Joe Moorhead: The Man, the Myth, and Some LEGENDS?

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On one hand, taking a minute to look closely at the career of Joe Moorhead gives us comfort as we observe the progression of his career and the success of teams he has coached. Yet, other aspects of his track record raise some questions. Take a look below and see if you can determine if, like Mark Helfrich, Moorhead is built to be an offensive coordinator, or if he is destined to be a head coach once again?

Moorhead, born in Pittsburgh, played quarterback at Fordham University from 1992-’95, and then professionally for the Munich Cowboys of the German Football League in ’96. (I don’t ever recall seeing “Cowboys” in Germany.)

He began his coaching career as a grad-assistant at the University of Pittsburgh, then in 2000 he took a job coaching running backs at Georgetown University, eventually being elevated to QB coach and OC by 2003.

The next year, he began a five-year stint at the University of Akron, including two years as the OC, then in 2009, he joined the University of Connecticut staff as OC, winning the Big East Championship in 2010. Next, he was named the head coach at Fordham University in December of 2011. In 2012, they were 6-5 and in 2013 they opened with 10 consecutive wins.

In December of 2015, Joe Moorhead was named the Offensive Coordinator of Penn State. Prior to Joe’s arrival, Penn State’s offense averaged 335 yards per game, and then 348 yards per game in the previous two years. In Joe’s first year, they averaged 432 yards per game.

Penn State Video

Joe Moorhead won a ton of awards at Penn State.

In 2017, Joe was named the No. 1 rising assistant in college football by Sports Illustrated and Yahoo. Later in 2017, he was hired as the head coach of Mississippi State, a 9-4 team, leading them to an 8-4 in his first year. In his second season, it emerged that 10 players had a tutor take tests and complete coursework for them, which landed them all an eight game suspension, severely limiting the Bulldogs depth. Fans were angered by a pedestrian offense and upsets by Kansas State and Tennessee.

He made up for those losses by defeating Ole Miss in the 2019 Egg Bowl, saying afterwards:

“I’m proud of this team. I loved the way that our coaches handled adversity. I know there were some ups and downs and some bellyaching, but just understand one thing: this is my school, this is my team, this is my program… If anybody asks, I’m not interested in anybody’s validation except for people in that locker room. You’ll have to drag my Yankee ass out of here.”

It was clear that Mississippi State fans were not happy with Joe, as they usually have much higher expectations for their football team than what he accomplished. Joe was fired in January 2020 after the AD and other school officials learned that the starting QB suffered an eye injury during a fight in practice, which Joe described as an “upper body injury.” (An interesting way of putting it…)

Joe Moorhead at Mississippi State.

As you can see, Joe Moorhead had an illustrious career, up until the incidences as HC of Mississippi State. His involvement in those incidences are fully documented but as HC, “the buck stops here,” and he is responsible for every little or big thing that happens. Had Joe been “raised to the level of his incompetency” (the Peter principle), or just not given enough time?

Roll the tape forward and now he is at the University of Oregon as OC under Mario Cristobal in a job that has gained him notoriety and fame in his past. With the Ducks lackluster offense in 2019, he has given Ducks fans something to hang their hopes on and dreams of a Playoff spot.

Despite Joe’s prospect, he does come with some baggage, and his truthfulness about what is going on behind the scenes is my question about him. This seems to be in contrast to Cristobal’s culture.

From UO Athletics Video

Joe Moorhead has made a good impression on the Duck faithful.

We have read articles of Joe’s RPO game on this website here and here, and have also talked about how our players might fit into his game plan. For now, the fans are dismissing the discipline issues and only looking forward with Joe in hopes we can get closer to the “promised land,” and take our offense to the next level.

Providing we have a season, how do you see the outcome for the Ducks, and how do you see Joe Moorhead fitting in for the long haul under Cristobal? Is he going to be a five-to-seven year OC, or bolt as soon as another HC job is offered? Will Joe maintain control and observation of his players, or will Cristobal have to take on that duty?

Are our expectations as Ducks fans too high for Joe Moorhead’s coaching style? Will we, as Duck fans, give Joe the time necessary to take us to the next level?

The first game of the season will surely be interesting…

San Diego, California
Top Photo from Video


Chris Brouilette, the Volunteer editor for this article, is a current student at the University of Oregon from Sterling, Illinois.

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