How a Flawed Mario Cristobal Can Win a Title at Oregon

Joshua Whitted Editorials 72 Comments

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Mario Cristobal is not yet an elite head coach, and he might never be one. Contrary to what you might think, that might not stop him from getting Oregon its first-ever National Championship.

This isn’t merely wishful thinking from a green-and-yellow homer. Cristobal is acquiring championship-level talent. Talent that — with one notable addition — will likely be enough to overcome his coaching deficiencies for a short-term title run in the near future.

But ultimately, Cristobal’s improvements, or lack thereof, from a schematic and player development standpoint will determine longevity of Oregon’s success.

Talent Wins Titles

National Championships can’t be won without elite recruiting. This point has been stressed by many (especially yours truly), but it bears repeating. Talent alone doesn’t win a title, and coaching obviously matters. But the pursuit of a championship starts with assembling a top-tier roster.

Every championship winner since the beginning of modern recruiting has had a roster comprised of at least 50% blue-chip (five- or four-star) recruits. The Ducks have finally reached this important benchmark, and they sit just outside the top 10 with the 11th-best five-year recruiting average in the country. This in and of itself is a roster that might be able to at least contend for a title.

But this isn’t the final product. Not even close.

Tom Corno

Kayvon Thibodeaux (left), Noah Sewell (middle) and Mase Funa (right) were all blue-chip recruits.

Cristobal and his staff are simply on another level when it comes to recruiting. That aforementioned five-year recruiting average factors in Oregon’s lower-ranking 2017 and 2018 classes. Each of Oregon’s recruiting classes since the 2019 cycle — Cristobal’s first full recruiting class — have ranked no lower than 12th nationally, with two top-10 finishes.

Of course, that’s run of the mill for the Alabamas and Ohio States of the college football world, but those are schools that should be recruiting at that level consistently. They’re perennial title contenders, after all. Cristobal is doing this at a school that honestly has no business hanging with the traditional recruiting giants based on its location and lack of championship pedigree.

Josh Pate of 247Sports said the following about Oregon’s recruiting on his show The Late Kick, “Look, people are rubbed the wrong way by Oregon because they’re doing what people think they’re not supposed to be able to do, and that’s recruit at a national level, not taking backup options. They’re coming into your backyard, and they’re taking your A-list options. Oregon is a threat anywhere they show up in America right now.”

Tom Corno

Kris Hutson is one of many elite receivers Cristobal has recruited.

Cristobal is building a juggernaut at Oregon, and soon, it will comfortably be one of the most talented rosters in the country. Any team with a roster of that caliber has at least a fighter’s chance of winning a championship.

The Quarterback Factor

Suggesting that Cristobal will build a roster that’s talented enough to win a championship within a couple of years isn’t a hot take. But that’s not the reason many are skeptical of Oregon’s championship potential. Teams like USC, Texas and Georgia have shown that great recruiting isn’t enough in and of itself to win it all.

Many would suggest that elite coaching, player development and game planning separate actual National Champions from the “Recruiting National Champions“. Those who argue this aren’t wrong, per se. In many cases, this is true. But there are exceptions.

Teams can and have won titles without above average coaching, and each of those teams have had one thing in common: a game-changing, Heisman-level quarterback.

From Twitter

Georgia hasn’t been able to get over the hump due to subpar quarterback play.

A top-five collegiate quarterback is impactful enough to offset a bland scheme or poor player development. Such quarterbacks are so valuable that their abilities alone raise the level of play of the team around them, temporarily masking most coaching deficiencies.

The most obvious example of a situation like this is Joe Burrow and the 2019 LSU Tigers. The Tigers have had a top-10 roster since the start of the 2010s, but were never able to capitalize on it due to repeated failed attempts at finding a good-enough quarterback and less-than-adequate coaching. When they finally struck gold at the position in 2019, their previously under-utilized talent shined and they cruised to a championship. That team’s head coach was Ed Orgeron, who was not regarded as a coaching genius by any means, and his track record before and after Burrow’s magical season is underwhelming.

Many point to LSU’s coordinators as the reason for the its success, but I’d argue they get too much credit for Burrow simply being a terrific talent. Joe Brady’s history as a coordinator is limited, but his time with the Carolina Panthers in the NFL hasn’t been overly impressive. When given a replacement-level quarterback, Brady’s offense didn’t look nearly as potent. And while defensive coordinator Dave Aranda had been regarded as one of the top defensive minds in the game, his 2019 defense was actually one of his least impressive, at least statistically.

From Twitter

Did LSU’s coaches get too much credit for Burrow’s talents?

If that season isn’t enough to convince you of how influential the right quarterback can be with a good roster, look no further than the Auburn Tigers and their 2010 championship-winning season. The Tigers had built a team that had just enough blue-chip talent to make some noise in the SEC, but they needed a difference-maker at quarterback. I’d say Cam Newton qualifies as a difference-maker.

Newton was a one-man wrecking crew, and he absolutely carried a team that was led by one of the least impressive coaches to ever win a title. No one would argue that Gene Chizik was anything better than an average coach. And while Auburn did have a good offensive coordinator in Gus Malzahn, he went on to have mixed results as a head coach himself. Both Malzahn and Chizik eventually were fired, while Newton went on to become the No. 1 pick in the NFL Draft and a future league MVP. I don’t think there’s any question which of them was the driving force behind that title run.

These are just a couple of examples of how exemplary quarterback play can win a championship with little more than a talented supporting cast. This isn’t to say that good coaching isn’t important. (It is.) But teams can go on a title run, at least for a season, without it.

The challenge for Cristobal and company is actually identifying and landing a quarterback of that caliber. Crazily enough, there aren’t that many of them floating around.

From Twitter

Quarterbacks like Newton don’t come around too often.

Unfortunately, quarterback recruiting is such an inexact science that it’s not as simple as signing a five-star and calling it a day. It’s very hard to accurately identify which prospects are going to materialize and which will flame out when they arrive on campus, especially since so much of quarterback success is dictated by a variety of factors, such as situation, environment, and honestly, pure fortune.

Still, although there’s a lot of variability when it comes to recruiting quarterbacks, it’s not totally random. While there are plenty of five-star busts and three-star gems, the higher-rated prospects do generally have a higher success rate. There’s just always going to be a low “hit rate” on quarterback prospects, regardless of their rating. The best way to increase that rate is simply to keep recruiting blue-chip passers, as eventually one of them is likely to be a star.

Clemson, Alabama and Ohio State have all had multiple Heisman-contending quarterbacks over the past decade, and it’s not because they always accurately identify them during recruiting. It’s because they sign so many top-tier quarterbacks that the chances one of them turns out to be really good is more probable than not.

From Twitter

Ohio State has continued to field elite college quarterbacks.

Cristobal has been following this blueprint at Oregon, and because of it, the Ducks are in the running for, and signing, higher-rated prospects at quarterback than ever before. He’s bound to strike gold in the near future. In fact, that future superstar may be on the roster already.

Predicting that Oregon will land an elite quarterback is admittedly the biggest assumption in this piece. But if the Ducks continue to sign blue-chip quarterbacks, which they undoubtedly should, given their recruiting trajectory, there’s no reason to believe they won’t eventually hit on one of them. It’s only a matter of time. And with a top quarterback and an elite roster, the Ducks will have all of the pieces needed to win that elusive championship.

Oregon Should Own the Pac-12

If you’re still skeptical of Oregon’s title chances by this point, I don’t blame you. A great roster and a great quarterback still don’t always lead to a title. But there’s another factor working in Oregon’s favor: opportunity.

Since the Ducks are in a weak conference and hold a growing talent advantage, they should be in the Playoff more often than not, especially with a couple more years of recruiting success. Oregon has every reason to be the “Clemson” or “Oklahoma” of the Pac-12, distancing itself as the clear-cut leader in the clubhouse, and a Playoff mainstay.

UO Athletics

Oregon should be leaps and bounds ahead of its Pac-12 competition.

Continuous Playoff appearances would give the Ducks a higher chance of winning a championship based on simple probability. The more Playoff games Oregon plays in, the likelier it is it strings together a couple of wins at least one time to win a title.

It’s not the peachiest prognostication, but I’m not exactly expecting Oregon to challenge these blue-bloods all that often. Most years, I think Alabama and Clemson would make quick work of the Ducks in these future Playoff matchups. But because Oregon should almost always be in the dance, it would just take one of these teams having an off year, or the Ducks fielding an elite quarterback, for Oregon to knock them off and win it all.

A Title Doesn’t Mean Sustained Success

Now, allow me to lay out a disclaimer.

The Ducks can win a championship following this formula, but it certainly isn’t the way to sustain program success. The best teams find ways to contend without waiting for a superstar quarterback to show up at their doorsteps or for their conference to bottom out. They’re able to do so because of great coaching.

That’s why Alabama has won titles without terrific passers while contending in a highly competitive conference, and it’s why Ohio State didn’t skip a beat despite starting its third-string quarterback in the Playoff a few years ago.

From Twitter

Great coaching is essential for long-term success.

When the right quarterback isn’t there to make life easy for a team, or the conference playing field is leveled, which is the case far more often than not, then coaching becomes paramount. Heck, even when a team has an elite quarterback, a top-notch coach can make that team darn-near unbeatable (look at Alabama this past season for evidence of this).

There are examples of teams that have had special title runs without great coaching. That’s why I’m so confident that the same can be replicated in Eugene. But of those examples, none of those teams were able to replicate those runs and remain championship contenders after their breakthrough seasons.

This isn’t is to say Cristobal isn’t the right man for the job. Contrarily, Cristobal has done one of the most impressive jobs in all of college football, creating a recruiting powerhouse out of a program that doesn’t have nearly the built-in advantages that many of its counterparts do. That recruiting success gives Oregon a real shot at making a title run, given it finds a Heisman-level quarterback to go along with its very talented roster.

But just know that if Cristobal is indeed able to finally get Oregon over the hump, that doesn’t mean the Ducks are guaranteed to be title contenders for the foreseeable future. His improvement as a coach will be the biggest determinant of Oregon’s long-term success.

Joshua Whitted 
Morgantown, West Virginia
Top Photo by Eugene Johnson

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For Football Season: FishDuck Back to Seven Days a Week!

I had to shut down the daily articles on July 20th because I could no longer work the extra 3 to 12 hours per week of certain managerial/editorial duties. (beyond the usual ones with FishDuck)

I’ve had a blast writing without those duties, and now, due to a new agreement with the writers, I can announce that we will have articles seven days a week again. I wish to thank the writers publicly for their graciousness in coming to a solution, as now I still do not have do those extra duties with our agreement, and meanwhile the writers are back having fun creating articles as I am.

Everybody is happy! So below is the new schedule through football season:

Monday: Mr. FishDuck
Tuesday: Darren Perkins
Wednesday: Joshua WhittedMr. FishDuck
Thursday: Coach Eric BolesAlex Heining
Friday: David Marsh
Saturday: Mr. FishDuck (GameDay Baby!)
Sunday: Jordan Ingram

A couple of writers could not join us as they have new projects in their lives, and cannot write for anyone at the moment–but perhaps we will see them back later.

Things rarely work out so well for all parties in agreements, but this time it has and truly….everyone wins!

Our 33 rules at FishDuck can be summarized to this: 1) be polite and respectful, 2) keep it clean, and 3) no reference of any kind to politics. Easy-peasy!

FishDuck members….we got your back.  No Trolls Allowed!

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Charles Fischer, Mr. FishDuck

Joshua….you RASCAL!

You can have a bone-to-pick with me for using a 50 year-old word to describe you, while I could have a bone-to-pick with you. (And you know what it is about!)

Joshua has been a superb writer for us (115 articles) and he has been an Editor-in-Chief as well, and thus knows our writing protocol at FishDuck and the rule is….don’t go over 1,000 words. (this article is just over 2,000 words) But the exception I would allow him as EIC is if “you feel the writer has the reader hooked–then fine, the writer can go over 1,000 words, but don’t let it morph into a 2,000 word monster.”

You did it my friend, you-had-me-all-the-way in this article.

Now you give superb examples of how it can be done with a great QB, but as I told you in the past….“life is probabilities.” And the probability of a Cam Newton or Joe Burrow coming along is not great, and thus why the other components need to be in play for higher probabilities of winning a ‘Natty. (Such as in-game adjustments, a higher scoring offense and beating opponents that you should)

But you are accurate, in that it can happen and has. (And Dyer was DOWN, dammit)

My friends, I hope to someday see Joshua writing for a big publication because his skills warrant it, and he has the perfect combination of being a professional in his approach, yet so easy to work with. He has many irons-in-the-fire and will not be with FishDuck for long, and thus I wish to give a public thanks to him for all he has done for the site as a writer and EIC.

Coaches can create analysis articles….but they are not great writers and need some help. Many writers can do Op-Eds well, (Opinion-Editorials) but they lack the Xs and Ox knowledge to do much analysis. Joshua is a rare bird among Ducks; he could do all the different type or profile of articles we have, and he could do them incredibly well.

He would amaze me by doing an analysis article every bit as good as I, Coach Boles or Coach Mosier, yet he could write an Op-Ed that frankly, is superior to anything I could ever muster. I think Joshua is overall the most talented writer in the ten year history of FishDuck out of hundreds of writers who have contributed content to the site.

With quality like that….you can violate my rules anytime my young friend. And thank you for all the information provided to us and the wonderful pondering you created in this unique community of Oregon fans.

Truly, an honor to work with you.


Duck Phan Phil

As an editor and writer who has worked with Joshua I second all that Mr FishDucks says. Go get ‘em Joshua—I’m expecting great things from you.


Charles…bribe Joshua to stay. He’s a brilliant writer who displays fine research and maintains great flow, and as these many comments attest, reader interest.. He humbles me, a (now sheepishly admitted) published writer.

Joshua, you have crafted one of the best articles I’ve read about the Ducks since becoming a fan. Your style reminds me a bit of a writer I long admired, Jack Murphy of the San Diego Union. Although he ultimately discovered the joy of producing a large amount of humor in his articles, he would have been pleased to have written this piece.

Thank you.


I agree, one of his Best articles I have read. He has come a long ways from a “fan” of Ducks Football. To an honest observer and reporter to the reader. Not an easy accomplishment.

Well Done, Joshua.

Duck lifer

Great article. We’ve been constantly knocking on the door for years, but we’ve always had a few weak links in the chain, or have been missing a piece or two to reach the ultimate goal.

We by and large have all the necessary talent required to win a championship, but like most fans, (and other people around the country know and sometimes discuss) we have a suspect head coach.

In an article from CBS sports ranking all 65 head coaches, (Cristobal was in the top 25) they addressed how Saban has been able to win titles because of his willingness and ability to adapt and evolve to the ever changing game. Thus far, Cristobal has not.

You may be correct that we can win a championship if the stars line up in our favor despite our head coach, but man do I hope he takes a page from Saban’s book and adapts! A national championship has always been the dream/goal, but with acquisition of talent currently on the roster and in the foreseeable future, there’s no reason we can’t have continued and sustained success.


How to win a title 101:

Recruiting rankings last 5 years:

Georgia 3, 1, 2, 1, 3
Bama 1, 7, 1, 2, 1
Oregon 19, 17, 7, 12, 6

Oregon did great to sign Kayvon, but Alabama just signed a guy just like him.

Oregon gets a great player once in a while – Alabama gets them all the time.

At the end of the 2010 season, Oregon played Auburn for the national championship. That felt like the end of times where the underdogs could win it all.

For the last 7 years, only the top teams who recruit the best have won it all.


Sometimes I get worked up over Cristobal’s offense and conservative (read: 1050s coaching), but he can recruit.

Oregon NEEDS a top recruiter as head coach. The days where a Chip Kelly could take a bunch of 3 stars and coach them up to championship level are long gone.

I have come to realize, that games are won in June and July through recruiting.

Playing the games Sept – Nov are just a formality.


But on the other side of the coin….

How many 5 star WRs can Ohio St put in the game at one time???

The rankings of players who are stuck on the bench means NOTHING in games, because they don’t play.

Some 5 stars are not very good. Some are good, but they have a flaw. And some lower ranked players develop into real studs.


For Oregon to get back into being ranked in the top 2 during the season, they really have to put together recruiting classes where they are ranking in the top 5 (by recruiting) almost every year.

Charles Fischer, Mr. FishDuck

For many of us–we want to see the potential fully utilized with results. Our recruiting is great, but not in the strata of a number of those teams you refer to.

Georgia is underperforming for their talent assembled, and I’d like to see that Oregon is outperforming for the talent signed.


I think reaching potential means getting players that fit your system, and not blowing it on the coaching level.

Justin Fields transferred out of Ga and became a top college QB.
The last 10 years, most seasons overall, they lose 2 or 3 games.

For the way they recruit – I’d have to agree that they underperform. And when Georgia plays, they just don’t seem to have it together.


If Oregon played Ga this season, would an underperforming Ga team beat an over-performing Oregon team?


Speaking of under and over performing… I get a big thrill when a player like Jamal Hill plays like a 5 star in a conference championship game. And I scratch my head when a ranked 5 star whiffs badly on running backs in the open field.


I think the Oregon team UNDER performed in 2019 when they couldn’t close out Auburn and laid an egg against Az st. They had Penei Sewell, Kayvon and Herbert in his senior year. They really should have went to the playoffs.


I’m hoping for an over-performing Oregon team in 2021. They have the ‘potential’. 2006 was a step forward beating Oklahoma. 2007 was another step when they beat USC. 2019 had some slips in an otherwise, comeback year. 2021 could be special – especially if the younger players are ready to shine.


Love the article. Joshua! In the quarterback section, I couldn’t help but think about Marcus Mariota. I know he did not win the chip while with the ducks, but his departure clearly exposed Mark Helfrich as a sub-par albeit likeable coach, whose success was largely due to this Heisman winning QB. That kind of QB could make this team a champion.

Also, Thank you Mr. Fischer. It has been a pleasure to read your articles for the past decade. I really appreciate your genuine work, and the tone set on this site.

Charles Fischer, Mr. FishDuck

So true about Marcus and Helfrich and THANKS for your thoughts.

I look at the calendar and shake my head; at this time ten years ago…I was panicking, because I knew nothing about creating a video, let alone an instructional one. I had the site rolling out on August 5, 2011 and I needed to have this big Inside Zone Read video done by then. Little did I know it would become the most watched of all 50 videos…

I was putting in huge hours gathering all the film clips, and then writing a script. And then rewriting the script! And learning how to have poise in front of the camera despite the heat in the room from all the electronic equipment….doing new takes of a scene…over-and-over.

Then creating the audio and dubbing it in, and then editing…upload and start again! We have another video to release in a week so I better get to it!

But that first one took us a MONTH to learn and complete. After that it was a race to get it done each week…incredible pressure to find new football items and explain it.

Then in September of 2012, the Pac-12 took our ability to make videos away. Thus the pivot to articles…

Jay MacPherson

Joshua, very well done, thought out, and presented. I have a different view of the most important element for championship success. You’ve brought up many important points…save one. That point is what some refer to blithely as “team spirit.” Mario is trying to get there through the family atmosphere. That may work, but I don’t see it yet in the results, which means whatever is being done isn’t getting to the core of creating a genuine band of “brothers in arms.” For instance, I believe Chip Kelly got the OC job a week before the Ducks became genuine brothers in arms, and not because of Chip. Chip tried to maintain that “team spirit,” but doesn’t know how…evidence his pinnacle in 2010 and then NFL and UCLA outcomes.

Why do I think a brothers (or sisters!) in arms team mindset is essential? Because I’ve seen what it can do, and so have all of us. How many times have we seen a “Cinderella” team defeat a Goliath? More than once, right? Why does it occur? Because something happens that brings a less talented team to that mental state of cohesion, of genuine togetherness even if fleeting, and it is often a tragedy that is very personal to them. There are ways to create and sustain that mental state without a tragedy. That is another story for another time.

For teams with the highest levels of talent or coaching, they have a cushion based on the talent or coaching. And yet they can still be beaten by a team of brothers in arms. We have all seen it happen. So your points are valid in that they increase the odds of success. And for continued success, regardless of the talent on board or coaching acumen, that requires the spirit of brothers/sisters in arms to be cultivated, nurtured, and sustained. Even with a middling QB, because it is a team game. (Aside: My guess is Joe Burrows doesn’t pan out, even without the brown albatross around his neck; the LSU team carried him in my opinion, as the USC team carried so many of their recent QBs.)

I’m out. Thanks for reading. May you keep up your great works.

Charles Fischer, Mr. FishDuck

Thank you Jay. Great to see you.


Loved your article Joshua! And comments from other Duck fans!

IMHO Cristobal HAS to let JM run the offense. We have talented receivers, but opposing defenses knew that none of them could stretch the field.

Made it easier for defenses to plan against us. Now that we have some fast receivers who can, it will make our offense harder to defend and open

up the running game more. I also feel our tight-ends will be able to contribute more by being able to have WRs stretching the field. I’ve watched a lot of football and I’ve seen WRs make the QB look good. If Brown, and I wish him the best, doesn’t perform, let the young QBS fight it out. I believe we will still have a winning season, and maybe Rose Bowl.

But not if JM is not allowed to run the offense. Our defense will step up and do enough, if we score enough points.

Again, IMHO

Charles Fischer, Mr. FishDuck

Welcome back Orduck, as it has been a long time.


Hello……The one thing more satisfying than reading about the Ducks’ current prospects is noticing the strength and effectiveness of your writing, Joshua. Your work has indeed risen in your posts on FishDuck. Bravo.

I admire Mario Cristobal’s ability to create a culture that centers on and supports the student-athlete as an integral member of a unified group at UO. This approach sets the program apart from schools like USC, where the culture seems to attract players set on the magnitude of star power.

Still, there are times when it seems as though MC lacks the ability to give his coaches (especially the OC) full opportunity to use the expertise they were hired to deliver. Hopefully, MC will find the edge of his competency, and allow Moorhead, DeRuyter, and company to extend their expertise to a promising group of successfully recruited, team players.

Kudos to you and your craft, Joshua.

Go, Ducks……


I remember ten years ago writers were saying something about Nick Saben. Mario is a great coach. Sure he is better at some points than others. As a whole package, he is one of the best coaches in the country and getting better every year.

Charles Fischer, Mr. FishDuck

A new member? Keep sharing your thoughts and WELCOME!


I just read this today. Oregon has the most Rose Bowl wins 3 since 2010 and tied for the most appearances 4.
Oregon 3-1
tOSU 2-0
Stanford 2-1
USC 1-0
MSU 1-0
Alabama 1-0
Georgia 1-0
TCU 1-0
Washington 0-1
Iowa 0-1
Penn St. 0-1
FSU 0-1
Notre Dame 0-1
Oklahoma 0-1
Wisconsin 0-4

Charles Fischer, Mr. FishDuck

Cool. Thanks my Duck-Brother!


Without Cristobal’s ability to recruit we aren’t having this conversation.

We have had our share of QB’s that have elevated our team. I can think of a few past QB’s that I would love to see taking snaps this year with this current roster.

The Ducks will find their QB. I am hopeful that he isn’t sitting on the bench this year. Add a NFL type RB into the sauce and we have something cooking in Eugene.

A National Championship will take some luck to accomplish. This team has some highly rated components, and needs to elevate it’s play over and above what we have seen the last few years. They will also need to avoid injuries to key personnel.

Santa Rosa Duck

Totally Off Topic: I was in the parking lot of my gym this morning and a guy parks a way high end BMW with California plates that read
Six Dux. I asked him about it and he said he and his wife graduated from Oregon in 1959 and have four children who all graduated from Oregon! He said his plates were out of date because he now has three grand children who also graduated from Oregon.I was parked next to him and pointed to my California plates which are Autzen1. We both had a good laugh.


Good article, Josh. This era of football requires a high octane offense to win a title. MC had a premier QB in Justin Herbert but the offense didn’t his exploit his arm talent. The Oregon identity is a stout defense paired with a power running game. The defense took a big step back last year. It remains to be seen if we’re going to open up the passing game under JoMo. If the defense doesn’t get back on track, it’s going to be a long year. I don’t believe MC can win a title with the current identity but he can win a lot of games with a strong defense and a power running game. Ohio State is a benchmark game.

Jon Joseph

Bill Connelly SP+ calls Oregon at Ohio State a toss-up game. Ducks being given a 42% chance to win.

Among others, Connelly notes that the “9 AM kickoff’ does not help Oregon’s chances.

I hope Mullens has the team arriving in Columbus a day earlier than is normal for road games?


I’m going to take the misery bet and bet on Ohio State. If I lose my money then that means we won the game. I think our only chance is if the defense shows up and holds Ohio State to 31 or less. We haven’t looked good on offense in bowl games under MC and this is like a bowl game. The offense wasn’t great the 2nd half against Auburn, either.


Defense has to perform at 2019 levels and tOSU’s new QB needs to make mistakes, that would give our Ducks a chance at winning.

Jon Joseph

IMO, for the to Ducks to win the team has to be +2 in turn overs and score after turnovers.

And no missed chippy FGs.


First, great writing, you led me through your thinking while keeping my attention and curiosity about where you were going, well done! While I didn’t completely agree with where you went, I followed your thinking as you developed a well written piece.

I think one of the problems Oregon has had for a while is a weakness at wide receiver. NFL talent at wide receiver has been the secret ingredient for the past few national champs. This is an area where Cristobal has begun stockpiling talent. I am excited to see who steps up from the receiver group, and helps us take over games with passing. This is what elite teams do!

The difficulty with developing the next great player is twofold. One you have to pick the right guy. The GOAT qb sat and shared throughout his career at Michigan. Can Oregon pick the guy who is going to become the next great one between all the talent.

The other problem is getting the next great ones on the field. At LB Matuatia left, undoubtedly at least partly, because the guy behind him was just so good. Is Oregon going to be able to sit an established starter, and play the young kid who just needs time on the field?

I think we have talent under the starters at wide receiver and qb to take over the established guys. Can we pick the top talent and give them the time to develop on the field? That is the big question I have this season and going forward. We have the talent, can we pick the right guys and develop them? Playing established players who have earned playing time won’t get us a title when there is better, younger talent.

Jon Joseph

Great take. Who knows what kind of havoc the ‘free transfer rule’ will have on CFB rosters?

If Brown starts in 2021, will the QB room suffer?


I don’t think the QB room will suffer, everyone behind Brown is so young and it’s prudent to allow them a year of understudy. Ideal scenario is Brown provides a solid (though not exceptional) performance for the year and one or two of the freshmen get some snaps during garbage time for a few games to get their beaks wet for next season..

Jon Joseph

My concern? Not to disrespect Brown, but does any believe that he has a future in the NFL?

So, if one of the three youngsters cannot beat him out now what is their respective upside?

If the competition is close I don’t see why Brown, in his 5th season and a quality back-up, should start?

And if the competition isn’t close what does that say about the upside of the other 3 guys?

Obviously, the coaches are far better prepared to make this decision than is an outsider such as I.

But from what I saw of Ashford in the spring game (admittedly, the spring game) he has all of the tools Brown has without the same history of injuries.

In 2021 this will still be a very young team. Go for it all now or prepare for the future?

I agree that one of the young guy’s beak needs to get wet. My guess is that one of the younger guys, for whatever reason, will see a good deal of playing time in 2021?


I don’t agree that Brown’s NFL prospects have that much to do with whether he is successful as a college QB. He’s the one with the most experience and consistency in the QB room and I surmise that Cristobal is going that route given the youth and inexperience of the rest.

I can’t say he’s wrong, preferring consistency and minimizing mistakes over a potentially higher ceiling after the crazy pandemic-infested 2020 season Oregon went through. That that current make-up, I believe Oregon’s overall ceiling for 2021 is winning the Rose Bowl. Put in one of the youngsters and we might fall down to a mid-tier bowl, which could impact recruiting.

If the scenario is that the QB competition isn’t close, it says that the other 3 guys are young. There are precious few QBs, even at the 5* level, that can take over an FBS power-5 offense from day 1. That’s just reality and means they would benefit from a year of practice within the offense without the pressure of starting. It’s why I believe Butterfield is likely the most qualified to take over should Brown go down with an injury, he’s had 2020 to quietly practice Moorhead’s offense (I do like Ashford’s athleticism better but until recently he’s split his focus between football and baseball, putting him behind in overall development).

If the defense gets back to performing as it did in 2019, then even a mediocre offense averaging 30-35 pts would be enough to get garbage time for the youngsters in at least a couple games.


If Brown lights it up, and the young guns get some playing time then all may be good. If Brown struggles, there won’t just be discontent in the stands of Autzen. The back-up qb’s will be barking, quietly, about the situation too.

Discontent in the dictionary is defined by a starting qb who struggles and capable, but unproven qb’s behind him. There is a reason most programs favorite qb is the back-up. We haven’t had that problem too much, but it may happen this season.

As far as the back-ups being young and ok to watch a qb struggle, not going to happen. Each one of these guys thinks he is headed to the NFL. It is the job of the coaches to figure out which prospect they can use to win games now.


The question now becomes do we trust the coaching staff to pick the best qb contender to give us the best chance to win now, or not.

Without a doubt we have a very loaded and talented qb room. Watching the spring game showed they all have skills. But which one(s) have the mental acuity to read a defense correctly and make the best play choice!
This is the decision we trust the coaches to make.
My memory of Dennis Dixon was the summer before his senior year he played baseball. Not the move you would expect from a Heisman hopeful. But his play the year prior was inconsistent, he wasn’t sure if he should switch sports. No one expected the kind of year he had except C. Kelly. He visited DD on the road and coached him up, and the rest is history.

I mention this because none of us seem to believe Brown has what we need to get to the “promise land”. DD didn’t seem to have it either that summer. But the coaches thought he did.

I am trusting our coaching staff to make the right call this fall regarding the starting qb. I also think we have the talent to carry on should the starter falter or become injured.
I’m hoping Morehead is a great qb developer, we sure seem to have ability in the room.

The Fresno St. game is an important start for our offense to feel confident and for the defense to gel. I am really anticipating that game.
As far as the tOSU game, I am hopeful but I think we can win out either way. If we can win all the other away games, that will be impressive.

Thanks for all the great articles Joshua. It’s been awesome to read and learn from you.


Brilliant point, the Burrow scenario is a scary one. That is a better example than the Tom Brady one.

Burrow was a Heisman qb stuck on the depth chart. Do we have a Heisman type talent sitting waiting, maybe leaving for a different school? I am pretty sure Shough wasn’t that guy, but one of the others may be!

J Duck

A lot of great points Joshua where the trends suggest you are right. If Chip had only been a little more creative at the goal line against Auburn, or when backed up at his own.

Mariota is a great example, 3 star at best, was the best, lead a team with not exactly top 10 talent or over 50% blue chips, to the natty, under rated coaches and coordinators. (Helfrich great OC/QB coach, perhaps head coach, but not so great at recruiting). Mixed ideas on Mariota’s lack of NFL success.

Then there is Herbert, 3 star, may have been the best too, Rose Bowl finally showed it, not great coordinators. What if he was unleashed with better schemes? We all see his NFL talent.

MC seems to have great coordinators now, can he game-manage this talent well enough? This season will be telling. Hope so!


Okay, that is a brilliant piece, Joshua; great thesis, well laid out, nicely written, and persuasive.

Mario may not be able to be a great coach, but he can be a great CEO by taking the shackles off his talented coordinators, and doing what he does best: run the program and recruit, recruit, recruit.

Jon Joseph

Terrific Article! Thank you Joshua.

A nit to pick? I think it’s fairer to say that MC is building a ‘potential’ juggernaut?

A juggernaut does not lose to unranked opponents. A juggernaut blows these opponents away. To date, MC, playing the superior roster hand, has certainly not guaranteed Ws.

Folks love to extol the Oregon culture under MC, but what exactly is the culture? Whatever it is it does not seem to have the player’s ready to ball out on game day unless, see USC last season, they are fired up on their own?

Great take on the QB position. Almost every QB who started a Playoff game has gone high in the NFL draft.

And I am so happy that you called out Cheesewick + $cam. You are so right that Darron Thomas, although not talented enough for the NFL, could have won a title?

Nick A’s D showed up. Thomas was spot on in the passing game. Chip Kelly called an awful, awful game. But, RIP.

Something, to date, is amiss in the Oregon locker room. Are their player-leaders on the roster who will refuse to let the team lose? Where is the learning curve from Ls vs ASU, CAL, OR ST and the complete 2020 bowl game no show?

I see too much complacency and not enough pain coming from an L, including what are embarrassing Ls. I do not see a ‘killer instinct.’ The desire not only to win the game but to destroy the opponent in the process.

I’m sorry and I hope I am wrong, but I do not see Brown bringing ‘IT’ to the locker room and the field? Any QB talented enough to win a title is not suiting up for his 5th season of CFB. (And, BTW, Mario has far more HC experience than just being HC of Oregon.)

Is Oregon going to win an NC in 2021? No.

So, IMO, find that young QB leader. A guy who will take charge on the field and in the locker room.

Take a chance with one of the young QBs. Let him take his lumps in preparation for 2022. Let him learn how to lead.

Again, great article and many thanks.

Charles Fischer, Mr. FishDuck

Your complacency observations are super, Jon, and could be an interesting “ponder-point” of it’s own. It is a great item to look for after a loss, and to check the body language of the players for.

I do give you credit; you remind us early-and-often that you do not believe Anthony Brown should be the QB for 2021… three times in this thread alone. (We don’t want to count the number of times in the last two months)

But this way–I won’t forget where you stand on that topic!

Anyhoo, love your thoughts.

Sorry for the redundancy and of course I wish AB nothing but the best.

I certainly trust the coaching staff’s decision making in favor of that of this greybeard, arm chair, QB.

It’s just that I would be very happy if one of the young guys showed the growth to take the reins, get game time reps and the ability to lead on the field and in the locker room.


Agree and I am thankful AB brought his skills to Oregon. What he has given to the program shouldn’t be minimized, nor his potential. I think many agree, it seems there is more potential below him. Can it rise up, this season, we’ll see.

I will say, again, if he doesn’t light it up this season we will have a scenario our program isn’t used to. We will have the fan favorite on the bench. This is a tough situation for the program in many ways. I wish the best of luck to Mr. Brown!


My problem with this is, do you take the risk of losing TALENT to massage the ego of a 5th year, less talented player. Then where are we? We sure do not appear to be developing talent, Shough anyone?

Santa Rosa Duck

Justin Herbert was a once in a generation type of QB and we did not utilize him properly. This is the year that Christobal has to turn over the reins to Moorhead. We have several fine QB’s and a well rounded team. An unleashed Moorhead can take us a long ways IMHO.


I think Herbert was up and down at Oregon. He was really good with Taggart until he got hurt. Then he played his best football at the end of his senior year.

And Arroyo’s offense stifled both him and Verdell.


It didn’t help that Herbert had an abysmal receiving corp to work with for most of his time at Oregon. QB can only do so much if receivers keep dropping the ball.


I enjoyed reading your article! Great points to ponder.

Your writing is evidence of your future career as a sports journalist. I look forward to reading your contributions to the sports world and of course, our beloved Duck football!


Wow Joshua. You’re bringing it today. Thanks.

The QB opportunity has been front and center on my mind of late with all the commitments and raves about Oregon’s recruiting.

I feel that an all-star QB, and lock down DB’s stand in the way of the Ducks winning a nation championship.

You have summarized the arguments about QB and I agree.

Regarding DB’s they have become the most important position group with today’s offensive emphasis and schemes. Look at the top of the NFL draft. Look at the NFL salaries by position.

Follow the money because the NFL pays what it values, and it pays the DB’s.

Oregon narrowly missed on DJU. He is a difference maker. This year he will emerge into the national spotlight and likely enter the CFB playoffs.

The Ducks have a loaded QB room. Will one or more of them emerge to be great? If so, the Ducks may over achieve and reach the promised land. If not, then a champion QB is still a missing link.

Can anyone speak to how our QB’s are coached? Do the Ducks have enough QB coaching?

Jon Joseph

Great comment. I’d add DL to DB.


USC has had great QBs and great DBs even after Caroll left. It takes more than that to win – but I agree, that is what you HAVE to have in order to play a competitive football game in today’s world.

Jon Joseph

Man, if SC had Oregon’s O line?


Cristobal can stop being flawed by just letting Moorhead run his offense.

As for the QB, Darron Thomas was plenty good enough to win them a championship. So was Dennis Dixon. Neither was a great pro.

Marriota was great, but he couldn’t do enough against Ohio St’s pass rush.
That is why I and so many others are so high on Ashford.

The 2021 team is still missing the all American type of running back.

We will see just how good they are against the Buckeyes. If they do well, I will not be surprised.

And yes, Oregon could eventually slip in there and win a national title. If they get enough chances, they should hit paydirt one time.

Jon Joseph

Ashford is younger than Brown and has the same tools without the injury history.

Brown taking the vast majority of reps this season would, IMO, be a big mistake.

The kind of QB that will win you a title is not likely to play 5 season’s of college ball.


I expect one of the frosh QBs to transfer out, probably Butters. If JoMo really wants to run the QB 10+ times per game then Ashford and Thompson have a leg up on Butters ( pun intended). To maximize the pistol plunges the QB has to be a threat with his legs, Ashford is a huge threat.


Well said. I want both Ashford and Thompson to stay. Butters is a lot like Shough – great in the pocket with no pass rush.


My two cents is that Shough is much more athletic than Butters.

Charles Fischer, Mr. FishDuck

Your first sentence is the BOMB. Amen, my Duck-Brother!