In the epic collapse of Arkansas football in 2012, there's plenty of blame to go around. It doesn't all belong to one person.
Since the Razorback season began its collapse 15 days ago in Little Rock, several columnists have pointed the blame for this at one person or another. Some lay the complete blame on Bobby Petrino. Others point the finger directly to Jeff Long. Visit any of the Hog message boards and you'll see folks pointing toward pretty much everything around the program one way or another.
The truth is that the answer isn't A, B, C, or D. It's all of the above. What Arkansas is going through is the result of several decisions by several different people.
Of course, Bobby Petrino deserves a big share of the fault for all of this. He chose to have the affair, to hire Dorrell, and to lie to Jeff Long about it. He crashed the motorcycle. The worst part of how he got fired is that he didn't get to lead Arkansas during the inevitable decline that would have happened anyway. Since the Razorbacks caught quite a few breaks during October 2011 that led to a #5 ranking at the end of the year, following the Sugar Bowl run of 2010, Petrino will now forever be seen as a symbol of Razorback greatness, and the question of whether or not Jeff Long had to fire him could haunt Razorback fans for, literally, the rest of our fan-lives.
In April, Long was seen by many as arguably the best athletic director in the country. Now, his support among the fan base is dwindling. Long is the one who approved Petrino's rush hiring request for Dorrell, and if Long had forced Petrino to go through the state's usual hiring procedures, Dorrell would not have been an employee of the athletic department the day of the motorcycle crash. Long made the call to hire L as a move to keep the current staff together instead of hiring a new coach in April, in hopes that Petrino's skills had rubbed off on his staff and experienced players. It was a defensible move in April, but it was clearly the wrong move in retrospect. Long does have a chance to make everything good if his hire at the end of the season is successful.
Blame L for failing to lead the team through all of this. For letting Tyler Wilson become the face of the program and team spokesman in his stead. That's precisely the role we were told L would be responsible for since he'd allow the staff to do the actual coaching. Blame him for making the Razorbacks program the subject of national ridicule with his sometimes corny, sometimes simply weird press conferences. In the media notes, his section is titled, "Guidance, Energy, Stability." That's funny.
Blame Paul Petrino for not having a reliable plan in the event that Tyler Wilson went down. Blame him for not utilizing the senior running backs on the team. Blame him for not running Knile Davis in August and figuring out then that Dennis Johnson should be getting at least as many carries as Davis, if not more so. The coaches seemed to get it late in the game against Rutgers, too late. Johnson's had the higher yards per carry total in each game so far, but has also gotten fewer carries than Davis in each game. Even if defenses are more keyed in on Davis, it's not hard to see that it's much harder to bring Johnson to the ground than Davis. Speaking of which...
Blame offensive line coach Chris Klenakis for failing to develop a cohesive offensive line. Since DeMarcus Love and Ray Dominguez departed after the Sugar Bowl, Arkansas' offensive line has been more known for allowing the giant hits Tyler Wilson has had to absorb than for blocking and protection. If Ryan Mallett was stuck behind this line, he'd be broken in half by now. When homegrown prospects Brey Cook and Mitch Smothers signed with Arkansas, the thought was that Arkansas' line would only grow stronger as they developed but their names are hardly mentioned now. It's not new for Arkansas run game to be awful at the beginning of the year. It seems that's been the case since Petrino's first season in Fayetteville. This is one of the biggest curiosities of the Petrino era.
The defense sucks but that's more a result of faulty recruiting over the last few years than anything Paul Haynes and Taver Johnson have done. You can blame the coaches for pretending in press conferences that they just need to simplify the defense more. Am I the only one that remembers Willy Robinson getting down to the level of "See Ball. Get Ball."? Clearly, the defense is just awful and the coaches are just trying to make their way through the season without completely ruining their reputations.
Blame everybody involved with the program for faulty recruiting over the last few years. In particular, the 2010 class, which should be the meat of the program as juniors and redshirt sophomores, was a disaster. No more than eight of the players from the 25-man class are contributing much at all for the Hogs now.
Blame all the fans who voted for "Call Me Maybe" to be played at Razorback Stadium. That's a curse if I've ever heard one.