As far as coaching positions go; the offensive coordinator may well be one of the most short-lived that football has to offer. Defense wins games, but offense wins TV ratings.
During the height of its power under Chip Kelly, Oregon Football had captivated audiences across the nation with its turbo-charged pace and exciting skill players. It almost got them a national championship. Almost.
Though Oregon has run some version of the spread offense since the Redeem Team of 2005 instituted it, it had become much more simplified in recent years, preferring to rely on offensive line production and the arm of the quarterback.
Kenny Dillingham shook that up in 2022, as the young OC brought some fun back to the Ducks’ offense, turning quarterback Bo Nix into a superstar in the process.
But then…then came the final three games of the season.
Oregon was the favorite to win the conference and had a decent shot at the College Football Playoff, then went 1-2 in its last three to faceplant and likely land in the Holiday or Sun Bowl.
Granted, the defense was mutilated by Washington’s air game and Oregon State’s ground attack, but both games were completely winnable, and the outcome could have been different if one particular problem had not reared its ugly head.
Oregon tried to be cute offensively.
Granted, there is a time and place for such things. Against Colorado, the Pac-12 basement-dweller, Oregon was allowed to have some fun and score some style points. In nonconference cupcake games, this can be enjoyable as well.
But not in clutch situations against your biggest rivals. Not when any sort of momentum swing could drastically tilt the favor of the game.
Punting, though not a fan favorite, is football 101 as far as preserving field position and giving the defense a leg up. When a defense is struggling against an opponent’s attack, as it was against the Huskies and Beavers, the last thing you want to do is put it in a precarious position by continuously going for it on risky fourth downs.
When you’ve seized momentum and have the chance to salt away the game with fundamentals, you don’t suddenly try some trickery that may or may not catch the opponent off-guard.
There’s nothing wrong with youthful enthusiasm in sports, but the reason past coaches like the late Bobby Bowden and Lou Panela had continued success so late in their coaching tenures was sometimes due to simply knowing when to stick to fundamentals.
That’s one major aspect the Ducks must seek in their search for an OC.
The other is quarterback development.
The Ducks have not had to develop a young quarterback in quite some time, relying on upperclassmen and transfers the past few seasons.
Dante Moore, a 5-star quarterback from Michigan, remains solidly committed to the Ducks, even after Dillingham’s departure. He is the highest-rated quarterback commit in program history. He has incredible field instincts, his ball placement on throws is lethal, he uses his legs just as much as he needs to and is a dart when he does.
With Nix preparing for a possible NFL future due to his success this season, Jay Butterfield entering the transfer portal, and Ty Thompson having shown no growth in his game the last couple of seasons, the Ducks will likely have to be all-in on a true Freshman.
If that’s the case, and Moore is a future three-year starter for Oregon, his development at the collegiate level will be imperative. The OC will need to have a strong background in turning blue-chippers into NCAA players, not just capitalizing on a star transfer, which is what Dillingham did.
Does this hire have to make national headlines? Does it have to blow fans out of the water?
Not especially. What this hire needs is someone knowledgeable, with a proven track record, who could potentially be a familiar face on the sidelines at Autzen Stadium for more than one or two seasons.
The last time Oregon did so was with an under-the-radar OC from New Hampshire, which probably had fans asking themselves “who?”
Suffice it to say, that turned out all right for Oregon.