Oh come on … the title is not so far-fetched! Haven’t all of us fans of Our Beloved Ducks thought about this at one time or another? There are so many positive and negative facets to consider, and I am interested in your thoughts. Where would Oregon Football be if Chip Kelly had decided to pass on the NFL? If he realized, on this other timeline, that what he had in Eugene was special and that he would never duplicate it again in his career?
Or is that one giant wishful leap too far?
Let’s contemplate some of the aspects that would be different if Coach Kelly decided to stay at Oregon, starting with recruiting … I do not see that improving unless some new assistant coach hires (to replace those retiring such as Steve Greatwood and Gary Campbell) injected a new dose of expertise and energy into the effort. Like it or not, CK fans, Willie Taggart and Mario Cristobal shattered the glass ceiling of recruiting at Oregon in a way none could have anticipated. It is hard to imagine Coach Kelly and his older staff having the same intensity and drive that the Cristobal staff possesses.
Chip had Oregon routinely ranked in the top ten and top five due to the innovation of his offense and tempo at that time. The Ducks were not residing in that lofty zone because of a talent-rich roster. Would that advantage have continued? Would Chip and Mark Helfrich have continued to innovate on what they created, occasionally throwing in a new wrinkle or two? Would that have brought enough talent to Eugene to win the Big One?
It was apparent in the National Championship Game at the end of the 2014 season that Oregon was a few players short in depth, particularly on defense. I get almost misty-eyed thinking of what that offense, coupled with the current defense, would have done … Would Chip have been able to get Oregon over the recruiting hump just enough to achieve Oregon’s first Natty? So many defensive recruits at that time wasted their careers at Washington or Cal and would have been wearing “the” ring had they chosen to play for the Ducks.
Recruiting is about more than just the players, as Coach Mario Cristobal has shown. Recruiting coaches can make-or-break you, and certainly Helfrich can attest to that (Brady Hoke). Could Kelly have moved beyond his own hubris to create more space in the room for other confident egos? As pointed out recently in the comments, the coaching tree of Chip Kelly is sparse, and that coaching weakness is how great programs decline — sometimes quickly (2016) — in modern college football.
With nearly all the college teams duplicating Oregon’s uniforms and Spread Offense with No-Huddle … would the Oregon Brand have become muddled? How would that have changed? Would it have become a “dated” trend in football?
Or would Chip Kelly have noticed the decline and, through his travels to so many other teams and coaching staffs, righted the ship and kept Oregon among the elite? Or would “sticking to what he knows” have brought about the gradual decline of Oregon Football? If Chip Kelly had stayed, “would he still be here by his own choice?”
I’m going to need more than one Bend, Oregon IPA Craft Beer to gain some whimsical wisdom looking back, or I’ll simply release the banal blustering of my best guess about where Oregon Football would be at the moment. Where do you think the Ducks would be if Chip Kelly had stayed at Oregon?
“Oh how we love to ponder about Our Beloved Ducks!”
Charles Fischer (Mr. FishDuck)
Top Photo by Kaly Harward
Andrew Mueller, the FishDuck.com Volunteer Editor for this article, works in higher education in Chicago, Illinois.
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