Last night, Mark Helfrich became the first Oregon football head coach in four decades to be fired. So one could say they are in uncharted territory.
It also appears that for the first time since Rich Brooks was brought to Oregon from UCLA in 1977, the Ducks will be looking outside the program for their next head coach. After Brooks you had Mike Bellotti, Chip Kelly and Mark Helfrich. All of these guys were promoted from within after serving as the offensive coordinator under the previous head coach.
Sorry Matt Lubick, you’re going to be the first Oregon offensive coordinator this era not to get promoted to head coach.
Oregon athletic director Rob Mullens has said the hire will come from outside the program. That is your first sign that the program is ready to throw out the status quo. With the exception of newcomers Brady Hoke and David Yost, the Oregon coaching staff has an average tenure of 18 years, meaning some have been on that staff longer than a lot of kids they are coaching have been alive. I don't know how many of those guys will get to keep their jobs, but I doubt it will be many.
So since we know it won't be Matt Lubick, here are some names that have been thrown around for Oregon’s head coaching gig.
P.J. Fleck - Western Michigan
This is the hire that many fans want to see happen. Everyone seems to be on Team Row the Boat, including myself. Fleck has bounced around to four college programs, plus a stint in the NFL as the wide receivers coach for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, staying in each role for no longer than four years.
In the four years he’s been with Western Michigan, he went from going 1-10 in 2013 to capping off a perfect 12-0 regular season this year and could be playing in a New Year’s Six Bowl.
He’s a high energy guy who has become famous for his “Row the Boat” mantra. Any time a coach has his own catch phrase, he’s going to be an exciting option. Fleck is at the top of my personal list because of his energy and proven ability to turn a program around, something this Oregon team desperately needs.
Bryan Harsin - Boise State
Another name that has been thrown around a lot is Boise State’s Bryan Harsin, who has a 31-8 record as the Broncos head coach. Back in 2012, Harsin led Boise State to a 12-2 record and a win in the Fiesta Bowl. Harsin previously served under current Washington head coach Chris Petersen while at Boise State, so that would certainly be an interesting dynamic if he was brought to Eugene.
Beau Baldwin - Eastern Washington
Remember the excitement that Vernon Adams brought to the Ducks during his one season in Eugene? We’ve got Beau Baldwin to thank for that. Baldwin has a 93-34 record in the FCS and led the Eagles to an FCS championship in 2010. He has led Eastern Washington to upset wins over Oregon State and Washington State and also competed well against both Oregon and Washington, so there’s no telling what he could do with an FBS roster.
Greg Schiano - Ohio State
This would be one of those hires that would surprise a lot of people. Schiano is currently in his first season as defensive coordinator of Ohio State. He’s also had stints in the NFL with the Chicago Bears and Tampa Bay Buccaneers. He also served as the Rutgers head coach from 2001-2011.
Part of the reason that there is some traction behind this name is due to the fact that Phil Knight was in Ohio State’s locker room following their big win over Michigan last weekend. As sad as it is that a booster has this much influence over the search, it’s leading to a lot of chatter about Knight wanting Schiano in Eugene.
Willie Taggart - South Florida
Another sleeper candidate here. Taggart spent a long time at Western Kentucky in a variety of offensive roles before becoming the running backs coach at Stanford from 2007-2009. That was when Taggart returned to Western Kentucky in 2010 for his first head coaching role before taking the South Florida job in 2013.
Taggart has a 40-45 record as a coach, and while he may not have as impressive as a resume as some other candidates, he’s also shown that he isn't afraid to adapt on the fly when he recognizes the talent on his roster, which could be good for the Ducks.
Chip Kelly - San Francisco 49ers
Nope. It’s not happening. Stop dreaming about it. Stop wishing for it. Yes, Kelly is 27-31 as an NFL head coach and currently has the 49ers sitting at 1-10. The only reason people aren't talking about how bad his team is this year is because the Cleveland Browns are on their way to an 0-16 record. But that doesn't mean he would come back, even if the Ducks came calling.
From what I understand, Chip Kelly hated everything about recruiting, and that’s one of Oregon’s biggest needs right now, a coach that can recruit. Yes, he brought us to a BCS game in every season he was here, but that’s the past. It’s like being hung up on an ex. You convince yourself that you two should give it a second chance, but deep down inside you know it just wasn't meant to be.