For a dog, I’ve got a pretty good gig.
I get tons of attention from Charles, Lois and Christine Fischer three or four times a day, great meals (on time, I might add), snacks slipped to me by Mr. FishDuck, and I got to appear on the FishDuck Instructional Videos that have been viewed over a million times. Yep–I did it all for cheese, but who wouldn’t (we can all agree everything is better with cheese and bacon)? I have three beds located throughout the house, with lots of toys to play with and gifts from our beloved Grizzled Ol’ Coach, Mike Morris. It is a sweet deal, as the Fischers adore me, and I have them well-trained.
Charles has mumbled about having a “summary” article concerning the highlights of FishDuck.com, as the site prepares for delivering some Bad News/Good News (primarily bad) to the public tomorrow. He has said for years that he needs to take the items out of the file called, “You don’t Suck” and list them in one article as a final way to remember the impact of the site with Oregon fans over the past nearly six years.
I am going to present it to you, and while some of it you have heard before, hopefully some is new. Or you may want to skip this altogether, as Charles will be using it as a long-term historical piece for reference. I just felt it was needed as all of us associated with the site have been part of a very unique football fan experience, and I have witnessed the countless hours he has given (in addition money that could have been spent on me!). If nobody reads it–that’s OK, but I want to go down memory lane recalling the special events associated with the site.
Back in ’90s … Charles was frustrated with the lame coverage of Oregon scrimmages from the local newspaper, and felt that he could provide the “football gossip” to fellow fans in a way that gave them more information; hence the “Fish Reports” were born.
Charles would go to the scrimmages and come back to his office and write for three hours recounting what he just saw, and then he would post it on all the major Oregon message board sites. He just wanted to share, but his posts did become popular. Without realizing it, Charles had his first audience.
The major beat writer covering Oregon Football for the local paper would sneer at how unprofessional the Fish Reports were, as he was a veteran who brought truly skillful articles to the newspaper. Later, this reporter would go to work for the official Oregon sports site–his role? He writes gossip articles about Oregon practices! The irony is not lost even on a mixed breed like me, and you cannot but help note the impact over time that Mr. FishDuck made to raise the entertainment bar for Oregon fans.
Media around Oregon began to notice, and you could gradually see sports-writing becoming more “consumer friendly.” This turned out to be only the beginning…
A First Major Discovery Before the Site Began!
Fast forward to spring of 2010 and Charles noted how the defense looked different in scrimmages, but he couldn’t put his finger on it. After talking to Casey Mathew’s father about it in the stands–he embarked upon a month-long quest to read up and learn about the “new” defense Oregon put into place that nobody in the media had mentioned, announced, or explained as up to that point–Oregon had been running a standard 4-3 defense for years.
Do you remember the big blow-up on the web in summer of 2010 concerning Oregon moving to a 3-4 defense?
After meeting with Defensive Coordinator Nick Aliotti and confirming the big change in May, Charles released a 5,000 word white paper in early June 2010, discussing Oregon’s new defense in-depth and out-scooping every sports media source in the state (Nick gave his blessing on the article as accurate). The whole summer Chip Kelly was hammered by media asking about the change, and Chip would deny it!
Finally, in late August, Coach Kelly admitted to Fox Sports that “if you count a change of 16 months ago a change, then I guess it is one” (This is precisely what Charles reported two months earlier; now it was confirmed by the head man himself). It was the first major revelation by Mr. Fischer about Oregon Football, and he was not used to the attention. I can attest to Charles’s swelled head, and Lois said that he had to turn sideways to get his head through a doorway at that time. While that may have been true–he deserved it.
It was a good thing that Charles enjoyed the analysis because over the ensuing months and years, sports journalists would refer daily to Oregon’s new 3-4 defense and never once credit Charles Fischer as they would any other media source. Not the last time that would happen either.
The Infamous FishDuck Videos…
In the spring of 2011, Charles decided to open FishDuck.com, although the site was not supposed to bear that name. He wanted to learn the Oregon Spread Offense, and create instructional videos for Oregon fans to learn right alongside with him. This project began in earnest in August 2011. He did not know a thing about making videos, but struggled through and I got fat from all the cheese given to me to take part in those wonderful videos.
Charles also had no idea the stir these videos would create; the local paper began doing videos for the first time in their 100 year old history just six weeks after Charles began releasing his, and the stir among fans and media sources was massive. The videos brought a simplistic understanding of Duck football to allow the typical fan to enjoy Oregon games that much more.
Meanwhile, Charles was dedicating a chunk of the family budget money every month to support the site, as he did not have the time to sell ads between his flourishing investment business, and the time given to the site. He was told that daily articles were needed, and thus began the inception of over 6,000 articles published. I’ve overhead coaches comment that it is hard to search for a football topic on Google without a FishDuck.com article popping up somewhere in the first couple of pages.
These videos have been viewed over 1.6 million times. Even now they are viewed at an average clip of 14 videos per hour every day… and Mr. FishDuck has not made a new video in over five years! He truly just wanted to help others learn.
Helping an Unexpected Group…
What Charles did not see coming was the popularity of the videos among high school coaches and players. Charles was approached by a young coach at a Coaching Clinic who asked, “you’re FishDuck, aren’t you?” When he answered in the affirmative–this coach told him that, “I want to shake your hand and let you know how you helped us.”
“We are the little team in our league–the one that everybody beats the brains out of every year … until this last fall. I found your videos and hooked the laptop up to a projector and showed the videos over-and-over to our offense until they each could see what their position would do. We went on to the best season in the history of the school and actually made it deep into the State of Washington playoffs.”
Charles told him … “Coach–these videos were not made for coaching, but simplistic for fans!” He waved Mr. Fischer off and said that,
“They are perfect for 15 year olds to learn from.”
Hence the hundreds of emails from coaches around the United States, and even the world. At this moment Charles has emails from Germany and England, as coaches of club teams continue to ask for more information. At one Coaching Clinic–Charles was told by one coach that,
“Where we are in Canada–not only has every coach heard of FishDuck.com, but we all run the Oregon offense because of it!”
Without trying to, the site became an Ambassador for Oregon football worldwide, thus contributing to increased fan interest, and as a result, to the Oregon brand.
At one point Mr. FishDuck received an email from Brazil asking for any other coach in Central or South America that was running the Oregon Spread Offense that he could turn to for more help. Charles was able to send the contact information of not just coaches in in the southern hemisphere, but three of them in Brazil that had emailed him over the years.
The site’s assistance extended even to a Semi-Pro Team in Fort Worth, Texas that had a meteoric climb as a result of their head coach sharing the videos and analysis articles from the site with his team. They went on to become the best in the nation among over 2,900 Semi-Pro teams. Again–Charles spent all that money on the site helping others learn the game and win when he could have been using it for vacations for the four of us, more beds for me, and of course, a ton more cheese.
Stunning Reach on the Web for Oregon Football…
I overheard one coach tell Charles that he had been going out of his way to ask every coach he ran into if FishDuck.com was a site the other coach had heard of. He went to to explain that he had not met a single coach yet that had not heard and been on FishDuck.com!
The site’s impact on Oregon Football is simply not realized by most. While chewing on my new toy given to me by the Grizzled Ol’ Coach last Saturday during one of his and Charles’s infamous Skull Sessions, I overheard Mike Morris tell him that,
“I can’t hardly research anything in football without a FishDuck.com article coming up in Google!”
That happens when a site still sits in the top 1% of the world for visits in a month among all active websites (by Alexa.com, an independent source of verification). On average, over 50,000 unique visitors come to the site every month (as of May 10th, 2017), and that is with an average of less than one article published per day! The over 260 analysis articles created on this site are unsurpassed by any other Oregon site, and by most coaching-centric sites in the world.
It is a shame what Charles has to announce tomorrow, as it is different than other times in the past. FishDuck.com has become part of the lore of Oregon football, and it’s diminished contributions would be missed. But the expenses mount with a free site…
Most major publications have linked FishDuck.com over the years… I’m not just referring to sports sites like ESPN.com, but the Wall Street Journal interviewed Charles and used him as an authority source (and linked the site!) for an article. That was fun for him, but the Washington Post did two extensive articles about the Oregon Spread Offense and this site and lavished praise upon it.
The Endorsement Charles Cherishes the Most…
In a recent fall–a particular SID (Sports Information Director) of a Pac-12 School decided that they would not give Media Credentials to independent websites even though FishDuck.com had such credentials for years. This school cited that “only if the site was part of a national chain, and not a blog,” and refused to talk about it any further with Mr. Fischer. Charles then got on the phone with another Pac-12 SID and asked him for a favor–to call that other SID and express his time working with FD.com and the quality of the site.
Forty minutes later I overheard Charles get the call from the second SID who explained that he told the reluctant SID of this Pac-12 school to:
“Go check out the site and see if you don’t think it is the best Oregon site out there, as I do.”
The Sports Information Director who had his doubts then returned the second SID’s call ten minutes later, explaining:
“This is the first time I have ever granted Media Credentials to an independent site, but I agree with your opinion about the site.”
Of course Charles was thrilled, because in the span of 40 minutes, two Sports Information Directors of Pac-12 schools said that FishDuck.com was the best (He had to turn his head sideways again to get into the house).
Another Big Defensive Discovery…
A few years back Charles began to build a team of coaches who would advise and write for the site, and none were as valuable to readers as the Grizzled Ol’ Coach, Mike Morris. It was his expertise that detected something in 2013 that was different concerning the Oregon defense that none of the coaches Charles had worked with noted, and it had not been written about at all in the Oregon Media. It was the 404 Defensive Technique, the “Hidden Bear” defense, and it was again quite a coup for the site in out-scooping all other Oregon media sources.
This site has not always been correct, as both Charles and GOC admit that they “drank the Brady Hoke Kool-Aid” in Spring of 2016. They promoted the changes on defense and felt that “it could not get worse than 2015,” but alas it did. I avoided “Skull Sessions” between those two in fall of 2016 as they were too busy thrashing around in the ManCave, frustrated at what they saw defensively on the Monitor/TV in front of them. Snacks for me were sparse at that time.
But you have to give them credit; they admitted in articles on this site they were wrong and went about showing the terrible defensive technique as it happened throughout the season. Unlike other media sources–they not only make the tough calls in advance, but will admit publicly when they are wrong. Where does that happen in the press?
Before Everyone: Vernon Adams, Justin Herbert, and Willie Taggart
Long before anyone knew of the talents of Vernon Adams–the GOC told Mr. FishDuck of a transfer up at Eastern Washington who can play, and Oregon should recruit him. Charles was skeptical at first as no D-1 college had ever taken a player from a lower division like this and inserted him into the most important position on the field. As Charles studied the games of Adams along with Coach Morris, it became evident that Vernon was something special. Again, this was before anyone had any confidence in him, and Charles and Coach Morris went on the record to make (at the time) preposterous predictions about him.
Now, everyone sees in retrospect how Oregon could have made the 2015 Football Playoffs, had Adams not injured his hand in the first game of the season. Coach Morris and this site made another daring scoop before anyone else in the media.
I also remember chewing on a bone when I heard GOC and Charles talking about a quarterback at Sheldon, and Coach Morris felt that Oregon should recruit him (this was a year before anyone else began to report it). When Mr. FishDuck and GOC reported what they saw at the fall scrimmage during their initial viewing of Justin Herbert … they reported that this would be another NFL First-Round QB Draft pick from Oregon.
Other media sources hooted at the ludicrous remark, and one moderator on a big Oregon website simply stated that what Charles and GOC wrote was simply “silly.” Yet a year later the newspapers began to write about what an NFL prospect this young quarterback from Eugene would be.
If I was a cat, I would hack up a hairball at the lack of crediting to this site and respect given to the labor of love that Charles Fischer has created. It does not count to later to observe the obvious; what matters is to inform the fans up front and be a man about making your judgments, and living by them. Most in the media would rather do the fluff stories about players, or report the negative, instead of doing analysis as this site does and laying it on the line with surprising predictions for the benefit of the Oregon fans.
Two days after Coach Mark Helfrich was fired–this site came out with a bold endorsement of Willie Taggart to be the next Oregon Head Coach when he was just another name to the majority of fans. The mood at that time was with the coach at Western Michigan or Temple, and few knew anything about this coach in Florida. Coach Mike Morris did his homework again, and Charles agreed after viewing it all–that FishDuck.com should throw down for this candidate when he was not trendy or even a known quantity. C’mon other media sources … make the tough call or give credit to FishDuck.com (that’ll be the day)!
An Uber-Successful Writing/Analysis Combination
As you may have surmised by now, Charles and Mike Morris have developed a interdependent friendship because Mike doesn’t know how to create the screenshots and videos for an analysis, but Charles does. But Charles does not have the football knowledge that Mike has, thus Coach Morris enjoys teaching Mr. FishDuck, while Mr. FishDuck loves learning more football and sharing it with others.
They are quite a unique writing/analysis combination in the world of college football websites. Of course I love Mike for the gifts of stuffed animals, chew bones, and treats that I come pick up from him before he even comes into the house–usually as he is getting out of the car (I have him trained as well, and he is someone we are used to seeing often in the Fischer household)! He has Pit Bulls too, so he always smells so great.
An All-Volunteer Site: Failure or Success?
Typically Charles would have between 20 to 35 writers and editors on the staff at once. Why? Because everyone was doing it on a volunteer basis, and only had the three to five hours a week to spare. Thus, it took a lot of people to fill a schedule, train them all, and keep them on track with doing it part AP Style, and part the FishDuck way. Most of his time was taken up managing the people, and it frustrated him–in how he actually had very little time to learn football and write about it.
He had difficulty working with so many volunteers, as the challenge became, “how do I get the work done without any leverage?” There’s no carrot or stick without a paycheck. Thank goodness he had me nearby to pet for stress reduction, as I did my part for the team too. In the end–he was not satisfied with the quality a percentage of the time, yet what was on the site was amazing considering it was all done by very giving people.
He enjoys the friendships he has created around the nation with fellow Duck buddies, and he knows that he owes so much to so many writers and editors that gave thousands of hours of their time for the benefit of Oregon fans everywhere. While the result was often not perfect, it was pretty darn good for all-volunteer. I think he’ll feel better about it when he is able to step back a little further from it … and after he’s pet me a lot more!
Nailing the NEW Oregon Defense?
Coach Morris got Charles excited again when he noted (from studying Colorado games of last year) how this new “Duck” hybrid position being reported is actually a variation in the 3-4 defensive alignment. In reality, the “Duck” position transforms Oregon into a 3-3-5 alignment, which was announced in an article by Coach Ruskin Fiegenbaum on behalf of Coach Morris and FishDuck.com.
After all they wrote about Spring Football–the local newspaper, if you can believe it–began to mention the 3-3-5 alignment a week after the Spring Game, when they had not mentioned it through the entire month of spring practices and scrimmages. They wrote this only after Charles and his team had announced it on this very site, and of course they do not credit where they learned it. They should, because a typical sportswriter does not know squat about defense (if you’re looking for entertainment, ask Nick Aliotti about sportswriters…).
In the last week couple of weeks our Coach Morris discovered the return of the 404 Defensive Alignment in the Oregon arsenal, and even spoke with the Oregon coaches about it. It is another recent example of the interesting new information about Oregon football that readers will not get anywhere else due to the unique team of coaches, writers, and editors Charles has assembled here at FishDuck.com.
Explaining the Willie Taggart Offense?
Coaches Mike, Ruskin, Eric, and Jeremy have been able to tell Oregon fans in advance what the Oregon offense will look like this fall, and thus far they have nailed it. Mike told Charles about the new Toss Read being the replacement to the Inverted Veer that Taggart had run before–and sure enough Mr. FishDuck was thrilled to see this play run at the Eugene and Portland Spring Scrimmages (the Grizzled Ol’ Coach is amazing, folks…).
What readers saw in the last two months concerning the Jet Sweep Series, the Counter Trey, and the Toss Sweep were seen on FishDuck.com in advance of the Spring Scrimmages and Spring Game. Charles and his seven coaches on staff will continue to provide interesting commentary and analysis through this summer in preparation for one of the most anticipated seasons at Oregon in a very long time.
The story of FishDuck.com is one that you will not hear from any other college football fan website out there, and the amazing track record of the site is not over, as Mr. FishDuck transitions it into a new era that he will personally explain tomorrow. This means that I get more dog treats from Coach Morris when he visits the “ManCave,” as Charles and Oregon fans will continue to enjoy learning more football!
I will be at Charles’s side during the games and analysis study, as “cheese snacks” will find their way to the floor. Thus I have come to love football as much as a dog possibly could!
Abbie (The Official Mascot of FishDuck.com)
Top Photo from FishDuck.com Video