I’ve been attempting to stay away for the past couple weeks, just to see if I have some perspective on what’s going on. 2016 has been a terrible year, and not just because our Ducks are flailing about. I think refocusing ourselves on family and football (for fun) are appropriate given how things have gone. Here are my thoughts on where we are:
I don’t think there’s any denying now that Helf has lost control of the program. I suspect that the fix is somewhat in (and while it is somewhat despicable that these stories are coming out now vs when they happened, there should be full transparency in our program), but it doesn’t change the results. On the heels of Prevot being suspended for the whole season, Eddie Heard getting arrested, Maloata being dismissed from the team, Carrington breaking someone’s arm, the Pharaoh Brown news, Devon Allen leaving the team, Cliff Harris getting arrested again, Canton Camautule leaving the team, rumors about Uncle Phil splashing cash for a head coach/staff and the subsequent media circus created by the AD, and the cherry on top of a shit sundae – the fuskies playing very well, it’s pretty clear that Helf’s time is up. If not for his lack of control, maybe simply due to the scoreboard every game.
More importantly, we had a conversation after the Alamo Bowl last season and the conclusion from several of posters here (me included) was that we didn’t have enough post-Mariota data on Helfrich to determine whether or not it was Helf or Chip Kelly/Mariota who really had set the team up for success when Helf took over. I recognize that our opponents have caught up to us in some ways and that our scheme is no longer revolutionary, but look no further than to Houston vs. Louisville last night to show you how a true zone read game can be effective if used properly. Look no further to the fuskies, who have consistently been beaten by us in recruiting over the past decade and turned a blowout in 2014 into a 6pt loss in 2015 and a win that will embarrass us just as much as that TCU loss. My question is: how does this happen? We had our fair share of shit happen under Chip, but not in a giant wave like this. I think we have enough data now to determine that this is not simply a rebuilding year, but something is really wrong behind closed doors.
The blame has to be placed at the feet of Helf for the lack of control of the team, but also for our results. Every position group has regressed this season (outside of our RBs). The group that Helf was most responsible for prior to taking over the OC/HC jobs here was the QB group, which has generally been our weakest link since Marcus left. As a QB coach, to not have a stable of prepared QBs as we’ve had the last two seasons is simply unacceptable.
The death-knell to any team is when it stops becoming an attractive place for players to come play. We’ve seen it happen to several programs that were in vogue for a few years, but then fell off due to sanctions, recruiting violations, coaching turnover etc. We’ve had a good run. 2007-2014 is a long time for a program to be in the mix (I’d argue that the flashes were there in 2001 and 2004 as well). But without consistency in performances, we’re never going to get back to where we were.
Nothing is more upsetting to me on that front than the loss of Elijah Molden, the son of ex-player and current Nike employee Alex Molden, and whose best friend is committed to us, to the fuskies. Add in the significant decommits last year, and we may be finally discovering the "why" behind our recruiting woes. At first, it seemed to me to be the doing of petulant kids who are prone to change their mind, but that’s not entirely fair to them. I wonder if players/recruits, having been on the inside, were able to see that the foundation was damaged and that there was going to be no repairing it while they played for us. It’s no coincidence that all of this has also coincided with increased AD/PR push from the University. Every practice report was a rosy assessment of how well our players were doing, which was never matched by their on-field play. It took a strong QB like Vernon to come here just to keep things together, but the minute we lost that, the whole house collapsed.
As a side note, it was also somewhat bizarre to see Chance Allen playing for a resurgent Houston team and racking up 4 catches for 105 yards (26yards on average) and a TD, when he couldn’t even break into our depth chart here at Oregon. Maybe that had something to do with having Addison, Carrington, Allen, Lowe, Stanford etc. in our 2-deep, but part of me feels that we misattributed the significant attrition from the program to the characters of the players who left, instead of maybe paying attention to what was going on behind closed doors. It may not have been the deteriminative factor, but everything that has happened recently leads me to believe that it was definitely a factor, if not an important one.
I’m not sure what to say about Hoke. 3-4 weeks ago, I suggested that our defensive woes may not be a symptom of Hoke, but rather due to an accumulation of bad habits that were taught to our defensive players from the time Aliotti and Coach Azz left. If that’s the case, I’m not sure it’s appropriate to blame Hoke. That being said, recall that Hoke was a coach at Michigan and inherited a relatively decent team from Rich Rod before he was fired. Here’s Hoke’s record at Michigan:
2012 – 8–5
2013 – 7–6
2014 – 5–7
I didn’t think this was a great hire for a coordinator, but for recruiting. So far it doesn’t appear that it has made a big impact. So what’s left? There are literally over 100 coaches at the FBS level at the defensive coordinator position who are doing "better" than our defensive coaching staff in similar metrics. If that is not enough of an indication to the AD’s office that we can do better, I’m not sure what else is.
Men of Oregon
If I could rely on anything, it was that no matter how badly we were losing games, the student athletes on this team were comporting themselves in a way that would make themselves, their families, the University and their fans proud of them. Most of the young men on this team are just trying to get an education and make a better life for themselves where their predecessors did not have the same opportunity. I respect the hell out of those kids. Every program has a few bad apples, but I think we’ve started to lose sight of what’s important, me included (with all my talk about how we’re now a big-money program and need to act like it). While I’m still advocating that we back up all of the costs that have increased with this program with some actual high profile wins, I’m just as happy to go back (if we all accept that we pay far too much for this shit now and if prices are lowered) to when it wasn’t about the flashy uniforms and high profile recruits, but about wanting to play the game and playing it the right way.
I’m sorry you came here Dakota Prukop. If you had chosen Alabama, you might have ended up with a championship ring this season, even if you were on the bench. Instead, you get to be here as one of the standard-bearers for the abject failure of our coaching staff to recruit/train properly. You’ve regressed since you came here and I apologize for that. Any chance you might have had to showcase your abilities is gone. I’m sorry you tore your ACL Devon Allen and that it might cost you valuable training time for track and field. I’m sorry Dwayne Stanford. You have been Mr. Reliable for this team and they let you down. I’m sorry to all the players that show up every day knowing that they are able to play this sport and get a free education and only want to do what they need to do to improve themselves. To guys like Royce, I’m sorry the team didn’t rise to your skill level and that you had to carry us. To the young guys, I’m sorry to signed up for this thinking you were going to compete for championships only to have ineptitude and nepotism hurt those possibilities. You all don’t deserve this and I’m wishing all of you all the best of luck in your future endeavors.
Where Do We Go From Here?
I’d love to know what you all think will solve the problems. Personally, I think it’s time to clean house with the staff. They had a good run. They achieved a lot and they worked for decades together to build the program to where it is. They can no longer take it any further. I would be looking at Tom Herman still (even though the luster is back on him with that Louisville win, I think a godfather offer from Uncle Phil could get him here). I think we look at Rocky Long down at SDSU. PJ Fleck at Western Michigan. We need youth/new ideas. If Chris Petersen can get his team to the brink of winning a PAC-12 Championship with consecutive recruiting classes int he 30s and 40s, we should be able to as well.
Let me know what you think below. And as we get closer to the holiday season, I want to say that I’m thankful for this community and wishing all of you and your families a wonderful holiday.