In the world of Oregon Football reporting, I consider myself one of the most optimistic writers out there.
After last night, that optimism took a huge hit.
A few weeks ago, I wrote about the Perfect Storm Oregon and its Head Coach, Mark Helfrich, were facing this season. Between new coordinators on both sides of the ball, a new defensive scheme, new quarterbacks, injuries and youth, this was bound to be a difficult season. While I still stand by that assessment, watching things unfold has been beyond painful to watch. Last night, the pain was magnified as Oregon was out played in every phase and ultimately fell 45-20 to the Trojans.
Sure, Oregon was the underdog, but it was the fact that Oregon’s once shining Ferrari sputtered into LA, fueled only by a few gas fumes before completely stalling midfield in the Coliseum, that made the pill even harder to swallow.
Oregon struggled all night to find any rhythm with its run game, only gaining a total 85 yards on the ground which ultimately forcing the passing game into 3rd and long much of the night. With Oregon’s offense struggling, the defense saw its fair share of the field and simply could not stop USC’s much-improved offense.
It’s obvious that Oregon’s Ferrari needs a trip to the shop, but do the Ducks need a new mechanic?
Yesterday, rumors surfaced that Oregon’s top booster, Phil Knight, was willing to write a $10 million check to hire a new Head Coach. Only time will tell if those rumors are true but it does raise the question: Is replacing Helfrich the answer?
In times like this, it’s so easy to blame the Head Coach. Admittedly, the fan in me started to do that after tonight’s loss. It’s been maddening to watch the Ducks struggle over and over again this season. What’s been even harder is watching the team seemingly struggle amidst adversity. Then again, it’s hard to blame them when many of us can’t even “rally” our tweets or Facebook posts. In short, we are all frustrated and looking for answers. No one wants this.
Again, it’s easy to blame the current coaching staff for the current problems, but look, if you re-watch many of this season’s games, many, if not most, of the issues boil down to execution-missed assignments, dropped passes that would have turned into easy touchdowns, dismal tackling, and a star running back, who has, for some reason, seen a huge decline in production. Add to that, the pesky perfect storm of youth, new staff and a new quarterback. Is a new head coach suddenly going to fix that? Many think so. Perhaps Phil Knight is in that boat.
Perhaps, he’s right.
I have to ask this however, is money going to magically make that young team experienced? I suppose one could argue that new coaching staff could recruit better talent, but I think most could agree there are good players right now, starting with some of Oregon’s newest recruits, Justin Herbert, Troy Dye and Brenden Schooler. The problem is, they are young and need more time to develop. I have a hard time believing this group of respected coaches suddenly forgot how to spot talent and recruit said talent.
Ultimately the powers-that-be will be making some big decisions moving forward. There’s no denying money will be a big part of the discussion- the money that’s been lost in ticket sales, television deals, bowl games and possible play-off appearances, but also the money the auto shop may cost.
A specialized mechanic (if one exists) will be expensive and certainly not a guarantee. They will also need time to become familiar with Oregon’s owner’s manual (unless it’s Chip Kelly, a whole other discussion).
The cheaper (if that currently matters) option would be to stick with the current mechanic. It may also be the wiser choice, if you ask me. He knows the car and its manual better than anyone at this point. He was a young apprentice and his margin of error is sure to improve. He also has several skilled technicians ready to fine tune some parts while waiting for those currently on back order.
If patience was a thing in this modern-era of Oregon Football, the Ferrari may just reemerge restored and ready to speed back to the “Glory Days.”
Or, we may just see Oregon purchase a whole new car all together.
Either way, it’s sure to be an interesting few months ahead.