Cristobal’s Next Step after Oregon

Alex Heining Editorials 70 Comments

Mario Cristobal’s exit from the Ducks’ football program will have heavy implications on the future for Our Beloved Ducks in decades beyond. He has been an incredible recruiter for Oregon since taking over as head coach, and the culture building under his guidance feels rock solid. We all can agree the team appears destined for greatness under his reign after a dominant Rose Bowl victory pre-COVID, as he himself has called Oregon the, “best program in the country.” Unfortunately we must try to objectively broach the subject of him leaving despite being massive fans of the program.

I’m not saying it’s particularly likely that Cristobal will leave Oregon soon, but we have to at least ask the question: what criteria would have to be met for Cristobal to leave for another program or the NFL?

From what we’ve seen so far while at Oregon, it appears the next step for Cristobal would have to be to the pro level. In my eyes we have one more offseason before the NFL calls start coming in (if they haven’t already), and Cristobal will inevitably be on that short list. The Ducks’ COVID season shouldn’t have much of an impact on his resume up to this point, which is something I doubt that many pro teams would weigh heavily in their process for pursuing a new coach.

His work at Oregon in convincing blue chip talent from all over the country to come to a far less competitive PAC-12 over SEC heavyweights has been nothing short of spectacular, and other teambuilders like Matt Rhule have been recruited up to the pro level recently, so it’s not out of the question that the sheep-think league will follow suit with coaches like Cristobal.

Tom Corno

Cristobal’s coaching led the Ducks to another Rose Bowl victory, and more are sure to follow once everything’s back to “normal”

Aside from the pro level, I could also see Cristobal taking over an SEC program. Offers for coordinator positions at big-time programs are likely already on the table for Cristobal, but it is of course doubtful that we would see him jump ship after just beginning his new extension at Oregon.

To take over a neighboring college program, it would take at least the next two or three seasons for the Oregon program to give up on his vision and cut the extension early with a firing (which is highly doubtful to happen with the talent Cristobal has assembled). Alabama’s Nick Saban can’t coach forever, and considering Cristobal’s experience in his staff, I’m sure he’d be good for a recommendation with the Crimson Tide.

Now of course, as Duck fans, we all think highly of Cristobal. We expect loyalty, commitment to the process, and honoring of his contract set to pay him $4.55 million annually as the head coach of Oregon until 2025. I have the upmost respect for his demeanor and what he’s done for the program, and I hope that he stays with the Ducks as long as possible.

If he were to leave Oregon, however, where do you see him landing? How many years do you feel we realistically have left with Cristobal before he goes to find greener grass?

Alex Heining
Eugene, Oregon
Top Photo By: Kevin Cline

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I know we are here to discuss and ponder but boy do I hate even thinking about a Coach change right now and I think we might be quite safe for awhile.

Mario has a young family and by all accounts they like it here. Not sure if any of their family has relocated here, but that would certainly help. I think the change from South Florida to Western Oregon would be quite appealing, and they are now quite established here.

Besides that, he and his staff are absolutely killing it on the recruiting trail and also the staff development.

We all want more Offensive production and that needs to happen immediately!

Go Ducks!

Charles Fischer, Mr. FishDuck

Great to see you posting and would love to see more–WELCOME!


Who the heck knows if and when he will leave.

Does he have another college program higher up on his list? (Like the snake did)

Does he have NFL aspirations? (Like Chip Kelly did)

Does he like living in Eugene?

I predict that he will stay long enough to see how high this program can go. If college football goes to 12 in the playoffs, I think he will try to get there and see how the team does.

I think Chip left because he felt that he took Oregon as high as it could go, and got to the NFL on a high note.

By the end of this season, Cristobal will have been head coach exactly as long as Chip was head coach.

If the Ducks beat Ohio St – then EVERYBODY will come calling for Cristobal.


Altman and Cristobal are here until they win a National Championship. I would say they will be here well after they win a title, end of story.

David Marsh

I don’t think MC will go the NFL route. He just doesn’t have that kind of ego or drive. He wants to build relationships and nuture those relationships. The NFL (and other pro sports) really doesn’t work that way. The NFL is about acquisition of talent, using that talent, and moving on to acquire more talent.

Also… MC doesn’t scream X’s and O’s that come with most NFL coaches. He is a hard worker and that is what he puts out there. Not to say the NFL doesn’t require hard work but it has a different vibe about it.

As for MC moving on to another school. Possible but he has stated he wants to retire in Eugene. So more likely at this point that we may have to deal with life after Cristobal when he opts to retire… Which HOPEFULLY happens same the same way as life after Bellotti where he found his successor in Chip Kelly.


Got these #s from the 247 sports site. It’s the # of 4-star & 5-star HS football players from each state in 2021. A couple of them definitely surprised me:

TX  52
FL  46
CA  33
NC  26
GA  24
AL  17
OH 14
PA  14
LA  13
WA 11
MI  10
VA  10
IL   9
OK  8
IA   7
TN  6
AZ  6
UT  6
MS  5
NJ  5
CO  3
IN   3
OR  3
SC  3
WI  3
NE  2
HI  2
NV  1
WV 1
ID  0
NY  0!!!

Charles Fischer, Mr. FishDuck

Wow…we recruit Hawaii, and yet not Texas very much? Washington has nearly four times more prospects than Oregon? So MANY surprises with that and THANKS for posting it.

Jon Joseph

That’s a low # for Georgia.

What if AZ/ASU could keep some of their kids at home?


Cristobal has a great gig especially in this era of the NLI. Oregon & Nike are great brands. He has a chance of turning Oregon into the Clemson of the West. He won’t leave to take a lateral job in the SEC and has yet to prove he’s an elite coach. I definitely don’t see him as an NFL coach. If he brings great success to Oregon, then I could see him leaving for a top job in the SEC or BIG10 or going back home to Miami. But if he does bring great success to Oregon, then I could also see him sticking around since it’s better to be a big fishduck in a little pond.


The NFL buys players, not recruit. What MC needs to prove is that he can coach 4* and 5* guys into a legitimate contender. His opportunity is right here, right now. Anything else is foolish.

Charles Fischer, Mr. FishDuck

I assume you mean anything else is foolish for Cristobal to consider…. (We do not allow attaching pejorative labels to the opinions of the writers, management or other readers on this site)

And this is your second post, and we want to encourage you to share your feelings often. WELCOME!


That’s the only thing that could lead coach Cristobal away. I’m not sure if that means Florida or not.
I expect him to be a man of his word and stay here as long as possible. His kids are young and unless they miss warmer weather, they seem to like Eugene.

Also, he still has lots to prove.
I know we all want to see a more dominant offense, and it seems like by now he should have one, but Kelly was here as an OC for 3 years before headcoach. And he had Helfrich here too. So I think we need to wait until this new 5 star qb develops, maybe through next year.

I think the administration and Phil are sold on MC, and he recognizes there are very few places better than Eugene .
Once the playoff expands, and we make it regularly, then maybe he finds a challenge elsewhere.
Until then, he’s a Duck, baby!


The cart is getting ahead of the horse here.

First order of business is to win 10+ games and repeat as PAC12 champion in 2021.

Then to reach the CFB playoff.

When those accomplishments have been done several times, then Coach C’s universe will change both at Oregon and on the national scene.

I’m not sure this year’s team can get the job done. It’s up to Coach Cristobal to show me.

Kurt Rambis

Interesting juxtaposition of recent articles – from “the offense is flailing under MC – how long until he’s let go” to “MC is such a superlative coach – how long until he leaves” (and I’m probably the main points on both for the sake of the contrast).

This article strikes me a bit as fan-thought…our QB is obviously a Heisman contender, our coach is the best in the land, our defense is awe-inspiring, we’re likely headed to the playoffs, that kind of thing. Lots of wishful thinking from behind rose-colored glasses from fans.

MC has proven nothing so far, other than an ability to recruit. There have been no national titles (or even playoff appearances). He didn’t revive a moribund program. He didn’t revolutionize the game as CK did to some extent. Good for us, we won a Rose Bowl (while other teams were playing for the national title). Under Brooks or Bellotti, that would be cause for celebration. But a Heisman winner and two title game appearances have raised the expectations.

Until the program again starts making regular appearances in the top 4 and challenging for a national title, all we have right now is a fantastic recruiter as HC. The jury is still out on the rest, and I doubt programs like UGA or Bama are foaming at the mouth to steal away our coach. I doubt even more that pro teams are thinking seriously about it, as recruiting just isn’t that valuable a skill to take to the NFL. They’re looking for player development, innovation, intense leadership, and pure coaching ability. Right now, those aren’t the perceived strengths.

Charles Fischer, Mr. FishDuck

The articles being the antithesis of each other is not intentional; I let the writers create what they wish and offer their “takes” on things. Then we can disagree, agree and debate in civility here unlike anywhere else.

And you have been a welcome new addition here, “Kurt.”

Kurt Rambis

Oh, I’m sure it’s not intentional – I just though it was interesting to have two articles with such different viewpoints right on top of each other. And after a few years of the O-Live boards, which were largely controlled by trolls, I love the fact that this is actually a message board for the exchange of ideas and perspectives, rather than what O-Live devolved into (to the point they just closed the boards entirely).

Jon Sousa

Wrong on only one major point: Duck fans don’t wear rose colored glasses unless they are Rose Bowl colored glasses.

Duck fans wear Green colored glasses, Yellow colored glasses, or Green and Yellow colored glasses.


A frank assessment of the team and our coach. Yes, we have highly rated talent. But the results on the field have left me disappointed. A 4-3 record last year, including losses to teams the Ducks were “supposed” to defeat, and that miserable showing against Iowa State leave me unconvinced that the Ducks will come close to dominating—even in the generally lowly-regarded PAC 12.

I have to agree with Charles when he says unless we can put a lot more points on the board against whatever team we play, the Ducks will most certainly disappoint again this year. And that could easily put the kibosh on recruiting going forward. Winning helps sustain recruiting—not wishful thinking.

Jon Joseph

Thanks Alex.

“… a dominate Rose Bowl victory?” Wisconsin righteously demurs. Did we watch the same game? And the 1 point victory came with the NFL Rookie of the Year playing QB.

Culture is an interesting buzz word in today’s CFB world, but the culture of a program is irrelevant if it doesn’t lead to W’s.

IMO, an excellent culture has the players up for every game and results in smash mouth victories over lesser opponents. SEE: Alabama.

Nick Saban just signed an 8 year extension at Bama and shows no signs of slowing down. Today, if Bama AD and former Arizona AD, Battle, was to look to the Pac-12, I think Whittingham would be the choice. But it is close with Whittingham ranked 14 nationally and Mario 16. They are also ranked 1 and 2 in conference coaching rankings. (Rankings courtesy of CBS Sports.)

Gigs in the SEC equal to or better than Oregon: Florida; UGA; Bama; LSU + perhaps, Auburn + A+M. Anything else would likely mean more money but a step down.

The SEC is a meat grinder compared to the Pac-12. Better to stay in Eugene, dominate the conference, make the playoff + then win playoff games. SEE: Dabo.

Even in the SEC + the B1G, no coordinator is going to be paid close to $4.55M. Not that many NFL coaches make this kind of money. There are no G5 opponents in the NFL and no roster full of ‘stiffs’ like that in Tucson.

Today, Mario’s rep is: great recruiter, suspect game manager. I believe Mario knows this and is determined as only a stubborn person can be, to stay at Oregon and make annual playoff appearances.

In the next 2 seasons with Ohio State and Georgia on the schedule and playing 9 conference games (IMO the new commish should lead the way to go to 8 games, a 9th game ‘championship week’ and get rid of divisions,) do you see Mario leading the Ducks to the playoff?

Things lighten up OOC in 2023 and Oregon should field a mature, experienced team, like it faced vs Iowa State last season.

Of course, nothing will help Mario’s and the conference’s cause more than expanding the playoff field from 4 to 12 and sooner rather than later.

Stay Mario! And Go Ducks!

Jon Joseph

Thanks Alex. The Ducks O was dominant on the first drive of the game vs Wisconsin. Then for the most part the O took a siesta.

The D and Badger turnovers won the game. This, and spot on Alex for noting that the coaching staff finally allowed JH to use his wheels.

Charles Fischer, Mr. FishDuck

Alex….you KNOW I love your work as our Editor-in-Chief, and I will miss you dearly when you move on from the site in the near future. And you are a gifted writer, but you had to know that I would politely disagree with the premise of your article.

Cristobal, IMHO, will not be going to the NFL until he can prove he can do it at an elite level in college–and he has not done that yet. His strengths in recruiting are not transferable to the NFL, and usually if a college coach is hired–it is because of some new innovation or an “edge” on offense or defense that the coach brings with him.

That is not present yet with Cristobal as he needs to prove that he can operate as a hands-off CEO. I am in agreement with everyone with his values and his leadership, but at the professional level–the rah-rah is not prized as it becomes even bigger as a business.

He needs to win a few ‘Nattys, and then I think this question is valid.

But it is fun to discuss–thanks my friend.

Good call Charles.

Matt Ruhle in a short time turned Baylor around from the the depths of sanctions, defeated TX + OK in the regular season, and took Baylor to the B12 champ game and the Sugar Bowl. [BTW – this happened under the QB play of Charlie Brewer. Brewer will be starting for Utah this season.]

The improvement at Baylor came after Ruhle took Temple from a complete after thought to being a serious competitor in the AAC.

The above accomplishments, which Ruhle accomplished without all star rosters, is why Ruhle is now the HC of the Charlotte Panthers.

On the field to date, Mario has come nowhere near Ruhle’s bona fides. The Ducks team Mario took over had talent; far from the re-builds twice accomplished by Ruhle.

Matt Campbell has made the same Ruhle-like improvement at Iowa State. ISU is the #1 overachiever over the last 4 seasons as measured by recruiting rankings compared to Ws. In other words. like Ruhle, Campbell has done more with less. I do not believe anyone can say the same for Mario’s accomplishments to date?

IMO, Campbell is a far more attractive candidate for the NFL than is Mario. In the the 2020 Fiesta Bowl, Campbell took Mario to school.

If it does not translate into Ws, outstanding recruiting means jack.

I truly want Mario to make it happen on the field. I sincerely hope we see far improved game performances in 2021.


MC seems like a truly earnest fellow. He has praised Oregon as his home now. He is dedicated to his players and the focus of making the Ducks a perennial power. But…all the commitment, goal setting, and honest dedication have been known to melt the best of men when millions of dollars pass under the nose. Setting one’s family and their families’ family up for life has a strong allure. Nick Saban’s salary is roughly twice Mario’s. Those extra 4-5 million bucks per year can be pretty darn persuasive. Shoot, I might ditch my wife for that much money. (“Would that be okay, Honey?) ;-)

I’m not saying it would happen with MC. I’m just commenting on the general human behavior when faced with such opportunities.

Jon Joseph

With that kind of dough? I think the spouse would be happy to be cut and get half of the goodies on the way out the door?

Just Kidding!


Kidding? Hahaaa… Not me!


Intriguing (and somewhat unsettling) topic Alex.

I am going to take MC at his word. Unlike WT, I think he will stick around. As goducks15 mentioned, he tends to be hardheaded and follow through to meet his goals. He has a pretty good gig going here, with a University the has invested heavily in the student athlete experience.

The other thing to take into account is that his recruiting prowess will not translate in the NFL. That and he doesn’t strike me as the type to simply chase the $$, as he makes more than enough to be comfortable, and Eugene has some pretty attractive qualities for raising a family.

I could be way off, but I think (hope and pray) that Coach C will stick around and build something incredible at the O.

Go Ducks!


Dude! Don’t harsh my mellow!

Charles Fischer, Mr. FishDuck

We made a slight change there…

Jon Sousa

I probably wouldn’t (don’t) understand it either way.

Sounds like he doesn’t want MC to leave.

Jon Joseph

Don’t Bogart the joint, my friend?


I like the fact that he has put in the time and effort to make recruiting a priority. But if you can not translate the talent into a successful team, it is like having a hotrod with no wheels. Looks good sitting up on them blocks but goes no where.

He seems to have brought in coaches that can recruit. But can they develop talent, put players in a position to succeed and win consistently. Coaches that scout talent and coach them up and help build strong, smart and productive athletes.

Treat Coach Cristobal good and I think you have a coach for as long as you like. He will create a coaching tree like Saban and be the gateway to the NFL for student athletes. Lead by example, do it the right way, hold your staff and players to high standards. This, IMHO, will lead Oregon to many Conference Championships, Bowl Titles and the ultimate, National Championship(s) we seek.

Jon Joseph

1st – Oregon has to make it to the Final 4 (hopefully soon the final 12) and not take an L against an inferior team like ASU.

Mario had an excellent chance to make the PO in 2019; didn’t happen. Yes, the 1 point RB win was nice, but?


I doubt or hope MC doesn’t leave before he has a shot at a CFP win.

He seems like a stubborn hard headed coach that once he’s fixated on something he follows through.

Once he’s at least made it to the CFP win or not I think he’s fair game.

Big question is that when Saban leaves and rumors of MC being in the mix does he jump ship prematurely?

If an offer of a dream job came open before he takes the Ducks to the CFP I don’t think he’ll take it.

After he takes the Ducks to the CFP all bets are off IMO.

Aren’t most HC jobs transitional anyways?


I thinks he fair game after one CFP win. In a few years the Ducks should be regulars when the CFP is expanded. Right now just reaching it is the big goal.

Jon Joseph

Saban will be coaching in Tuscaloosa for 5+ years after 2021. 1st on the radar screen post-Saban – Dabo.

Charles Fischer, Mr. FishDuck

Yes, you are right, but at Clemson…Dabo is a legendary coach. At Alabama, the atmosphere and appreciation would not be the same.

I am not so sure Dabo would bolt…. (But I LOVE how you bring these tasty tidbits up for delicious discussion!)

I agree. I do not see Dabo, even though Bama is his alma mammy, leaving Clemson and a comparably stress-free ACC.

And, he is already making $9M plus!


5 years would be about right for the Ducks chances to have a CFP win. Dabo makes almost as much as Saban so money probably wouldn’t be the deciding factor. IDK that seems like a tough choice.

Jon Joseph

Actually, even with Saban’s recent bump, Dabo makes more.

Jon Joseph

Yes, with bonuses, Dabo hauled in $9.2M last season.

But you are absolutely correct. With the recent extension, Saban’s base salary is more than Dabo’s.

I don’t think either one is worried about where the next meal is coming from?


I would think that CMC would like to be the man who brings the National Championship to Oregon, set his own legacy. Not follow in the footsteps of a legend with all the expectations. At least, that is my hope.


Good point. Hadn’t thought about the legacy part. Saban’s a hard act to follow.

Jon Joseph

Like being the next guy after John Wooden?


What’s in the man’s heart? What drives him? Unless all the talk is just that I sense family is atop the list.

Is he going to start the carousel of cities as an NFL coach while his children are young?

I suspect that he has professional goals at Oregon to achieve and that raising his sons in Eugene isn’t altogether a bad thing.

Coach D also intimated that college towns provide some great life benefit.

I don’t see MC jumping ship until some professional goals are achieve including postseason success like a natty or several big bowls in a row and the national conversation being as hot as it was for CK who ultimately couldn’t resist the challenge of the NFL when the $$ was right.

To me the X factor with MC are his young boys and his families happiness.


I agree! Mario Cristobal has character. Character that shows in his relationship with his players. I doubt that he would ever jump ship to join the carousel of chasing money or “bigger” opportunities.

Your last sentence says it all! Family!

Jon Joseph

Great points. But the bowls are also-ran now and once the playoff field expands to 12 going to a non-playoff bowl will be close to meaningless.


I agree with your first paragraph and your last sentence says it all! I remember Coach C saying Eugene feels home to him and family and I think that family comes first. They love Eugene and its friendly community as well as what the state has to offer in recreation.

How did it work out for Chip Kelly or Saban going to the NFL? Not that great. They both returned back to the college ranks. Saban said It didn’t take long for him to realize that he had made a mistake accepting a head coaching job in the NFL with the Miami Dolphins. Once he went to the pros it was the inability to control his own destiny. When that happened he made this comment:

Saban said. “I can’t control my destiny here. There’s too many things that, no matter how hard I work or no matter what I do, I can control my destiny better in college by working hard and making good choices and decisions and creating a good program for players. I think that happening made me lean back to coming back to college.”

I think Cristobal is in that same category as Saban. I guarantee, he and Saban most likely had this conversation about the pros.

Getting annually $4.55 million is a lot of money, especially living in Eugene which is a great college town. We all know If he wins a national championship and keeps Oregon in the upper echelons in college ranks, his salary will go up exponentially.

It seems to me he is very thoughtful in what he has and loves loyalty. I don’t think he will ever forget that Oregon gave him his shot and trust at being the HC. It has mutually been very satisfying for both parties. To me this loyalty and trust will continue to grow into something great for the program and fans.


I also should have said there are college coaches who have been successful in the pros. Pete Carroll for one. But I keep thinking Cristobal is from the same mindset as Saban.

Jon Joseph

Jimmy Johnson and Switzer, despite himself, also scored in the NFL.

Duck Phan Phil

Must we really?

J Duck

O-line coach yes, coordinator…that is to be proven. Head Coach? I agree he may have the best “program” and kids love to come here, he is a top-notch recruiter. He has hired proven coordinators under him now, and 2020 was a fluke for everyone. I want to see game management and letting his OC take advantage of the talent we now have. We’ve never had this depth. We need to see at least 40 points a game this fall to see if we can take the next step.


I know that I certainly can’t say what goes on behind the scenes. Not sure that Cristobal’s immediate goals include the NFL. Would be surprised to see him leave in the near future to an NFL team. However, if he doesn’t feel that Eugene is “home”…I could see a move to an opportunity closer to that “home”.

Jon Joseph

Not all that many NFL coaches make $4.55M. Certainly, no coordinator college and pro make that kind of money.


MC comes across like a man on a mission to accomplish a few things – like play for and even win a few natties – like his mentor Saban. That says more to people than to just “jump ship” to the next opportunity like Matt Rhule did.

Jon Joseph

So please, when it comes to the O, listen to your mentor!

Charles Fischer, Mr. FishDuck

Isn’t that crazy? Saban, (through Sark) added the major components of the Oregon Offense to the Crimson Tide attack, while Cristobal was dumping them!

I can’t make that stuff up…


If you are going to recruit all of these quality TEs and WRs, throw the ball to them!

Jon Joseph

QUACK, But that was Matt’s 3rd step after Temple and Baylor + how much farther was he going to take Baylor? Final 4? I doubt it.