When the inevitable bad news of injuries or academic concerns filters through the football offices at Miami, there is no question about whose job it will be to inform the head coach. The fingers are all pointed at the rookie -- quarterbacks coach Jon Richt.
After all, he said, he’s got the best job security in the country.
"It’s not just that I’m his son," Jon said of Miami head coach Mark Richt, "but I’ve got his only granddaughter."
Indeed, there are some perks to being kin to the man in charge, but as Jon Richt and Louisville quarterbacks coach Nick Petrino have learned, the key to success working for dad is all about fitting in and doing the job well. There’s no such thing as favoritism here. It’s all about wins.
"He expects the same amount of effort and knowledge out of all of us, but I think there’s always a little part of it where, me being his son, he might expect a little more from me," Nick Petrino said of his dad, Louisville head coach Bobby Petrino. "That’s something I’ve picked up on, but it’s good. It pushes me to want to be better."
Both quarterback coaches are in their first years as full-time college assistants, and though Richt and Petrino have taken different paths to this spot, they share an inherent drive to win and an innate understanding of how their boss wants to get the job done.
For Petrino, there has never been much doubt about his future. From an early age, he knew he wanted to coach, and he’s spent nearly every year of his life learning the tools of the trade from his dad and uncle, Idaho coach Paul Petrino.
"I feel like he’s been with us forever," Bobby Petrino said of his son. "When he was in high school, he’d come and throw with the players all summer long."
From there, Nick Petrino played for his dad at Arkansas, then worked as a graduate assistant at both Western Kentucky and Louisville. Coaching was in his blood, and even before he’d wrapped up his playing career, his focus was on a career as a coach. When a full-time job opened up on the Louisville staff this offseason, Bobby was thrilled to finally bring his son aboard in an official capacity.
"I made him earn it," Bobby Petrino said, "but now that he’s here, he’s going to end up being a really good coach."
For Jon Richt, the path was a bit different. He had always viewed his father as a mentor, and he has fond memories of recruits visiting the Richt home or being on the sidelines during Mark Richt’s 15 years as coach at Georgia.
Though Petrino has been with his dad each step of the way, Richt had a bit more distance. He never played for his father -- heading to college at Clemson, transferring to Mars Hill, then taking a few tryouts at the NFL level before calling it a career. With a wife and daughter in tow, Richt decided he needed to look for a job outside football.
"It took about five months before I knew I couldn’t do anything [but coaching]," Jon Richt said.
After that brief stint working in insurance, Richt began training quarterbacks locally. A year later, he landed a job with the NFL’s Buffalo Bills, working with the offensive line and running game. Mark and Jon talked about working together one day, but nepotism rules at Georgia made that dream a long shot.
After the 2015 season, however, Richt was let go at Georgia and soon had an offer from Miami. One of his first calls was to his son.
"He’s a sharp guy and a great recruiter, and just having family here is awesome," said Mark Richt, an empty-nester after raising four children. "It was something that was important to us."
Unlike the Petrinos, however, Jon Richt is still getting a lay of the land at Miami. He learned how to play quarterback from his dad, but he’s never worked in Mark’s system.
That actually fits well with Mark Richt’s plan for this season. After 15 years at Georgia, he had largely delegated most of the coaching to his assistants. At Miami, he wants to be more hands-on, and that’s trickled down to Jon’s job with the quarterbacks.
"There’s a lot the quarterback coach has to do -- grading film, administering discipline, handling academic issues," Mark Richt said. "But as we install everything, I’m installing it all exactly the way I want it. I want him to hear it from me. So right now, he’s listening and reinforcing."
At Louisville, Nick Petrino isn’t worried about learning his dad’s scheme. It’s second nature — but that doesn’t mean it’s easy.
"I played and coached for my dad, and there was no question he was harder on me," Bobby Petrino said. "I don’t think I’m quite like that with Nick, but the thing that’s so good about having him around is he really knows the offense and isn’t afraid to give suggestions."
Nick Petrino has found a niche as the young coach with an innate knowledge of the system, which puts him in perfect position to translate his dad’s demanding approach to the players on the field.
"It’s an NFL-type of offense," Nick Petrino said. "It’s advanced. Having played in it and coached in it, and because the head coach told me everything I know -- I’m pretty much teaching them everything I’ve learned my entire life."
And that’s what it’s about for both Petrino and Richt. The family name means something, so when Jon Richt tells a recruit about his father’s passion or Nick Petrino breaks down one of Bobby’s complicated plays for a quarterback, it’s both an opportunity to prove their bonafides as college coaches and a chance to add to that family legacy.
"He taught me the way he teaches these guys," Jon Richt said. "And so I’ve been taught the past 20 years the same way I’m trying to teach these guys now."