Most Impactful Coach: Rich Brooks or Chip Kelly?

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Rich Brooks had a record of 91-109-4 while he was head coach at the University of Oregon. He did not have a single season of 10+ wins (although he coached when there were fewer games, making 10+ wins harder to obtain), had only one conference championship and one bowl win in a whopping 18 seasons in Eugene, and finished a season ranked Top-25 nationally only once.

Stats like that paint a picture of a coach who struggled to be competitive, but they don’t tell the whole story.

Brooks took over an absolutely lousy Oregon program. The Ducks hadn’t played in a bowl game in 13 years, amassing a paltry two winning seasons over the same span. They were arguably the worst program in Oregon, and weren’t even thought of nationally. Brooks built the program from scratch, leading the Ducks to four bowl appearances in his final six seasons. He hired several of the coaches who continued to build the program after his departure, and the school promptly named the field after him. The foundation of the Oregon program was built on Brooks’ back.


Brooks pictured trying to motivate a less-inspired Duck locker room.

Chip Kelly innovated college football. He changed the way offenses played with the zone read and no-huddle offense, and the epicenter of college football shifted toward Eugene during his tenure. He was the second post-Brooks coach at Oregon, and stockpiled a massive 46 wins to a meager 7 losses in only four seasons as the head coach at Oregon. He took a solid team, coached by Mike Bellotti, and changed the landscape of college football forever.

Kelly took Oregon to the national championship, and easily had three of the best teams to ever play in Eugene during his tenure. He left the program to Mark Helfrich, who almost recruited his way back to the pre-Brooks era of irrelevance. Kelly easily has the highest winning percentage in school history (for the modern era at least), and he almost brought Oregon to the pinnacle of college football.

So the question is, who had a bigger impact on the program: Brooks dragging the program out of the cellar, or Kelly pulling them just short of the mountaintop?

Ryan Robertson
Yuma, Arizona
Top Photo By: Kevin Cline

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Charles Fischer, Mr. FishDuck

Oregon Baseball in FIRST PLACE!

It is by a hair….70.83% vs. 70.37% win percentage, but the Ducks are in first place in the Pac-12 just ahead of Arizona. In the national D1 poll, Oregon has climbed to No. 6 in the nation, the highest ranked Pac-12 team among five who are ranked.

Our opponent on Tuesday, Gonzaga, is a surprising No. 17 in the nation and leads the West Coast Conference, and the No. 3 team in the Pac-12 by another slim margin, Stanford, is ranked No. 15 and Oregon plays them in PK Park this next weekend.

The following weekend at Cal is the final series of the season, and the Bears surprised Stanford this last weekend taking two-out-of-three.

Oregon State will have a massive impact in the final Pac-12 standings, as they host Arizona in Corvallis this weekend, and then travel to Stanford for the final series.

A really, really interesting finish to the season; can the Ducks do it?


The article understates how bad Oregon football was before Rich Brooks. It was so hard to get anyone to attend that UO forced BB fans to buy football season tickets to obtain BB season tickets. When we lost to San Jose, 5-0, the new President of the Uof O said he’d rather be shot in the town square than to watch another game like that.

I remember when I had very young kids, you could get a family pack for all your kids to get in for $25 for the season. They’d sit in the end zone. Easy to watch them from my seats on the 40, because nobody else was there. And of course, there was Norval Turnover, our QB who would be booed whenever he took the field.

I remember the guy with the seats next to mine saying, “I don’t care if we win, I just wish we were close some of the time. The facilities were terrible, the teams were painful to watch. Oregon was routinely listed on the “Bottom Ten.” Rich Brooks transformed all that.


Bellotti .
While Brooks’ almost impeccable record in the used to be Civil War saved his job many years, his won – loss record was not that of a successful or even transformative coach until Bellotti’s arrival as offensive coordinator. Compare Brooks’ seasonal records compared to Bellotti’s arrival and you will see it. Brooks only became transformative as head coach due to Belotti’s arrival .


Certainly Bellotti was key to the Ducks stepping into and remaining in the national conversation. The 2002 Fiesta Bowl trouncing of Colorado in the BCS era could have easily been Oregon vs Miami in the Rose Bowl Championship game. Until Kelly that was about the biggest success the Ducks had ever achieved.

I sound like a broken record, but it’s been mostly forgotten because of the last couple of decades success, Brooks took over a program that may well have been one of the worst in DI. It wasn’t just bad coaching, bad players, and bad facilities. There was an bad attitude that hung over Eugene regarding Oregon athletics in general. Excepting Bowerman’s teams and Prefontaine in particular there wasn’t much to cheer about.

Defeatism, if that is even a word, permeated the school and community. There was no Knight money to speak of. Trying to raise funds was like trying to sell refrigerators to the indigenous peoples of the arctic regions. I know I was one of those simple minded fools, I mean volunteers, dialing for dollars.

Brooks’ greatness, in my opinion, wasn’t something that shows up on the scoreboard or in the record books. He wasn’t a witty or charismatic speaker. He was so old school in his approach to coaching he made two platoon football seem innovative.

What Brooks had going for him was dogged determination and sincere belief that Oregon football could compete and win. I’m as biased as they come on this subject. I can’t argue with winning records, bowl appearances, and national rankings. If those are the markers for a great coach, and they are, Bellotti and Kelly are Oregon’s best coaches to date.

In recent years we Duck fans have had some amazing things to cheer about. For a long suffering old Duck like like me it has been an embarrassment of riches, really. But nothing tops outlasting the Beavers in ‘94 and securing the Rose Bowl bid. Thanks Rich.

Sorry to be so wordy.


Most impactful? Loaded question!

RB brought the Ducks out of the desert, MB made the Ducks respectable, CK took the Ducks to the championships. Now if MC can just take them to the next level the Ducks will be in the promised land!

Jon Sousa

Without Brooks there would have been no Chip Kelley.

End of story.


The question is who had a bigger impact on the program then I think the obvious answer is Brooks.

If the question was who had a bigger impact on the sport then Kelly is definitely the answer.

Brooks took a team that had one winning season(6-4) in the previous 12 seasons. in the 10 seasons prior oregon had gone through 3 head coaches. with all considerations oregon had been on a downward spiral following casanova becoming the Athletic Director. Oregon football would probably be nonexistent if it weren’t for the consistency that brooks generated.


I’m going to cheat and say both. Without Rich Brooks, I’m not sure Uncle Phil goes all in on Oregon football. Without Chip Kelly, Oregon isn’t a national brand. Both were impactful in their own way.

Did you see what the NCAA did with Oregon softball? They put them in the Texas region with their former head coach Mike White. I’m not sure of the committee’s love for Kentucky, but Oregon should have been hosting a regional.

Santa Rosa Duck

All good coaches, Brooks, Belotti and Kelly. You need an Athletic Director with the insight to hire the right people,


Great point it takes a whole system and process to become successful. Oregon’s Athletic Directors, Athletic Department and Football Program had the long view. Go up I-5 and you see the opposite while Brooks program grew.

As far as AD’s who was AD during Brook’s last years, anyone?

Charles Fischer, Mr. FishDuck

Without Rich Brooks…we don’t have Mike Bellotti, and then would not have Chip Kelly. Most the staff began under Brooks, so while I enjoyed college football more under Chip–I owe the most to Rich Brooks.


Rich Brooks will always have my respect and gratitude. When he took over the program was about as abysmal as it could get. There was serious consideration being given to suggestions Oregon discontinue football. Some talked of joining the Big Sky conference. There was no marching band and if you waited until halftime you could get into the game free ( even then Autzen was rarely even half full on game day).

Brooks slowly, painfully began to build. The bar was low as to goals; win more games than last year. Raise money, which resulted in the Duck Athletic Fund. Basically just become competitive. The slogan Brooks and his staff preached “Respect-Demand It” began to seem possible.

There were huge flops, 6-5 seasons followed by 2-9 disasters. Then number 20 sniffs out Old What’s His Name Husky QB’s rag arm floater to the flat and away we went to the Rose Bowl. Replacing all those Husky smirks with cry baby mugs.

Kelly elevated not just Oregon football but changed the game itself. Chip was great and so were his teams. But Brooks, to me, will always be the guy. Like Moses, Brooks never really got to enjoy the Promised Land but he lead us out of The Wilderness..


Kelly lifted Ducks to the upper echelon of college football.


You can’t build without a foundation!

Most people just look at the pretty structure, but what Brooks, Oregon Football Program, and the Oregon Athletic Department did in the years preceding what we have now, made it all possible.


Brooks brought the Ducks from obscurity. Kelly took the Ducks to national prominence. You decide which coach had the most impact.