Hopefully, Oregon isn’t there already.
The Ducks went 7-5 in Willie Taggart’s first season. We all felt a little better about that because we knew with a healthy Justin Herbert the Ducks would have cruised to a 9-3 record. Coming into this season with “Slick” gone, a new coach who we trust, recruiting up, an improving defense, and a healthy Justin Herbert— nine or more wins and a killer bowl game was all but a given. Things were only to get better.
Well, they’re not.
Let’s not be fooled by a win over a bad UCLA team in which the Bruins gift-wrapped a victory for the Ducks. Oregon didn’t look good. Unless the Ducks get a whole lot better and fast, they are about to fall into that dirty little pit known as: Regression.
There is really nothing to add here, we’ve all seen it with our own eyes: no creativity, predictability, and a lack of urgency, Sadly, the Oregon offensive coaching staff is wasting the talents of Herbert. They are snatching a middling Mountain West QB from the jaws of Heisman Trophy Candidate.
We’ve read the comments, “imagine what Chip or Helf would do with this offense.” I hate clichés, but there’s no other way to say it— “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” Many of us thought Mario Cristobal would keep the Chip/Helf offense around and in addition, make the Ducks tougher at the line.
Well, we may be tougher at the line, but that’s little consolation to how inept the rest of the offense is. Maybe that’s why the Ducks played well against other teams who emphasize the line and play more of a pro-style offense (Stanford, UW), but were exposed by the likes of Arizona.
Cristobal seems to be the right guy in charge. He’s shown integrity, recruiting chops, and a general likability. He’s the right “CEO” of the company. Therefore, if he is truly the right guy, he’s going to have to get out of his own way when it comes to the offense.
We can blame Marcus Arroyo, maybe it’s valid, maybe it isn’t, but the directive comes from the top. It’s becoming clear that Cristobal wants to play a three-yards and a cloud of dust on offense, and if that’s the case, his tenure at Oregon will be short.
Cristobal needs to be the wise leader and allow Arroyo complete freedom to open things up and play “Oregon football.” If he’s already done that and the blame falls on Arroyo, unless there is vast improvement in these final three games, Cristobal needs to let him go. Then, ask the money men at Oregon to invest in an OC on par with what they did with Jim Leavitt on defense.
The Best Defense is a Good Offense
The Oregon defense took a giant step forward in 2017 under Leavitt. With a core of solid players — though still some overall lack of talent issues — returning, the Duck defense was also to be progressing along with the rest of the team in 2018.
It’s clear just using the eye-test, this defense isn’t playing as well as last year. Blown coverages, missed tackles, and at times a general malaise. The defense needs to own its mistakes, but a lot of this has to with inept offense. Three-and-outs, giving opponents a short field, more punts than we can remember, poor passing game, and a lack of flare and fire-power is sucking the life out of the Duck’s defense.
Constantly being put in disadvantaged situations, constantly being asked to bail out the offense, is a clear sign of un-health on a football team. So, unless you have the ’85 Bears as your defense (’15 Broncos for you youngsters), the symbiotic relationship that’s needs to exist between a good football team’s offense and defense is not there. The offense is lacking, and it’s bringing the defense down with it.
At least last year with Slick (Taggart) and a healthy Herbert, the Oregon offense was lighting it up (at least in the first half). We felt that the same thing would continue this year, but with wiser half-time adjustments to keep Oregon’s offense rolling in the second half.
Cleary, that’s not the case as Cristobal is truly trying to turn Oregon into Alabama west.
The good news is that with a bowl game there are four games left for Oregon to find itself. They need to go about this with a sense of urgency. Going into the off-season with more questions than answers is not where Mario should want to be.
This isn’t SEC country, if Oregon football gets boring rest assured that fan interest will wane. Oregon will lose its appeal to recruits as a once rocking Autzen becomes quieter than the Rose Bowl during a UCLA blow-out loss to Utah.
And Chip could tell us all how great that feels.
Top photo credit: Kevin Cline
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