Dear Mario Cristobal,
I, like many Duck fans, have appreciated the recruiting revolution and the defensive reinvigoration brought during your tenure. The back-to-back Pac-12 Championships are a major step accomplishment for an Oregon program that bottomed out in 2016. It has been a fast rebuild back to the top of the Pac-12, and for that we are appreciative.
There is one thing, however, that you have not understood about Oregon fans. We love offense.
No, beyond that, we are addicted to points. We want to see our beloved Ducks drop 50 points in a game and not look back. We expect huge explosive plays that leave the opposing defenses grasping at the air and utterly confused about what just happened to them. We have tolerated your old school smash-mouth offense with a sprinkle of spread these past few years because it has come with some phenomenal recruiting and a much-upgraded defense.
You have missed what makes Oregon unique. Oregon athletics were built on speed. It should come as no surprise given Oregon’s history as a track school that when the football offensive revolution came to Oregon, it came on with speed. It was built on players who could succeed at both football and track; look no further than De’Anthony Thomas and Devon Allen, and for a more comprehensive list of Oregon football players turned track stars, FishDuck has a whole article about that!
When you first took over the program, you preached about playing fast and playing more physically. Many fans, myself included, were excited by the idea of Oregon’s spread offense but with bigger, faster and more physical linemen who could manhandle the opposing defensive line — something Oregon has never had. Instead, we have been left with a slow, plodding offense that has the facsimile of a power run game in the use of the pistol, which hasn’t worked. Oregon’s offense doesn’t even play with tempo; the ball is often snapped inside of 10 seconds on the play clock.
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As a fan base, we were excited with the hire of Joe Moorhead following the conclusion of the 2019-2020 season. There was the hope that we were going to see the return of the spread offense to Eugene — that we, as a fan base, were going to see Oregon’s offense return to its high-scoring ways. And through the first four games of this season, we saw scores in the mid to high30s, which at least felt like an improvement — especially with plays that attacked the edges more frequently and a high third-down conversion rate.
Then came the loss to Cal when the offense disappeared in the second half. The Pac-12 Championship game against USC wasn’t much better, as the offense had to rely on short fields to score. Finally, against Iowa State, the offense was a complete catastrophe, as it didn’t have any sort of identity and was shut out of the second half.
Your offense doesn’t work, Coach Cristobal, and frankly it has been an embarrassment for Duck fans. However, you are in luck — there is a template for you that is effective, embraces Oregon’s football legacy, and fans already love. All you have to do is look back into Oregon’s recent past in the Chip Kelly and Mark Helfrich eras.
Oregon consistently had one of the top-ranked offenses in the country and Oregon reached its highest points in our football history as the Ducks competed for two national championships. If you are afraid of being branded as merely a coach who is following in the shadow of Kelly and Helfrich, this is nothing to be ashamed of as Alabama, Clemson, Ohio State and LSU have all used variations of the spread offense pioneered by Oregon to win national championships — something that all of us desperately want for Oregon.
Bring back this offense. Speed kills, both in terms of speed of play and in player speed. Just look at the most successful plays over your tenure at Oregon and you’ll see that when Oregon is playing with tempo and players are able to get out in space, good things happen. When the offense plays the width of the field and attacks the edges, that is the perfect time to instill a power run game because the defense doesn’t have the personnel to stop it. You can embrace your own culture of physicality while also embracing Oregon’s legacy of speed.
Oregon is on the verge of a breakthrough. It has the defense and it has the best personnel in school history, but it needs a high-powered offense. National championships are no longer won by the defense, but they need a high-powered offense to go with them and installing one at Oregon wouldn’t be a sign of weakness by following in the footsteps of your Oregon coaching predecessors. it would, instead, be a restoration.
Give Moorhead full control over the offense and, if needed, let him hire the coaches he needs to execute his offense to its full potential. Bring back our beloved offense and show us you understand Oregon. Oregon is speed, innovation, and a high-flying offense to its fans. Restore Oregon’s legacy to the football world and you will achieve your goal of winning a national championship. That will be your Oregon legacy.
Top Photo By: Kevin Cline
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Natalie Liebhaber, the FishDuck.com Volunteer Editor for this article, works in the financial technology industry in Bozeman, Montana.
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