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Petrino hired to bring balance to Vick, Falcons

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Posted: January 9, 2007 12:10 a.m.
Updated: January 24, 2007 5:00 a.m.
    FLOWERY BRANCH — Bobby Petrino’s introduction as the Atlanta Falcons coach Monday also served to introduce the new coach to the problems he’ll be asked to solve in the Michael Vick-led offense.
    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 by becoming 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.
    Owner Arthur Blank said he sees Petrino ‘‘as a difference-maker’’ for Vick and the Falcons.
    ‘‘Bobby knows how to motivate,’’ Blank said. ‘‘He knows how to teach. He knows how to get the best out of his athletes. ... He’ll push Michael Vick to higher levels.’’
    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 this season.
    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 head coach whose speciality 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, according to McKay.
    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.’’
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