Great players come and go through every program, but eventually they have to move on. The hole they leave is oftentimes the most talked-about topic of the off-season. This off-season it is an especially hot topic, after losing the best player ever to come through this program. The most asked questions around Eugene are “Do you think Jeff Lockie or Vernon Adams will start?” or “How can we go on without Marcus Mariota?” On the outside, many of us are happy for Mariota getting drafted, but on the inside we’re as sad as this young fan:
However this is not the first time we have lost a program-defining player. While we may have had a falling off in the past after implementing the spread offense, we have not had many problems at the QB position. Each time we’ve lost our starting QB, the fan base has overreacted and the media has predicted that Oregon would take a step backwards.
The problem with that prediction is that after cycling through five QB’s since 2008, we are still waiting for this supposed step backwards. This season will mark the 11th of having the spread offense at Oregon, and we have yet to experience a step backwards due to QB play.
The first legitimate competition in the spread was in 2006 between Dennis Dixon and Brady Leaf, which Dixon eventually won. Following the close Holiday Bowl loss to Oklahoma, there were some expectations for the season, but nothing close to a BCS bowl. However, the team surprised people by getting an upset win over Oklahoma. As the season went on the team did drop a few games, and ended up in a bowl that was more in line with expectations.
Once again Dixon and Leaf battled it out for the starting job and again Dixon won out. Expectations this time were cautiously optimistic, and this time the team delivered. Throughout the year, Oregon exceeded every expectation and appeared to be heading to a BCS championship. Unfortunately, we all know how that story ends, and again we were left wondering who the next QB would be.
The following year, Oregon started the year with Justin Roper running the show. Although he did get the starting job, it was not as if he won it; it was more like Oregon had no other choice. Before the year even started, Nate Costa tore his ACL once again, and Roper was the only one with game experience. After an few starts Oregon was facing another string of QB injuries as Roper was hurt against Purdue.
With no other option, Jeremiah Masoli was forced into the starting role. With the injuries mounting, and an unproven QB at the helm, the expectations were bleak. Then out of nowhere, Oregon began winning and miraculously they made it to the Holiday Bowl. Even more surprising was that Oregon would go on to upset a Dez Bryant-led Oklahoma State.
With an established QB and a plethora of weapons, Oregon was ready to take the then-Pac-10 by storm. Most of us know how that season went. Our first-year head coach led Oregon to a Pac-10 championship and Rose Bowl berth — ending with a disappointing loss to Ohio State, but still a very successful season.
With even greater expectations for the following year, Oregon was looking to take that next step, but instead lost their QB when Masoli was dismissed from the team. Once again, we weren’t sure what to expect. It was assumed that Costa would finally get his chance to start, but instead Darron Thomas took the job and didn’t look back.
Even with the new QB, fans had become accustomed to a certain level of success from the team. Simply competing was no longer good enough. Now Oregon was expected to win all its games and the conference every year.
Even with that level of pressure, Oregon again surpassed the expectations of everyone, and this time made it to the National Championship Game. Although the Ducks came up just short, Oregon had proven that they were going to score points no matter who the QB was.
The following year, while not as successful as the year before, can’t be viewed as a step backward, either, as the Ducks won the inaugural Pac-12 championship and were Rose Bowl champions. Thomas’s senior year was setting up to be one for the ages. He had weapons at every position and a manageable schedule. Instead, he shocked everyone by declaring for the draft and leaving Oregon with a hole at QB.
This turned into a blessing in disguise, as what followed was the greatest run in Oregon football history — the battle between Bryan Bennett and Mariota is well documented, and so is the outcome. While we expected Bennett to be the Oregon QB, what we got instead was the greatest player ever to play for Oregon. Three bowl victories, a Pac-12 championship, a Heisman trophy, and more awards than we could count. We can safely say that the coaches made the right decision.
With the latest QB under contention, why not remember the QB battles of the past with the Mighty Oregon DVD? From Dixon to Thomas, relive all the success these field generals have brought to Oregon.
Now that Mariota is gone, we are again going through the media storm that is the Oregon QB crusade. However, if we look back, it is clear that the coaches will know who the right man for the job is. Whether Lockie or Adams wins this latest Oregon QB skirmish, we can rest assured that the offense is in good hands.
Featured Photo by Craig Strobeck
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