What does “It’s better to be lucky than good” mean? And how does this statement apply to Oregon athletic director Rob Mullens?
In 2016 Mullens parted ways with Mark Helfrich after two disappointing seasons, and embarked on Oregon’s first true head football coaching search in decades. He eventually found Willie Taggart, and whether Taggart sank or swam Mullens (and his career) were along for the ride.
In the world of college athletics, football is king. College football generates the most revenue for athletic departments by a large margin. So to say an athletic director’s employment status hinges on their ability to hire a football coach may be an understatement.
All things considered, Mullens navigated the coaching carousel and made a decent hire. Taggart had turned things around at Western Kentucky and USF. He is a very skilled recruiter, an area where Oregon desperately needed to see improvement. Taggart looked like a guy a reeling program should take a shot on. .
The 2017 regular football season had its ups and downs, but didn’t give Oregon Fans a reason to call for Taggart’s (and by extension Mullens’) job. Things were looking pretty good with a strong staff and recruiting momentum.
Then, after a drama-filled few weeks and too many “why wouldn’t I be?” responses to the question of whether he would be returning to Oregon this year, Taggart was gone. Mullens had made a mistake. He hired a guy from Florida and gave him a contract with a measly $3 million buyout, which definitely wouldn’t deter major programs from sniffing around. Mullens had failed to protect his department from losing its most vital asset.
But sometimes in life you get lucky without even realizing it. In week four of 2018, Oregon football’s first true test of this season is coming up. And new head coach Mario Cristobal sits at 3-0. Sure, Oregon trounced three teams with a combined 2-9 record, who were outscored 396 to 236 so far this season, but 3-0 is 3-0.
Florida State fans, however, are having a much different experience. The Seminoles have started the season with a 1-3 record that actually sounds better than they have looked — their only win came in the final minutes against Samford.
All the questions Oregon Fans had about Taggart last year: the lack of second-half adjustments, the lack of discipline, and the less-than-lethal simplicity of the offense have showed their ugly heads in remarkable fashion. The FSU fan base has already started to turn on Taggart, and if he doesn’t get some love back in the relationship quickly he won’t be the one doing the dumping this time around.
At this time, it would appear Neo could take bullet-dodging lessons from Rob Mullens. Of course, Mullens likely would have preferred that the tale of his original hire from his first real football coaching search had ended better. However, while he watches a team that appears to be heading in the right direction, with a head coach who is more substance than motivational one-liners, I doubt he spends much time worrying about the mistake he made.
If he even thinks about it at all, he probably thinks that sometimes it is better to be lucky than good.
Top Photo By Gary Breedlove
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