Coaches Comments: GOC Suggests a Coaching Change

The Grizzled Ol’ Coach, Mike Morris (a frequent contributor to FishDuck.com), has educated Oregon fans and me enormously with his wisdom and brutal honesty. He is suggesting a major change for the Ducks, but do remember that we have many guest coaches as writing contributors and their opinions could be different than the GOC as do the other writers and editors. Please read it slowly and absorb the gems in every paragraph … Charles Fischer    

I wrote most of this article last week – before the recent Saturday Night Massacre. In it I speculated about a “possible” defensive coaching change. Well… I’m thinkin’ things just might have changed a bit since that Pullman disaster. But I think some of my original points are still valid, and hopefully my not speaking with over-reactive anger can help us, as Duck fans, hang in there.

Oregon may need a coaching change, but these aren’t the only dire times in Duck football history. For those of you who don’t know or remember, let’s talk about a couple of other years when it seemed a catastrophic football season was about to occur.

Former Oregon coach Nick Aliotti told about the 1994 season at a Ducks’ coaching clinic: After getting beaten badly by Utah 34-16, and Hawaii 36-16, head coach Rich Brooks and defensive coordinator Aliotti knew they were in big trouble heading into the Pac-8 season. They had been playing “conventional,” predominantly conservative zone “bend don’t break” defense.

One of the great ones-Alex Molden

John Giustina

One of the great ones-Alex Molden

And they decided to say, “Fuck it!  If we’re going to lose, let’s at least have some fun and be the ‘predator not the prey.'” (Those last words are my updated paraphrasing of the actual words.) The Ducks’ defense went to almost totally man-to-man defense, with a whole lot of blitzes.

They had a great, though at-the-time unheralded, secondary [Chad Cota, Herman O’Berry, and a couple of kids named Alex Molden and Kenny Wheaton], thus “Gang Green” was born. The offense was benefiting from the new defensive attitude and the success stepped-it-up. And a conference championship and Rose Bowl appearance followed.

John Neal talked about the 2006 season, also at a Ducks’ coaching clinic: The Ducks had a [according to coach Neal] horrible 2006 season, culminating in a humiliating Las Vegas Bowl loss to BYU 38-8. The players didn’t particularly like or have much confidence in the coaches, and vice versa.

Mike Bellotti, in attempting to rebuild, went out on a limb and hired little-known Chip Kelly as offensive coordinator, replacing Gary Crowton. Neal was surprised more coaches weren’t fired.

After judging all facets of Oregon’s football program for a few weeks, Kelly spoke up at a coaches’ meeting and said, “This program is really fucked-up.” Bellotti asked him why, and asked if Kelly had any ideas on how to improve things – Kelly had a whole list of ideas; most were implemented, with help from player suggestions. And not just the Blur Offense (with an incredibly improved Dennis Dixon at QB) was created, but a whole change in the Duck culture, from how they practiced to how they recruited.

You know the rest of that story.

Why bring up those blasts from the past? To show that bad times can be gloriously overcome without unnecessarily firing the head coach and tearing down the good, solid foundation that’s been laid.

Even talking about firing Mark Helfrich is ridiculously irrational. He’s one of the best offensive coaches as there is in America, and has the perfect personality to lead the Oregon football program. A wonderful blend of the best of Brooks, Bellotti and Kelly, I still think Helfrich’s total package is better than the other three (whom I greatly admired). Duck fans are so very fortunate to have him.

Rich Brooks said that "defense is about manhood."

John Giustina

Rich Brooks said, “Defense is about manhood.”

So, why are the Ducks so bad now? They aren’t. As badly as they’ve played, they were two plays away from being undefeated, with an inept defense against two very good opponents-until that disaster Saturday night, much of it brought on by the brilliant play of the Cougs. And the Ducks have weathered past other disastrous games such as Arizona in 2014 and Utah last year.

And you all should remember the “could-haves-with-a-healthy-Vernon” from last year.

If you were judging the Ducks’ offense as if it was some other team’s offense, we’d be VERY impressed, especially with “rookies” at QB and most of the offensive line. But Oregon fans suffer from:

  1. Delusions of offensive grandeur and
  2. A lousy defense

The offense itself greatly suffers from those two things. They put too much pressure on themselves because of unrealistic offensive expectations and a very realistic fear that if they don’t score almost every time they have the ball, they’ll lose the game. An offensive team shouldn’t have to score at least 40 points each week to be considered good/adequate.

Dakota Prukop wants to be better than Marcus Mariota and Vernon Adams – in every series.  That self-inflicted pressure can lead to missing open receivers. So now LACK of confidence has been added to the offensive players’ ability to execute. Self-confidence is a tough element to get right. Both too much and too little can hurt players’ ability to do things right.

But the defense… ah, the defense. While I hate stupid, misguided criticisms, coaches should definitely be held “accountable” for the way their teams play. As much as I admire Helfrich, he’s made two big-time wrong decisions:  the hiring of Don Pellum and Brady Hoke as defensive coordinators.

I understood and agreed with the Pellum decision when it was made. Who knew? There are many great football coaches who would be incapable of being good coordinators. And Helfrich got out of that awkward situation as well as he could.

Brady Hoke has got to get them going....

Gary Breedlove

Brady Hoke has got to get them going…

With Hoke, I was skeptical when he was hired. I knew a lot about him and didn’t like what I knew. But I drank the Kool-Aid; I trusted Helfrich. Maybe Hoke had re-invented himself – learned a better way of coaching defense – in his season off. Nope. I got the Hoke I originally expected. Oh, he can certainly talk the talk, but he seems to have actually made the Oregon defense WORSEMaybe the worst since 19??

Does anyone out there seriously think the Oregon defense can significantly improve during this season? It just ain’t happening. Hoke just isn’t that good a coach. A great/very good defensive coordinator has a “system,” a way of playing defense that allows players to develop to the maximum of their abilities. I’ve given Hoke sufficient transition time-and excuses. My easy verdict: he doesn’t have such a system.

Hoke’s 4-3? Watch Michigan State, Ohio State, Washington and /or Michigan play their almost-exactly-the-same beautiful-to-my-old-eyes 4-3 systems, and then compare that with the Ducks’ confused, slow-reacting, self-destructive hybrid version.

And it’s not just because those other defenses obviously have better players than the current Ducks; it’s the fast, aggressive, un-confused way their players play. Oh those other teams’ defenders will occasionally get out-executed, but they will almost never be confused. Having consistently confused players is the worst coaching sin. “It’s not what you do, but HOW you do it.” 

And Hoke uses his base 4-3 only part-time. He wants to confuse the offense – not out-execute them – and instead, he only confuses his own defensive players. Almost every big play given up by the Ducks this year was against the flawed execution of a scheme other than the base 4-3.

My favorite defensive coordinator, Pat Narduzzi, formerly of Michigan State, who basically invented this “4-3, Cover 4” scheme that those others have “borrowed,” is now the head coach at Pittsburgh. His defensive team plays exactly the same relatively simple but thorough system he used at MSU. Pitt doesn’t have the talent or experience to get the same effectiveness, but, mark my words; Pitt will soon be one of the best defensive teams in the country because of how Narduzzi precisely teaches his system. He’s more concerned with properly teaching his players than trying to fool his opponents.

Mike Bellotti built and rescued the program.

John Giustina

Mike Bellotti built and rescued the program.

“Name an Oregon player who’s significantly improved under Hoke. Players can’t get better if they’re confused.”

So where does the Duck defense go from here? There are no great/very good players who will suddenly emerge, and probably no brilliant coaching schemes to turn things around. Because of injuries and psychological trauma, the Ducks have a better chance of getting worse than better.

Another change will have to be made in the off-season. Could Hoke re-invent himself with a new defensive system?  It’s highly unlikely, although Justin Wilcox seems to be reinventing himself at Wisconsin. But Helfrich almost surely will need yet another defensive coordinator, and that new DC might want to bring in his own assistants. Good people might have to go. Shit happens.

If a new coordinator is deemed necessary, it must be done. It’s rational, courageous accountability. Bellotti had to replace three coordinators (Gary Crowton, Andy Ludwig and Rich Stuber), and now he’s in the Hall of Fame. Urban Meyer, even with all his success at Ohio State, hired a new defensive coordinator, in 2014, to implement the Michigan State 4-3. That resulted in a National Championship for his Buckeyes, and an even better defense the following year.

After a 10-3 season in 2015, Jim Harbaugh of Michigan fired his defensive coordinator and hired the highly successful DC from Boston College in install the almost-exactly-the-same-4-3 system as the Spartans and Buckeyes. It was almost beautiful watching them defend Wisconsin.

How people deal with adversity – their mistakes and setbacks, is often the most important aspect of their lives. Hopefully, we’ll look fondly back on these painful days and joyfully think how much Oregon football has improved from its present adversity.

Retired Coach Mike Morris  (Grizzled Ol’ Coach)
Writer/Coaching Consultant for FishDuck.com
Pleasant Hill, Oregon

Top Photo from Video

The Grizzled Ol’ Coach wants to help us as fans learn football as opposed to just complaining about the results. Thus he will be teaching us the fundamental rule for the 4-3 defensive line play in the Tuesday analysis–and consequently we will see what Oregon is doing wrong from examples in the Washington State game. 

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Coach Morris

Coach Morris

Coach Mike Morris spent 30 years coaching at seven different high schools throughout Southern California. He coached many players who went on to Pac-12 programs including Oregon, such as Saladin McCullough. He is a writer, Football analyst and a good friend of the Principal of the site.

  • Matt B.

    You had me until you labeled your opposition (the anti-Helf bunch) as “irrationally ridiculous”. For the record: (A) that’s no way to win an argument; its effectively an ad hominem attack labeling anyone who doesn’t agree with you as “stupid”; and (B) if it were true, everyone rational person would agree with you, which never happens: “It is the mark of an educated mind to be able to entertain a thought without accepting it.” (Aristotle)

    Mark Helfrich is suited to run this program? Evidence, Coach. Give me evidence. He’s no silverback leader. He should be coaching PSU, Lane, or Chico if he wants to be a head coach. He’s a perfectly serviceable assistant. But a head coach is a bit like a lawyer: I represent and fight for my client’s interest. Hopefully, they can learn from my counsel and example. A coach, leads his team, teaches them, and should fight for them, too. I don’t see it. The discipline and mental focus began seeping away when the reigns were handed to Helfrich. I submit there is zero objective evidence that Helfrich has the chops to lead top tier program.

    Now, you see what I did there? I made it about the “objective evidence”. Even though the upshot is the same, that my opponents are relying on subject beliefs – not objective evidence – I’ve assaulted the foundation of your argument without calling you stupid.

    Cheers,
    MB

    • Matt…some of us believe differently without making inferences toward the writer.

      Coach Helfrich had the Oregon offense in the top five in the nation for scoring the last five years whether as OC or HC, thus his record on offense is intact. Having four new starters on the offensive line, a new QB, and a new OC will lead to an occasional let-down year this year, as any offensive coach would experience.

      Special teams is in the hands of Tom Osborn, and over time–has generally been pretty good. This year we have problems from the decisions of Nelson and the offense in two-point conversions.

      We could be winning games by 33-17 (WSU) 38-24 (Colorado) and 32-28 (Nebraska) with the same offensive output, and some adequate play by the defense. The defensive problem at Oregon has been around going back to Bellotti days, and one that I believe Helfrich will eventually solve.

      You see–I was able to offer evidence without making reference to the writer or the one commenting.

      • Matt B.

        Charles, I get the difference of opinion. Water off a Duck’s back. I was just giving the GOC some advocacy pointers. To be sure, some readers may not be professional advocates and a comment that labels their opinion “irrational and ridiculous” may rub them the wrong way. Sadly, I have the tools to explain why but not the temperament to keep my mouth shut.

        That said, there are many explicable reasons why the tide is catching up to “the Helf” now. The record demonstrates that the Helf can get by with a Heisman winner or wizard under center and healthy. When you take that away, what’s his record? Not good. This is but one criticism. There are others (i.e., the palpable decline in discipline). It seems a pretty sound inference to question the coaching credentials when the HC’s only apparent plan for success rides on the health of an All-Star QB. That has nothing to do with defense, which may even be worse.

        If each phase of the game is in tatters, whose to blame? For example, it should be clear that Coach Pellum wasn’t the root of the Defensive problems. Granted, we all can agree that over-promoting him did not help, but I would submit that is exactly what happened to the Helf. he’s been over promoted and, as a result, each element of his ship is being inundated.

        Cheers,
        MB

        • DonealDuck

          If I may be allowed to weigh in…

          There are ‘objective’ pluses and negatives for Helfrich as coach. On the plus side, he kept an Oregon squad together after the Arizona debacle in 2014 and led them to the national championship game. The offense has scored enough points to win football games in over 90% of the games he has been head coach. On the minus side, i don’t know of a single other person in the world who would defend his 2 point try strategy at Nebraska, which cost Oregon the game and started the slide…; and there was absolutely no sane reason whatsoever to go for the 5th and final one. He is, however, still a young coach with time to learn and grow.

          On the other hand, I cannot find a single objective evidence that Brady Hoke is a good coach, let alone a good defensive coordinator. None. Please let me know if you find one. Personally, I had to walk away from the game when he rushed 2, count them 2, players for a red zone ‘defense’. Hoke proves the point himself when he says he is ‘trying everything’; ie: he has no clear working system and is just throwing things against the wall hoping beyond hope something works.

          I said at the time after Kelly departed that Oregon made a mistake by not doing whatever it took to hire Chris Peterson. No matter what great things he accomplished as coach at Oregon, Kelly as outgoing ex-coach should not have been allowed to choose his successor. All objective reasoning pointed to Peterson. I think this year certainly proves that point. But since time travel has not yet been invented, even by Phil and the denizens at Nike, that is now water under the bridge.

          Who could be available who has the real probability of being better than a possibly improving Helfrich? Miles? Briles? Please God no on those. Please tell me who you would hire in his place…. ? Herman is the only one I can think of, and Phil would have to throw a previously unheard of large sum of Nike money at that piece of pie in the sky to even have any hope of that happening; and if he reaches the playoff this year and Houston moves to the actually would be then Big 12, you can forget it.

          But Hoke as DC? I am sure we could go down a list of college teams and come up with a dozen, maybe multiple dozens, of better defensive coordinators who would be more than happy to come to Oregon for the $800,000 we will be paying Hoke next season for his 102nd ranked totally discombobulated ‘defense’.

          • DonealDuck

            sorry to reply to my own post…

            But to add…. a big objective negative to Helfrich / Lubick MUST be the end of the NCAA passing touchdown streak two games in a row now, despite having one of the best collection of talented receivers in the nation, while having TWO supposed quarterback ‘gurus’ on staff.

          • Matt B.

            That’s a very good point. I over looked it. As for Hoke, it’s a big lift. I’m not sure we needed the switch to the 4-3. I personally like that scheme but I don’t know if it meshes with Oregon’s culture. I need to do more research into his role his prior defenses and outcomes. He tanked at Michigan but 11-2 is an impressive mark. He must have been doing something right. My concern is the the architect overseeing the DC is himself guessing: Pellum, Hoke, what’s next? Defense is the back-bone that holds a winning program together. It is easy to focus on Oregon’s offensive, which gets the headlines and the Heisman, but when the game plan calls for the D being on the field 35-40 minutes, it cannot be an after thought.

          • Matt B.

            Give it the team back to Aliotti. Interim HC. Start the reconstruction and search for permanence. Maybe it works out and he runs with the ball.

            A long shot I know so I’m planning on addressing it in my future columns this season.

          • DonealDuck

            There is no way that Aliotti wants a more than full time head coaching gig anymore! He is having too much fun being a commentator and recreating. I am sorry, Matt, but this suggestion of yours, after you rethink it, my show you how out of touch you just might be in regards to this.

          • Matt B.

            Entirely possible. It is an admitted long shot but someone should ask. I haven’t spoken to the man but it occurs to me he has been heavily recruited and rebuffed all such efforts. He may be holding a torch for his beloved Ducks. Were I AD, I would offer him an apology and the opportunity.

            Admittedly both speculation and wishful thinking on my part!

    • Mike Merrell

      Objective evidence — Helfrich’s offense is # 16 in the country in yards per game. This is with his 3rd starting QB in three years, a new offensive coordinator, a nearly all-freshman offensive line, and a defense that can’t get the ball back to the offense.

      Special teams are fine. The problem is defense. Period.

      Helfrich has shown his willingness to make DC coordinator changes. This one doesn’t work out? He’ll try again.

      Getting the entire coaching staff right isn’t as easy as it looks. Ask USC or UW, among others. The Ducks don’t need to dive into the instability of an entire coaching shake-up. Without putting any labels on that line of thinking, that would be throwing the baby out with the bath water.

      Oregon needs big help on defense. Why make it more complicated than it is?

      Personally, I would like to see Helfrich roll the dice with Herbert, but — objective evidence — he has it right with offense and special teams.

      If you’re going to tout yourself for being objective, you might avoid suggesting that Helfrich coach at Lane, which — being totally objective — does not have a football team.

      • Matt B.

        Nice, rebuttal. Let me see if I can take it apart.

        First, let’s be clear: no harm no foul. My reply was tongue-in-cheek. No offense meant, but the often online comments dosn’t convey sarcasm well.

        Second, ESPN has Oregon as the 12th ranked total offense. That’s a fair point but its only impressive in a vacuum. Oregon’s total offense ranking, respectively, going backward from 2015-2010: 8th, 1st, 3rd, 4th, 3rd, 4th. My conclusion stands, you take away Helf’s blue chip QB and he falters. D is not the only problem in my view. It certainly wasn’t the only problem in the second half of the Alamo Bowl.

        Third, avoiding a UW-style two decades long malaise is exactly the point. I don’t see a confident man in Helfrich. I’m reluctant to let him keep digging. USC had to face tyrannical NCAA sanctions. I don’t want UW and USC as standards by any measure for a rebuild.

        Fourth, its about the young men. I say give Herbert a shot. Youth is exciting and football is its playground.

        Fifth, I haven’t lived in Oregon since 1999 so you’ll pardon if I missed Lane dropped its FB pardon. The point is I think he is a fine assistant but needs work at lower levels to take some practice laps before he should be handed the keys to the Formula 1. Having given him the keys, I say take them back before he flips the machine over the safety wall.

        Cheers,
        MB

        • Helfrich did not have a blue-chip quarterback in the first NC appearance against Auburn. He made do with Darron Thomas who cannot even start in the Arena League after college. Helf coached the QBs and was the primarily creator of the game-plans under Chip and now–and I can see it.

          The problem is–most fans have no idea the innovation that Mark has brought to the offense. Have you seen Chip’s NFL offense? Stagnant, and now easily stopped. Coach Helfrich has continued to grow and develop the answers to the sophisticated new defensive tactics being thrown at the Ducks.

          Coach Helfrich cannot make the throws to open receivers in the clutch; other QBs did so in the past, but this one is not. Mark helped to call the play or approved it to get the WR open to begin with, and again…we have scored enough to be undefeated if we had an adequate defense.

          BTW….this is superb discussion by all. Thank you.

          • Matt B.

            Apples and oranges. You are giving way too much credit to the Helf. Admittedly, I’m partial to D. Thomas. I liked the kid. A lot. I was really worried when he left early. Of course, Mariota put those concerns to bed real fast. But I always felt poorly for Thomas. He didn’t have the size to get a real shot in the NFL. But he fit the bill and did a great job for Oregon. But for one tackel in the right flat… a call I still disagree with, the ball carrier’s forearm was down, dammit!

            Kelly’s offense is faltering in the NFL for a few very good reasons. He may be able to revise and evolve it but compared to college ball, where your average player may have 5-6 years of experience (unscientific estimate), your average pro has what, 10? Or more? The world is a lot flatter in the NFL. One cannot expect to exploit a large talent or conditioning differential in the Bigs. That was an important element in Kelly’s Oregon offense. Plus, I love watching Kelly’s offense but I recall during his NFL debut against the Redskins and thinking to myself ‘these are grown men, not 19-21 year-olds. He’s going to run them into the ground.’

            The fact of the matter is Kelly lead the 2010 Ducks behind D. Thomas to a title match. And the Helf just led the Ducks to their first 3-consecutive losses since 2007. Vernon Adams was a god-send to the Helf last year. Prukop is a good QB but he’s no Adams. And without a HC like Kelly, or a QB like Mariota or Adams, the best argument I can make against Helfrich happens every Saturday when he digs the hole a little deeper.

        • Mike Merrell

          MB —

          Your argument on the offense trending downward over the past five years has a major assumption of ceteris paribus. There are major, major flaws in that assumption.

          The only time I’ve been face to face with Helfrich was when I was in the front row of the press conference right after the Rose Bowl game. He seemed pretty confident to me at the time. Not exuding confidence now? Seems like a reasonable reaction to the circumstances. I think he has every reason to be confident about next year’s offense. Defense? I give him credit for being smart enough to know he needs to do something about it.

          And speaking of sanctions, don’t be among the multitude who ignore (or don’t know) that Helfrich has had to deal with NCAA recruiting sanctions inherited from Kelly. The loss of official visitations — along with the two-year-plus delay in resolution, plus the two recruiting seasons of Kelly flirting with the NFL — has significantly damaged recruiting. They weren’t as damaging as what USC went through, but Kelly’s legacy includes a five-year handicap in recruiting (two years of uncertainty, three years of visitation sanctions).

          Re: playing Herbert — I am with you all the way. One and done seems like a good band aid if you’re winning (e.g., last year). One and done to take a little stench off a stinky season, no thanks.

          • Matt B.

            College football, by definition, is dynamic. The trend doesn’t begin until Mariota leaves. Adams’ status (injury v. healthy) mitigates or exacerbates that trend, but am I assuming everything else stays the same? Not even a little. I’m doing what every fan and analyst does: compares how our team is doing today versus how they did previously. You can reject the comparison but there is some utility in the exercise.

            I plead guilty to never meeting the Helf. Nevertheless, I don’t see a confident man on the sideline. And never have. I read people for a living and that’s my read on the Helf. But, I would argue, any coach wth Mariota as his QB would exude some level of confidence. Especially one that literally fell into high performance leadership position and had not yet tasted systematic adversity at the helm.

            Fair point re sanctions, but I think it is overstated. More damaging to recruiting than an erstwhile period of probation or the loss of a single annual scholarship and fin aid award, or the limitations n visits, is having a wet blanket as a head coach. And losing on prime time television. And losing period. Oregon needs to expand its recruiting base into the heartland and south. To do so requires focus and reputation building. It requires a rival outside of the PAC-12. It requires fans in Texas, or Mississippi, or Louisiana to take us seriously. Hard to do when you give up a 31 point lead to TCU.

            And there you have it. The Helf should have been fired, at the latest, in the locker room after the Alamo Bowl. The Captain goes down with the ship. It was his offense that had no plan B. It was his defense the sputtered and died. Instead, he demotes Pellum, a fair move on its own but Pellim shouldn’t have been there to begin with, the Helf put him there because he didn’t know better. After Pellum, he promotes Lubick, you can’t convince me he was the best candidate available – maybe the most convenient – and hires Hoke agreeing to a questionable 4-3 rebuild. And while I don’t mind a more traditional ground and pound style of football, I’m just not sure Helfrich is the man we want approving long term changes to a top-ten ranked team he inherited.

            As I said to Chuck, I will defer to the Helf because the best argument against him is his performance every Saturday. That, and the Alamo Bowl. Explain to me how you get around that and have a man come back who neglected to give his 4 star center recruit suffIcient reps before the big game? You’re a coach, I used to play center, how hard is it to foresee injury may require your back up center and QB to be serviceable? Not very. Every decent HS program who actually has able backups ensures they do are prepared for Friday night. Remember when Lockie was a human victory cigar? At least once he relieved Mariota in the 2nd Q but had no problem picking up the reigns in the 3rd. Ever. Well, at least before last season. Lockie didn’t quit going to practice. He didn’t stop paying attention or giving the team his best. Under no circumstances will I assign any of the responsibility for the Alamo 2nd half and 2OT periods to Brenner or Lockie. In fact, I find it troubling that they moved Brenner to guard, which from a leadership perspective, implicitly tells the young man he didn’t make the cut at his former position.

            Either you overlook the Alamo Bowl and deliver a full throated “oh well, better luck next year, Coach H” or you demand accountability and move on. Oregon made a name for itself by distancing its program from elite schools who demand accountability and went down in NCAA history as the only school to allow its head coach to return after blowing a 31 point lead in a bowl game.

            Unacceptable. Make your counterpoint. This season is the harvest of last year’s poor seeding. The root is Helfrich and the tree’s fruit is rotten.

            Wonderful chat. Thank you.

          • To say that the impending sanctions had no impact–is simply not realistic. Chip pissed off ESPN, so we saw a listing of recruiting “violations” for two minutes on the screen of every ESPN game we were broadcast on.

            And you do not fire a coach over one game….wow.

          • Matt B.

            Objection! Mischaracterizes the record. First, the sanctions unquestionably had an impact. My position is that losing a 31 point lead in a prime time Bowl had a greater negative impact than the sanctions.

            Second, it’s not one game. Per my Sunday column, I posit the degradation to the program’s discipline and mental toughness began when the Helf took over. These fissures only erupted after the loss of Mariota and the status of Adams, truly a rare star- just cannot say enough about that kid, dictated The Helf’s ability to win.

            But yes, giving up a 31 point lead is a terminable offense. Perhaps not automatically for Saban, or Peterson, or Meyer, but that’s a different league.

  • This is an outstanding article in so many ways. Thank you Coach.

  • Dylan

    I just don’t see how you say that Mark Helfrich has the personality to lead this team. Obviously, my armchair observations should come with a generous helping of salt. But what I see from Helfrich is a guy who, when faced with several pressing questions, can’t come up with a solid answer to even one of them. I see a program in which players are confused, not just about scheme, but about how much effort to give (I saw at least one play where Maloata was just standing on his heels and hand fighting with two Coug O linemen). I see a steady increase in penalties resulting from players being out of position (PI) or not being disciplined (Cameron Hunt, Pharaoh Brown). I see consistent and reliable regression since 2013. I see a head coach who has said “that’s on me,” and “we’ll take a look at it and fix it” after almost every loss – and I see the same problems over and over and over and over again.

    For years, if a team held the Oregon offense to 14 through almost three full quarters, you’d hear nothing but the most effusive praise of the defensive effort from the commentators. Saturday night? Nothing.

    I don’t think it’s fair to expect NY6 bowl games and 10 wins every year. Oregon was never going to be one of those programs. I can even handle losing some games based on an objective disparity in talent. What bugs me most about Helfrich is that under his leadership the team has an air of aimlessness and nobody looks inspired.

    I like Helfrich and would love for him to be successful. I would love to be able to point to him and say, “See? You don’t have to be a ruthless despot to win in big-time college football.” I don’t even necessarily wish for Kelly back because I know he had his flaws too. But the more I watch Helfrich desperately grasp at a sinking program, the more I’m reminded of one of Chip Kelly’s favorite adages: “If you find yourself in a hole, stop digging.”

    • beautifulportland

      Amen.

    • carlos

      well said

    • disqus_bDTny7RBrh

      1) Hunt was disciplined
      2) Pharaoh shouldn’t have been disciplined – the calls on him were completely bogus.
      3) MH appears to have no personality
      4) This program has looked sloppy and low-effort at times since Kelly left.

  • Kellen Garrett

    I certainly enjoyed the article and the thoughts behind it. A few alternative viewpoints: when it comes to evaluating the Ducks coaching it should be based on more than just the past 5 games. That absolute debacle against TCU for example…if ever there was a loud alert alarm-that was it. I REALLY like the guy, but goodness why does Helfrich get such a long leash? His video game play calling lost them the Nebraska game. And his staff decisions have certainly been questionable. I’m not sure why Pellum was retained. I’m not sure why he didn’t look outside the program for an Offensive Coordinator when Frost left. I don’t know why Hoke is responsible for everything-he doesn’t put on a helmet or pads. There is a massive talent gap defensively. I don’t think any coach can fix that. Hoke needs some opportunity to recruit players and get his people in. I would also say defensively especially it’s hard to improve when you are on the treatment table. The number of line ups they’ve had to come up with due to injury does not put them in a position to have success to begin with. We’ll see where the season ends up and go from there. But for now there is two months of football left. Go Ducks!

  • Platypus

    One of the best articles and discussions I’ve read in a while. I hope the ‘Hoke Experiment’ works out because I don’t think MH will pull the plug on him and he seems to be a decent recruiter. I love the idea of playing the “F–k It” defense…maybe start a new trend.

  • douglas fur

    Coach Morris
    I’d like to hear more about the 4-3. Watching some tape from Hoke’s Michigan era it seemed like there were holes in his defense. The D would go one way and the opposing offense would find a hole they’d left uncovered. I’m seeing the same pattern now with our if defense. What differences do you see between an ideal 4-3 and what we’ve got?
    My football cred is limited. On offense, if I can see the ball I can follow the play. Not having the ball to follow, defense is a mystery to me.

    DRB ’74

  • disqus_bDTny7RBrh

    To be fair…

    Hoke inherited 3-4 personnel to a large extent. Mondeaux was largely successful last year in nickel packages on a line with Buckner, Balducci and Maloata. The linebackers are mostly new or inexperienced. The one who should have been a prototypical 4-3 Mike based on size is 2nd/3rd string. Manu, Maloata, and Mondeaux can’t get off blocks. Hollins can’t either. Jelks can, but he’s been hurt. The 5-star 5-tech of the future hasn’t panned out for whatever reason.

    Your Sam linebacker who’s big enough to set or hold and edge isn’t fast enough to cover a slot receiver. The one who can do both has been hurt. DeQuan McDowell is (as far as I can tell) not a scholarship player, not very big, not impressively fast, and at inopportune times doesn’t seem to know where his run fit is. And he’s played a ton of snaps this year. Bright spot? Wayne Tei-Kirby – unfortunately when he flushed Falk a couple times he couldn’t catch him and there were no linebackers in sight. And whoever was playing DE was stuck on a block.

    “It all starts up front” and the ducks don’t much up front right now. And they don’t have a whole lot behind it. If he could pick it up, I think they should seriously consider putting Reggie Daniels at Will – he can cover and he’s been thumping people the past couple games.

    I can’t tell anything much about Hoke’s performance at this point in his tenure will the players he’s been working with.

    • Mike Green

      Kamatule playing out of position – should be a strong side DE

  • Mike Green

    my take on the defense:

    Austin/Manu are nose tackles / space eaters – can’t get off blocks – non factors in games,
    DE’s (all of them except Jelks) cannot rush the passer or get off blocks to tackle RBs,

    LBs — all but Dye — are not playmakers – nor will they ever be — but they are just barely OK, which is why the ducks can force 3rd downs, but not make stops,

    Springs/Daniels playing very well this season, except for a few PI calls on Springs,

    other DBs — not real playmakers (Schooler got a couple of easy picks, but those were very weak throws up for grabs), Amadi always close in coverage, but never breaks up a pass, T. Robnson – not a great player, but also not the reason for such a bad defense

    so Ducks have only 2 good players on front 7 – and both of them were out for the Wash St game

    my fix:

    play Canton at DE,
    move Moi to the Mike,
    bring back Prevot,
    bench McDowell,
    put in Fotu,

    and blitz and stunt all day long — might get lucky and get a stop or turnover — not blitzing guarantees giving up 36 first downs like last game

    your welcome

  • Mike Green

    lets watch the next game and see how Washington plays defense with the same scheme, only better players and better play-calling

    I am an Oregon fan first, but I pull for northwest teams as well (not named Boise St – I can NEVER get behind that program or their stupid potatoe-head fans)

    I predict a MASSIVE Washington blowout of the Ducks – especially because Ragin is out and who knows what is going on with Dye???

    Peterson is the next great pac12 coach — after Caroll and Kelly and the Stanford coaches — which means that players that would have come to Oregon will now go to Washington — and the bleeding only gets worse

    I also predict that the Ducks will play up to their ability on offense and special teams, but a QB who cannot connect on the deep ball will limit the ducks to under 30 points and the duck defense will be lucky to make more than one stop in each half.

    I look forward to watching Freeman battle the Wa defense, but the game will not even be close.

    • Ouch. Those are the kind of scores that we used to win by…but I don’t disagree.

      • Mike Green

        my prediction was pretty close — not a bad day from the linebackers, but again, nothing from the front 4, and safeties do not impress

        if I knew a bookie, I would have bet the spread and won

  • jsquigg

    Good article, and I agree with almost all of it. As a Michigan fan, I have to say that I would never have touched Brady Hoke who, in spite of being a head coach, never was a coordinator. I also have to clarify that Don Brown’s defense is not a quarters defense and he has been adamant about saying it is everything but. From watching years worth of Michigan football I can say that Don Brown blitzes more than any other defensive coordinator I can remember. Good article and good luck with UW.