According to numerous sources, Willie Taggart met with the Florida State Seminoles on Monday. Following unending rumors concerning Taggart and FSU, ESPN confirmed that a meeting took place following the exit of Jimbo Fisher to Texas A&M.
It may have been the worst kept secret in sports, but everyone around Oregon knew something was happening with the head coach of the football team.
Let’s be clear, NOTHING IS FINAL. Just because Taggart spoke to FSU doesn’t mean it will work out for both sides. As stated before, Taggart will always be a topic of conversation when there are coaching vacancies. He’s a talent and that is what happens in the current college climate.
Nevertheless, the Ducks have been left in the dark over the last few days. Nobody knows what his next move will be, namely two of the most important people to the program; Rob Mullens and Phil Knight.
Last week, Taggart spent some time with Nike’s founder at the PK80 Invitational. There, the two shared stories and consumed elite college basketball. This came around the same time that Oregon sent an adjusted offer to their head coach. The contract was reportedly for five years and $20-plus million with incentives.
According to Akili Smith, Knight told Taggart to NOT make it about the money.
Breaking news!!!!— Akili Smith (@akili_smith) December 4, 2017
Reliable source states.....
Uncle Phil has told coach Coach Taggart NOT to let it be about money. #GoDucks
Regardless, what seemed like a bad dream last week has become a reality just days later. Everything was speculation until Fisher departed from Tallahassee. That move placed credibility with sources claiming FSU wanted Taggart to lead their future.
With that said, Willie Taggart is still currently the head coach for the Ducks. Just ask him.
“I am the head football coach at the University of Oregon,” stated Taggart multiple times over the weekend.
If Oregon’s leader is seeking different opportunities, so too should the Ducks. Let’s take a look at my first replacement option for Taggart.
Mullens wouldn’t have to travel very far to find his defensive coordinator, Jim Leavitt.
This is completely hypothetical, but 100 percent my opinion. These are the not the views or thoughts of anyone around the program. With that, here are my reasons why he would be a perfect fit in the big chair.
1). THE PROCESS
Everyone says, ‘trust the process’ but I am beginning to question the actual process. Nobody stays long enough in one place anymore, therefore the process is continually being disrupted and forced to start over with a new regime. I would love to see one person take the Oregon job and not relinquish it. Maybe they could coach until they’re Bill Snyder’s age. Regardless, the Oregon football program is a gold mine with insane untapped potential.
I’m sure many wonder what UO would be if Chip Kelly never left, but the first part of being consistent is finding a routine. That’s why naming Leavitt the head coach would be ideal for the Ducks. They would avoid the dreaded coaching search, amid fan and media speculation at every turn. Instead, UO could dismiss any chance for social media second-guessing by promoting someone who understands the Oregon way already. Someone the players trust.
2). DEFENSIVE INTEGRITY
With Leavitt, Oregon’s dynamic defense would stay in place. And we all know how much his defense improves from Year 1 to Year 2. Not to mention, his players and coaches trust him explicitly and have already enjoyed success together.
3). STAYING OFFENSIVE
Another great aspect of this signing would be the offensive production. One would assume, he would keep the offense exactly how it is now. At this point, Justin Herbert will be running the offense moving forward anyway. Leavitt will keep his “hands off” the uptempo system that has become Oregon’s calling card.
4). POSITIVE RECRUITER
A majority of the No. 6 recruiting class for 2018 may decommit if Taggart leaves, but we can’t be sure until it actually happens. If Oregon wants to keep those kids on their path to Eugene, then they need a person they can trust. Someone like Leavitt who has already stepped foot into their home and probably offered them a Pepsi too.
5). NFL PEDIGREE & TWITTER SAVVY
Taggart has spent his entire career, as a player and coach, at the collegiate level. As for Leavitt, he spent four years in the NFL as the San Francisco 49ers’ linebacker coach. There, he refined his coaching skills and understanding of the new social media generation. Leavitt's Twitter game is on point and always worth a chuckle. If he isn’t positively motivating, he’s quenching his own thirst for his favorite beverage.
Let's go!! Another great day to embrace! Going to see some great ones today and this week. I am so excited. First stop is an ice cold Pepsi and then Game On!! Go Ducks!— Jim Leavitt (@CoachJimLeavitt) December 4, 2017
Don’t expect the ‘deer in headlights’ look from this man. Leavitt has been there before. Before Taggart was walking the sideline at South Florida, Leavitt was the head coach there from 1997-2009. Leavitt registered a career record of 75-44 in 119 total games coached at South Florida. He led his squad to a bowl appearance on five separate occasions (3-2). Incredibly, aside from one 4-7 campaign, he never had a year with less than six victories. Leavitt secured three nine-win seasons, including three more with eight wins. His mindset is better this time around.
7). PAC-12 DOMINATION
My favorite work of Leavitt’s career was the job he did at Colorado as the defensive coordinator from 2015-2016. By the end of his second season in Boulder, Leavitt had his incredible defense in the Pac-12 Championship playing against Washington. In his first year with the Ducks, they already possess the No. 41 ranked defense nationally.
8). WASTED TIME IS MONEY LOST
If Taggart leaves, he could bring Leavitt with him so the Ducks need to be prepared with an offer if such event occurs. He’s a great talent like Taggart and loyal to a fault. Taggart brought him to Oregon, so he could choose to leave with him. At the end of the day, he’s a good guy. He has an intensity unlike anyone I’ve been around. Not to mention, everyone in the program loves him. Nobody has a bad thing to say about him and one can’t help but feed off his positivity. But if Oregon stalls with an offer, he could be gone with the wind.
9). CONTINUE TO DO SOMETHING
After securing the 26th-best run defense in the country, Leavitt is not satisfied. With a young and talented group, expect this unit to grow instrumentally from this season to next. If Leavitt is there to help guide them, the results should be even better. Regardless, he can build off the culture change that Taggart started here.
Stability is what Oregon football needs right now. Nobody can expect the Duck players to continually learn new systems. If Tag leaves and UO is forced to hire outside the program, a junior like Herbert would be undertaking his third offense in as many years. That does not promote success for the player.
10). THIS IS NOT A MARK HELFRICH SITUATION
We all know who Chip Kelly “highly recommended” when he left Oregon for the NFL. It didn’t work out, but it’s also a completely different situation this time. Kelly built an empire in Eugene and then handed the keys to someone with no prior head coaching experience at the college level. Helfrich tried to copy Kelly instead of setting his own standards. For that, the program’s discipline and accountability suffered. Leavitt is the exact opposite of Helfrich. Not to mention, he accepted this job because he believes in Taggart’s abilities. Leavitt is older and more experienced than the head coach he works under, so that should tell you everything you need to know about his character.
Jim Leavitt is a consistent mentor that everyone trusts. I can’t envision a better alternative to the man who set out to change the culture at Oregon. Maybe UO isn’t seeking a total overhaul. Maybe they just need someone to trust the process and stick around.