Oregon’s Offensive Woes Start at the Top

Darren Perkins Editorials

It’s amazing how a coach who puts such an emphasis on being “tough” can trot out an offense that’s so weak.

We get it, Coach Mario Cristobal. You want to control the ball, control the clock, dominate the line of scrimmage, and run vertically between the tackles. This is great when it works, but when it doesn’t, you simply look like an offensive line coach who doesn’t have the chops to win at a major college football program.

Here’s Oregon’s true offensive identity: a round peg in a square hole.

All that talent and all that experience are being flushed down the toilet before our very eyes. Some say, among other things, that the Ducks offensive woes are due to not having a top-notch running back, too many injuries at wide receiver, and Justin Herbert having regressed.

But this reasoning rings much too hollow. There are offensive coordinators across the country who would salivate at the thought of having Oregon’s offensive talent. The problem starts at the top.

Travis Dye on the carry

Again, as I’ve said before, we love what Cristobal has done in recruiting, in the hiring Andy Avalos as defensive coordinator, establishing a family culture, etc. … and the list goes on. But, the ineptitude on offense is holding this team back.

Fool’s Gold

There was a four-game stretch in the middle of the season in which the offense seemed to come to life (Colorado, UW, WSU, USC), and we believed that the coaching staff had figured things out. That proved to be fool’s gold. Since the USC game, the offense has been pedestrian at best.

When you compound this with the problems from 2018 — in which the offense was mediocre and completely absent in no less than four games — it’s clear that the offensive philosophy is not working. This is bigger than just a “one-off” bad game. This is a pattern.

Oregon’s Civil War Offensive Possessions:

First Half: Field goal, Punt, TD, Punt, Punt, Punt

Second Half: Missed field goal, Punt, Fumble, Punt, TD

Penei Sewell holding the line

From the midway point of the first quarter until the closing minute of the game, there were seven straight possessions of pain, frustration and zero points. I won’t insult your intelligence by attempting to put the futility of the Beavers defense into some sort of context. They’re awful.

As coach Ken Woody mentioned last week after the Arizona State debacle, “The Ducks got behind 24-7 and, suddenly, it seemed as whoever was calling the plays decided they needed to give more leeway to Herbert’s natural gifts. He threw himself out of the doldrums and engineered three touchdown drives in three and a half minutes.”

What’s most disappointing about the Ducks finally giving into Herbert’s natural gifts was that it wasn’t a proactive decision done out of self-awareness. Nope, it was completely reactive to the circumstances of being down by so much with so little time left. Now if the decision had been made earlier in the game, if the coaches had actually thought, “hey maybe we need to try something different here,” the Ducks probably beat ASU.

The Slowing Bandwagon

Before the season started, because of how well he runs all other aspects of the program, I was willing to give Cristobal one last benefit of the doubt in how he was running the offense for 2019. As we wrap up the 2019 season, it’s clear that a change in the offense — let’s be real, a new offensive coordinator — must take place this off-season.

Kayvon Thibodeaux on containment.

Cristobal (and the Oregon brass) must hire the best OC available, give that person full control, and get out of the way. He can continue to recruit those talented offensive linemen as if there’s no tomorrow, but let someone else draw up the scheme and philosophy.

He has to make a change this off-season or else so many will be jumping off the Cristobal bandwagon.

The Ducks finished the 2019 regular season at 10-2, those two losses came in games in which the Ducks were the better team. Those two losses overwhelmingly had poor offensive coaching written all over them. For the Ducks to take that next step and be a true CFP contender, this has to end.

The offensive woes had many of us pondering these questions: Is Cristobal holding Arroyo back? Or is Arroyo in total control but not a good coordinator? As the Reverend Jessie Jackson once emphatically proclaimed in an 80’s episode of SNL, “The question is moot!”

That’s because this is Cristobal’s team, and no matter the offensive woes, the problems rest squarely on his shoulders.

Darren Perkins
Spokane, Washington                                                                                                                                                                   Top Photo by Kevin Cline

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