Ducks Down — Helfrich and the Ducks Done Winning?

After losing to Michigan State we all had excuses — Vernon Adams was playing with a broken finger, and if it wasn’t for that, Oregon would have beaten a very good college team.

But now, just a week removed from an absolute thrashing at the hands of Utah, there is a lack of hope in Eugene. The Ducks are unranked for the first time since 2009 and their chances of making a second consecutive playoff bid are all but gone. The question now becomes, “Are the Ducks done as a perennial powerhouse?”

Blaming Oregons disappointing start on the finger of Vernon Adams does not really work anymore.

Craig Strobeck

Blaming Oregons disappointing start on the finger of Vernon Adams does not really work anymore.

It seems like Oregon has been on top of, or near the top of, the college football world forever — in reality it’s only been about 5 or 6 years.

While Oregon did have moderate success prior to 2010, under both Mike Belotti and Chip Kelly, the 2010 season was the moment the Ducks exploded onto the national scene as a team that wasn’t going away.

Lots of fans were concerned after Kelly left for the NFL. After all, Kelly was the genius behind the Oregon program — Eugene’s very own Bill Walsh.

Nonetheless, Mark Helfrich led the Ducks to a strong season in 2013 and to a second National Championship game appearance last season. But to say Helfrich led the Ducks is a bit of an overstatement; it’s more accurate to say Marcus Mariota led the Ducks.

Mariota helped cover up a lot of problems with the Ducks the last two years.

Kevin Cline

Mariota helped cover up a lot of problems with the Ducks the last two years.

Now, in the first season almost fully removed from the influence of Chip Kelly, we are seeing Helfrich’s recruiting and coaching stand on its own.

Without Mariota to cover for the rest of the team, we’re seeing Oregon’s smallish O-Line get dominated by opponents who no longer fear the Ducks passing game.

Likewise, Oregon’s defense is playing without the benefit of a lead, allowing them to sell out for the pass.

Given all of these negatives hitting the team, many pundits, both local and national, are saying the Ducks winning ways have come to an end.

In an article for MSN, Joey Nardone ruminates on whether or not having Mark Helfrich as head coach is a positive or negative anymore.

Nardone addresses the idea that Heflrich’s success is discredited largely because he won with players brought in under Kelly, “… we shouldn’t use the fact that he excelled with another coach’s players against him. What was he supposed to do? Fail?”

Nardone goes on to point out that this season’s struggles don’t necessarily point to Helfrich’s undoing.

In the age of overreaction that we live in, the Ducks have gone from playoff contenders to terrible bottom feeders in literally three weeks.

Don’t get me wrong, this season is not going to end with a premier bowl outing for Oregon, but it’s far from over. Oregon could still win out, finishing with only two losses and have hope going into next season.

Only the future will tell rather or not Helfrich is a great coach in his own right, or just someone who rode Kellys coat tails.

from Video

Only the future will tell rather or not Helfrich is a great coach in his own right, or just someone who rode Kellys coat tails.

So are Mark Helfrich and the Ducks done as a premier program?

Well, maybe.

The truth is it’s simply too early to know — this could be the beginning of the end or it could simply be the beginning of a below average season for the Ducks.

As the old saying goes, “It’s not how you start but how you finish,” and how the Ducks finish will go a long way in deciding rather or not they are still the great team we’ve come to know.

Top Photo by Gary Breedlove



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Noah Smith

Noah Smith

Noah is an undergraduate student from just outside of New Orleans, Louisiana. Noah is currently pursuing a communications degree with the goal of becoming a sports journalist. Noah is a die hard Duck fan, mainly because of his obsession with football's X's and O's. In his free time he enjoys watching both pro and college football games,playing and listening to music, and drawing up his own playbooks.

  • Jerry


    After 36 years, I’m not worried about my Ducks.

    Looking forward to seeing the teams response against Colorado. It’s a long season with a lot of football left to play.

  • Rick

    Long-time Duck fan here. A few thoughts:

    We have a lot of talent on this team, especially on offense. We should be able to move the ball and score points without MM, although perhaps not quite as well. Chip was very good at adapting his offense to his personnel. Scott Frost has shown he can continue what Chip established with MM at the helm. The question is can he adjust his scheme to be successful with Lockie or Adams. So far, I think not. I am hopeful that I am proven wrong very soon.

    Defense is another story. After four games the stats don’t lie, especially against two lesser teams. After a third of the season, the defense shouldn’t still be trying to figure out how to play…they should just be tweaking here and there and making adjustments for the upcoming game based on the team they are about to play. With a great offense we have gotten by with a decent, but not great defense. Now we have a poor defense. I feel badly for the players because I don’t think they are being coached well enough to play to their potential. Unless this is fixed in the very near future, we will be in for a long season.

    Go Ducks!

    • MarcTheDuck

      Pretty much agree but my take on Frost adjusting is that he probably did adjust to what he had… but that one broke his finger and the offense has not been tailored to the other one… up til now at least. We didn’t get to see how a healthy VA would progress under Frost. Now Frost has to predict the future and decide whether to keep hoping VA is almost ready to throw well (stay the course with that game plan) or whether he should retool as quickly as possible to Lockie’s strengths. I’m not coach, I don’t see what happens in practices but my hunch is that we’re better gearing things to Lockie now. I’m doubtful VA will fully recover for a few more weeks and that’s more than half the season gone by then. AND he is just a one year player. Lockie will be back next year… even it it’s as a backup, he’ll be a better backup for having been starter this year. Lockie knows more of the playbook, his teammates’ strengths and weaknesses and has shown some ability to run the Blur. So I would go all in with him now. But Frost probably knows more than I do. :)

    • Key 8404

      “Long-time Duck fan.” Wasn’t aware there was such a thing.

      • Anthony Joseph Gomes

        long time duck fan here also. van brocklin, renfro, bob berry, fouts. i watched them all play.

  • OregonDuckFan

    Its been 11 years since we started off the season this bad. We need a new Coach. We have gone down hill every year since Chip Kelly left and we only did half way descent last year because we had Chip Kellys setup as having Marcus start. This year is all Mark Helfrich to shine but it shows how he cannot manage a team. The Defense cannot stop the run nor the pass while the offence is struggling to just convert to a 1st down after they get possession. We have lost some great QBs from transfers and now losing potential recruits because of how disordered we look out there. Our team is slower than we have ever played since before Chip Kelly and that was one of the only reasons we stood out from the rest. Now I don’t know what we have but a hand-full of great players with no direction. We have the talent we just need a new leader.

    • Anthony Joseph Gomes

      to put this into perspective the ducks lost to a team i believe will be one of the top 2 in the pac12 and to the #2 in the nation. playing strong opposition makes you stronger. playing the idaho’s and the arkansas state’s will get you easy wins while you are warming up but it wont prepare you for the tough fights down the road

  • Anthony Joseph Gomes

    oregon is suppose to be done winning. thats what U$C says. thats what E$PN says. thats what the media wants. thats what a lot of lame programs who the ducks have beaten like a drum want.

    if a QB does not emerge 7-5 or 8-4
    if a QB does emerge 9-3 or 10-2