed comfortable in the West Coast-style system installed by Mora and his offensive coordinator, Greg Knapp.

This season, the Falcons were last in the league in passing and 25th in scoring with their average of 18.2 points.

Louisville never had any trouble putting up points under Petrino. In 2006, the Cardinals ranked second in the country in total offense (475.3 yards per game) and fourth in scoring with a 37.8-point average.

Petrino had a 41-9 record in four years at Louisville, leading the school to the Big East title and its first Bowl Championship Series appearance in the Orange. He had just completed the first year of a 10-year, $25 million contract.

"In short, he's a difference maker who will bring a strong identity to the Falcons -- one our team will buy into and take on as their own," Blank said.

Petrino's name repeatedly came up for other coaching vacancies, including an embarrassing episode in 2003 when Auburn set up a clandestine interview late in the season to gauge his interest in possibly replacing Tommy Tuberville.

Petrino met with LSU after the 2004 season and turned down the Oakland Raiders' job a year later. Louisville twice renegotiated Petrino's contract, giving him hefty raises in hopes of keeping him.

"This is where I want to be," he insisted.

That all changed after the Falcons fired Mora, just two years after he led the team to the NFC championship game. Atlanta missed the playoffs the past two seasons, going 7-9 in 2006.

Petrino's previous NFL experience includes three years with the Jacksonville Jaguars, where he served as quarterbacks coach and offensive coordinator. He then returned to the college ranks, first as Auburn's offensive coordinator in 2002 before heading to Louisville.

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