It’s not a good time to be a fan of the Oregon Ducks. The PAC-12 powerhouse is going through a bit of an identity crisis and it’s likely time to make a change at the top. When Chip Kelly left the team in 2012 and Oregon named offensive coordinator Mark Helfrich the head coach, some fans were not happy. I was on the fence myself, even though I wasn’t a big fan of the hire initially. During the Chip Kelly-era, the Ducks took the leap into college football’s elite teams. Unfortunately for Duck fans, they aren’t the kind of program that can constantly win like an Alabama, Florida State, or an Ohio State. Why? Because of many factors.
Location. Oregon is tucked away in the Pacific Northwest. There aren’t a whole lot of kids from all over the United States jumping at the chance to come play in Oregon.
Weather. The weather is crappy (except for the summer time) and let’s face it….college kids love them some sunny weather and not rain (SHOCKER!).
Lack of historical significance. Oregon is still relatively new to being a successful team in college football and they don’t have the history of a Michigan, Notre Dame, etc.
With all those factors playing against the Ducks, they need a guy at the head coach position that top recruits want to play for. Chip Kelly was that guy. After being promoted to Oregon’s head coach in 2009, Kelly’s stock exploded. NFL teams were interested in him. The media couldn’t stop talking about him. Oregon’s offense was one of the most exciting things in the game of football and you couldn’t take your eyes off of it. Then Kelly left. Oregon was left scrambling for a replacement after Kelly announced his departure so they did what the Oregon Ducks ALWAYS do….
Promote from within.
Instead of looking outside of it’s core group of coaches already on staff, the Ducks once again promoted their offensive coordinator to the head coach position because they are apparently afraid of a little change.
You know who’s not afraid of change?
Alabama. Ohio State. Michigan. Notre Dame. Florida. Georgia. Tennessee. UCLA.
Should I go on?
My point is, Oregon settled when they hired Mark Helfrich. They assumed they were getting Chip Kelly version two and the ship was just going to keep running smoothly, even though the captain bailed. That’s not what happened though and now the ship struck an iceberg and it’s going down.
Personally, I started worrying that Helfrich wasn’t the guy after year one. There was an incident where former tight end Colt Lyerla made a poor decision on-the-field and as he ran back towards the sidelines, Helfrich tried to grab him and say something to him. However, Lyerla was obviously upset and blew Helfrich off and Mark just smiled about it and acted like everything was OK. That’s when I started worrying about the discipline of this team. Here we are, four years later and the Ducks are constantly one of the most penalized teams in college football. So far this season, they are the FOURTH most penalized team in college football. A sign that the team lacks discipline and that goes on the head coach. Another strike against Helfrich.
Some people like to give Helfrich a pass because of what happened in year two. The guy rode Chip Kelly’s recruits (and some guy named Marcus Mariota) to an appearance in the National Championship. Yes, that was an extraordinary job by Helfrich that year, but hear me out for a second. Oregon got to the National Championship game after they beat a Florida State team that everyone bagged on all-year long as “not being very good”. The Ducks proved that right when they smashed the Seminoles in the playoffs. That was a big win for Helfrich (the biggest of his career), but he immediately got brought back down to Earth when Urban Meyer out-coached him in the National Championship game embarrassing the Ducks on National TV. Another strike against Helfrich.
Last year was an interesting year for Oregon. After losing the best player in program history to the NFL, no one knew what to expect from the Ducks, but they were still considered PAC-12 contenders by a lot of experts. Oregon then went on to lose four games for the first time since 2007. Helfrich was out-coached on numerous occasions and if that wasn’t bad enough, Oregon played TCU in the Alamo Bowl and lost a 30-point halftime lead and went on to lose the game in embarrassing fashion. Another strike against Helfrich.
So, you get my point yet? After four years of seeing Mark Helfrich as head coach of the Oregon Ducks, I’m less than pleased with his job thus far and it’s likely going to get worse before it gets better. Helfrich has shown time and time again that he’s a questionable in-game coach. His teams lack discipline. He’s not that great of a recruiter. And the guy is just the pure definition of AVERAGE. If Oregon fans are fine with being average, then by all means….keep Helfrich on board. You remember what it was like to be a Duck fan before the Chip Kelly era? That’s whats coming your way fans.
Unless the Ducks make a drastic coaching change this off-season.
But they won’t.
Because too much change is scary.