Chip Kelly ruined it, didn’t he? He was just a good enough recruiter to always have a decent roster, his offensive mind is one of the greatest of all time and he is easily the best halftime adjuster in modern school history. He was never going to have to leave Oregon. The administration was going to give him anything he wanted, coaches were willing to come learn under him, skill players would go to a school that had never won anything substantial just to be in his offense; but that wasn’t enough.
Kelly left the program despite having everything needed to succeed. The program went from hand to hand after his departure, but has landed in the lap of Mario Cristobal. Cristobal is the polar opposite of Kelly on the field. He radiates energy, recruits top tier players, and cannot make a halftime adjustment. Despite struggling on the field at times, Cristobal is the perfect, and I mean perfect, college football coach.
Cristobal is the best recruiting head coach the Oregon Ducks have ever seen. That isn’t a controversial statement, is it? Oregon is at a five year high in recruiting. That means the last five seasons have been better than any other five season stretch in school history. Considering Cristobal has only been the coach for three full seasons, and those three classes are the best three classes in school history, it is clear that Cristobal has outpaced every coach in school history on the recruiting trail.
Where Kelly recruited skill players who would fit his scheme perfectly, Cristobal dominates other schools (especially the Pac-12) by getting the best players at every position. Cristobal has recruited the top QB in school history, the top three offensive linemen in school history, the top defensive lineman in school history, the top four linebackers in school history, and the top two DB’s in school history. He has also recruited at least five of the top ten DB’s, QB’s, WR’s, OL, and LB’s in school history.
The balance of a Cristobal class is where they succeed. He always gets a QB, several wide receivers and offensive linemen, and adds pieces all over the defense. His only knock in recruiting is at running back where he has only secured one player in the top ten in school history.
Thus far Cristobal has recruited more effectively than any coach has ever thought possible in Eugene. His wins in the stadium are fuel for his recruiting, which build great teams that can win games.
Coaching Staff Hires
Cristobal is a less than fantastic game planner. Occasionally he will plan a game in such a way that the other team is helpless to watch as the Ducks run them out of the stadium (see USC in 2019). Unfortunately those games are few and far between. When a coach doesn’t have a great playbook, and Cristobal obviously does not, they need to have a great staff around them to be competitive.
Under the current regime, Oregon has consistently had one of the best staffs in the country despite a high level of turnover.
Starting with the strength and conditioning staff, Oregon has built one of the best programs in the country. Aaron Feld has revolutionized the weight room in Eugene. He brings hype to the program, with a glorious mustache, a can-do attitude, and a dynamic presence in the stadium. Add on to that; he took arguably the weakest team in the Pac-12, and got them to a point where they push around every single opponent they come across. Having the strongest team makes beating teams much easier. Without the off-season strength program, the Ducks lacked their trademarked physicality in 2020, and the 4-3 record showed just how important that was.
At offensive coordinator, Cristobal has pulled off nothing short of a miracle. Marcus Arroyo struggled in Eugene. His lackluster system dropped the draft stock of one of the greatest QB’s in school history by making him look ordinary. His run game couldn’t generate big plays, and his receiving corps could rarely catch the football. Despite the many issues Arroyo showed, being part of the program landed him a head coaching job. How did Cristobal respond? By adding the hottest offensive coordinator available. Another future head coach, Joe Moorhead has a revolutionary offensive system. With a full off-season of work, year two of that system will likely generate more excitement.
At defensive coordinator, Cristobal has a tendency. He goes out and hires the last DC to make his offense look stupid. Jim Leavitt left to be an analyst for a worse football team, and Cristobal brought in Andy Avalos, who made his offense look horrible in the Las Vegas Bowl. Avalos left to be a head coach, and Cristobal stole Tim DeRuyter, who had held the Ducks to 17 points, including a goose egg in the second half, during the 2020 season. DeRuyter has been a thorn in the side of the Oregon program, and Cristobal stole him.
Cristobal has been a steadying presence in Eugene. He bring an energy to the job that no other coach has seemed to possess, he is fantastic at talking to the media, and his teams have little controversy surrounding them, unlike the many bad seeds of the Kelly era.
When he took over the program, Cristobal had a lot to contend with. He had a horrible coaching record, a defensive coordinator who wanted his job, an uninspired offensive coordinator, and a fanbase who was hurting after being burnt by the previous head coach. Since then he has won two conference championships, had the best era in school recruiting history, won a Rose Bowl, and survived a pandemic without flinching. Oregon is in the upper echelon of the West Coast every year he is their coach, but he may not be able to win it all. So how does that make him perfect?
He is a good enough coach to win a lot of games, but not quite good enough to make it to the NFL.
Top Photo By: Eugene Johnson
Ryan Robertson is a defense contractor for the United States Marine Corps. A lifelong Duck fan from Grants Pass, he joined the Army out of high school. After four years as an Intelligence Analyst he decided it was time to further his education and pay more attention to his Ducks. One of Ryan’s first memories is of watching the Ducks, led by Joey Harrington, beating up on the Utah Utes in 2001. His grandfather ran track at Oregon in the ‘50s. He loves the Ducks, and has a passionate interest in reading every scrap of analysis centered around the football team.
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