Oregon’s Football defense really needed fixing after the 2013 season. The stats today look better than they were after some dominating performances against Nichols, Virginia and Tennessee at the beginning and Texas at the end. And this was a defense that struggled to stop the run and got downright embarrassed against Stanford, Arizona and even Oregon State.
They were dead last in the conference in tackles for loss last season, 10th in opponent’s third down conversions, 7th in sacks and 6th in rushing defense. Tyler Gaffney, Ka’Deem Carey, and Terron Ward all shredded them for big rushing days in what became a disappointing second half of the season given a 8-0 start.
It was a profile of a defense that wasn’t very aggressive or effective, particularly in key games. Nick Aliotti stated he had planned to retire after last year’s Fiesta bowl game, but agreed to stay on to help the team in Mark Helfrich’s first year. With a full season to conduct a quiet search, the Ducks were able to promote from within and rewarded a lifelong Oregonian the job.
This isn’t an indictment of Don Pellum’s personally. His interviews, public statements and conduct over 32 years as an Oregon player and coach suggests that he is a good man, an exceptional recruiter and a capable coach.
People say, “I trust the coaches” and “you don’t know what went on behind the scenes.” Increasingly, Oregon football has become less fun to write about because of counter arguments like these. Because, in front of the scenes, Oregon’s offense ranked 10th in the conference in red zone conversions this season, and those unassailable trustworthy coaches produced flat, uninspiring performances with little chance to play for a national championship or the Rose Bowl.
The decision to promote from within feels like a fall-back hire and an uninspired choice. Oregon’s defense needed drastic improvements after a lackluster season, and it’s hard to think the same staff minus Nick Aliotti will produce them.
Writing this blog has been a rewarding experience. In 2013 we had over a half million pageviews, which was phenomenal growth after starting from nothing in August of 2010. In the beginning we averaged 15 to 20 visitors a day. It was exhilarating to build an audience and take on the challenge of writing from one fan’s point of view and making it interesting.
It’s become less exhilarating over time. Increasingly the Ducks are a powerful organization that limits access and controls information, a monolith that operates behind a black facade. They diffuse and deflect legitimate questions and squelch criticism, express smugness whenever speculation veers from the official story. Maybe Clancy Pendergast, Randy Shannon, Todd Orlando and John Neal weren’t legitimate candidates for the Oregon defensive coordinator position. Based on their track record, they should have been. Because the guy they chose has no track record in the position at all, and mixed results in his current job. How many times over the last 20 years have the Oregon linebackers been truly elite?
Yesterday afternoon after an exhausting series of exchanges with fans, twitter snarks and the Oregon Athletic Department office, I went to the movies. I saw a soulless film about a man who made millions on Wall Street, a man who cared for no one, abused his mind and body and betrayed his closest friends. The movie was crass, pointless and depressing, a confusing montage of riotous excess and f-bombs, emptiness, loveless sex and unbridled drug consumption. The hero punched his wife in the stomach and abducted his own child, backed his expensive car into a brick wall. The lead investigator went home on a drab, dreary subway train.
Somehow the whole thing reminded me of writing about Oregon football, and it made me realize I don’t want to do it anymore.
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