It just hit me from out of the blue, and this revelation would significantly impact Oregon football.
You see I was pondering about how the press conference is over and everybody’s had a chance to express their feelings about the new head coach for the Ducks. Coach Willie Taggart is on the road recruiting without any assistant coaches until today, and then a recruiting dead period begins, lasting nearly a month.
Now he’ll be forced to stop recruiting and can devote most of his time to selecting and hiring a staff. It was then when I had a major epiphany (“An unusually sudden and illuminating realization”). Actually there were several that blended into one big moment of clarity:
“WILLIE TAGGART CAN’T FIND BETTER OFFENSIVE COACHES THAN THE ONES HE HAS WAITING FOR HIM IN EUGENE.”
I realize I’m behind many of you in this insight. (But better enthusiastically late than stupidly never) First I’ll admit I was wrong about wanting to keep Mark Helfrich, although I definitely realized that after the OSU game. As wonderful a man as Helfrich is, and the fine offensive mind he possesses, he definitely didn’t have the strength of character that was necessary to develop the Ducks to the maximum of their abilities. He was very correctly held accountable for his lack of adequate leadership.
I feel a very powerful vibe of rejuvenation with Taggart now in command; whereas the retention of Helfrich would have brought gloom.
But, the two biggest reasons I initially didn’t want to fire Helfrich were:
- I didn’t think we could find better.
- I didn’t want to lose the offensive assistant coaches and the quality of offense they produced.
When I realized I was wrong about the first reason, I was temporarily ready to give up on reason No. 2. I wrote an article for FishDuck.com praising the South Florida offensive coaches who Taggart could bring with him. I was trying to be intellectually open to change.
Well, SCREW THAT! Those USF guys–or any other outside offensive hires–aren’t better. Oregon doesn’t need any changes in the offensive staff–just a change in leadership. And even the University’s President was aware of the most vital change needed in the coaching staff. [Defensive staffing to be discussed in detail later.]
The Duck offensive staff, each coach is outstanding in his own way, and very importantly they share:
- A thorough knowledge of the Oregon offensive “system” [that last word is extremely important]. I’ve watched two entire USF games now, and haven’t seen a single formation or play that the Ducks haven’t used. Any team can try to copy offensive plays.
- Much more importantly, the previous Ducks coaches possess the knowledge on why and how to teach each of those formations and plays–why things worked and why they didn’t. That experience against actual Pac-12 defenses is invaluable in taking the offense to greater achievements.
- A thorough knowledge of the returning Oregon players, their strengths and weaknesses as players and people. No wasted time on “let’s get acquainted.” Making relationships stronger would be the focus with players as opposed to starting over in building those relationships.
- Each player appears to fully respect the assistant coach who teaches him. Obviously I don’t “know” this, but the clues are pretty conclusive. Great relationships have been built and all-important trust has been gained. Why start over? What if a few unhappy players transfer? That’s a good thing.
Looking at the individual coaches? How could Coach Taggart do better than:
STEVE GREATWOOD: Offensive Line/Co-Offensive Coordinator–Running Game
Besides the fact that he’s considered by most knowledgeable coaches one of–if not–the best offensive line coach in the country, what other offensive team in history accomplished what the Ducks did last year with their 4-freshman starters on the offensive line? Ten years of Pac-12 rushing titles and four redshirt freshmen starters only had a drop to second place in the conference in rushing? The future is very bright with this group and Greatwood has said he would like to coach them until their graduation.
Add Tyrell Crosby to that group and you might have one of the best Oregon offensive lines of all-time. However developing offensive linemen into great pass blockers takes time and great technical coaching, and Coach ‘Wood is the best candidate to make that happen.
You just can’t take those guys away from Greatwood. They deserve each other.
MATT LUBICK: Wide Receivers/Co-Offensive Coordinator(?)–Passing Game
Lubick has built a wonderful culture for his wide receivers and there are well-established, very high standards to earn playing time. Oregon’s receivers know how to read coverages and react accordingly, and they understand the vital importance of blocking technique and every-play effort.
Though wonderfully inventive, I don’t think Lubick was cut out to be a play-caller. Coach Taggart will now perfectly fill that role as he did at South Florida. As a former quarterback himself, Taggart has the accumulated wisdom and strength of character to be the perfect play-caller, freeing Lubick to do an even better job of coaching his WRs.
I put a “?” after Lubick’s title because Coach Taggart should be free to give that title to either Lubick or QBs Coach David Yost. Lubick earned it last year because of seniority, but Taggart would decide which well-deserving coach got that responsibility and title this year.
DAVID YOST: Quarterbacks/Co-Offensive Coordinator(?)–Passing Game
Kind of lost in all of last year’s miseries was the incredible job Yost did in developing Justin Herbert. No way should any other coach try to start all over with Justin. Yost has to be big-time dreaming of reuniting with the battle-tested, vastly-improved version of Herbert that will be waiting for him in spring practice.
And Terry Wilson and Travis Jonsen have to be excited as they watch film of USF’s great dual-threat QB, Quinton Flowers, knowing they’ll be competing to create similar highlights for the Oregon Ducks.
GARY CAMPBELL: Running Backs
Come on! As long as Coach Campbell really wants this job, it’s just gotta be his. There can’t be a better producer of quality RBs or father-figure to his players in college football. With or without Royce Freeman, the Oregon RBs really need Coach Campbell.
The improvement in Tony Brooks-James last year was phenomenal and C.J. Verdell will provide yet another wonderful addition to the legacy of Gary Campbell.
TOM OSBORNE: Tight Ends
Some of you might not be aware of it but coaching TEs-really well-is probably the hardest coaching job in football. Tight ends have to be able to master all the pattern knowledge of receivers, be able to block as well an offensive lineman, and yet line up and block in so many different ways; hence it requires a very special teacher.
And every year Osborne does it. Usually his protégés show significant year-to-year improvement, as he is the reason many look at Oregon as “Tight-End U.” Next year, other than Jake Breland, will be a start-all-over TE rotation; Osborne needs to be there to continue his legacy.
Well there they are, and there is not a finer group of offensive coaches in this country. No way should this group suffer any casualties. As excited as the returning Ducks players are about having Taggart as their new head coach–and believe me there’s tremendous enthusiasm being shared now by the players–the offensive returners will be even more excited when they realize they have their position coaches back.
Keep ’em all, Coach T. And then give them the leadership they deserve to have their best coaching seasons ever.
Retired Coach Mike Morris (Grizzled Ol’ Coach)
Pleasant Hill, Oregon
Top Photo by Craig Strobeck
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