As an astute Oregon fan, you know the story. Willie Taggart was hired as the new coach at the end of the 2016 season, and he brought a staff to Eugene that included current head coach Mario Cristobal as the offensive line coach, co-offensive coordinator and run-game coordinator. Taggart left to coach at his dream school, Florida State, and Cristobal was hired by Rob Mullens.
But as I was mentally replaying the tapes on this a few months back with Duck-Buddy and former FishDuck writer Mike Merrell, there were some aspects of the story that did not match up with what we know now about the parties involved. Taggart could sell, and he sold the recruits, the parents and all of us on what he could do. Unfortunately, it did not take him long to break his word, and many of us in the after-the-fact reflection admitted that we did not see the signs of the Taggarts’ (lack of) ethics until much later.
But Mario had to have known that up front.
This was a great point brought up by Mike. One thing we’ve all been sold on is Cristobal’s ability to read and understand people and the value he places on building trust and long-term relationships. That was not Taggart’s schtick, and Cristobal had to have known that immediately after spending time with Willie.
So why did Mario Cristobal come to Oregon? Was there a master plan that took into account the weaknesses of Taggart? Was there evil genius at work (a la Mike Meyers above)?
Did Coach Cristobal know that Taggart would either blow it in Eugene or that Taggart’s ethics and coaching (see Seminoles) would eventually come to the fore and open up an opportunity for Cristobal to fill the void? He was overwhelmingly endorsed by the players after Taggart left. Was there a purpose behind Cristobal’s significant relationship building with the team (even outside the offensive line) during Mario’s first year?
Knowing Taggart and knowing Cristobal … how could Mario have not known how it would all play out?
A regular in the comments, duckcardinal, proposed a different possible explanation for Cristobal’s move to Eugene that I had not considered. When Cristobal was named the top assistant coach recruiter in nation at the end of 2015, many probably thought “anybody can recruit to Alabama and Nick Saban.” Maybe Coach Cristobal came to the West Coast to prove that he could recruit anywhere he went, even in the more difficult Pacific Northwest.
Plausible, but I’m not buying it.
We will never know the answer, and I’m not sure I want to. I am just glad it worked out as it did and we can savor the best recruiting class ever with the 2021 LOI days coming up. We all love so much of what Mario is putting in place, and yet I also think about the risk of coming to Oregon with Slick Willie. C’mon, you know what I mean … Taggart is a NCAA recruiting violation waiting to happen, and that could have also put Cristobal’s career in peril due to his association.
That part of it is the biggest surprise to me. Yes, there was a big incentive for Mario to come west, but the risk with Mr. Fake Smile was significant, as well. It was either an incredibly gutsy or a brilliant move by Coach Cristobal.
I cannot imagine that Cristobal ending up as head coach for the Ducks was just a pleasant happen-stance, can you?
“Oh how we love to ponder about Our Beloved Ducks!”
Charles Fischer (Mr. FishDuck)
Top Photo by Gary Breedlove
Andrew Mueller, the FishDuck.com Volunteer Editor for this article, works in higher education in Chicago, Illinois.
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