Despite Herbert Injury, Taggart STILL Outscores Cristobal

Charles Fischer, Mr. FishDuck Editorials 72 Comments

Say it isn’t so! Taggart can’t have outscored Cristobal! That cannot be right because if it is, the decline of the Oregon offense under head coach Mario Cristobal is even more frustrating to many of us Greybeard-age Duck fans. Full disclosure up front: this is a critical analysis article that will contain both facts and opinions. If your personal self-worth is damaged by any criticisms of the team or coach, you better pass on this article. However, I would love everyone’s thoughts in the comments to the unthinkable…

Critical analysis means that I give credit where deserved and call out poor performance that I believe is apparent. (And often ignored by the media in this state) I do not wish to belabor the other part of the full disclosure, but I must for those who wish to take me to task for being a “NegaDuck.” I love what Coach Cristobal is doing in his leadership, recruiting, culture, acquisition of coaching talent, PR — nearly everything. But his strategic blunders concerning the Oregon offense resulted in a dramatic decline in scoring and it remains a stain on his program.

It is evident that to win in the playoffs (as I wrote here), you must score an average of 45 points a game as the “Big-3” Playoff perennials have, and while I am frustrated that one of the nation’s best offenses in Oregon’s original Spread Zone-Read offense was largely dumped by Cristobal, I am not married to it. If Mario can score 45 points a game as Oregon did for a four-year stretch under Chip Kelly/Mark Helfrich (The first NCAA team to do so) in a different offense, that’s fine with me.

Count me in, as that much scoring is more fun to watch, more fun to analyze and will get me off this topic once and for all! Bottom line? I want Oregon to win a National Championship, and scoring that many points is the only way to do it.

Eugene Johnson

Tony Brooks-James loved the space and big running lanes in the Gulf Coast Offense.

Let’s replay the tapes of 2017, the year that Willie Taggart was head coach with a combo offense that primarily relied on his “Gulf Coast Offense,” and yet had some Pistol and original Oregon Spread Shotgun Offense added. There are so many plays of his Gulf Coast Offense I enjoyed, plays that did well, and it showed up in the scoring — when Justin Herbert was not hurt. The Counters, the Jet-Sweeps with reads and the constraint plays coupled with them made Oregon an offensive force. I did not mind dropping a ton of the original Oregon Spread Offense when the Gulf Coast Offense was cooking!

The numbers were impressive; in the seven games that Justin Herbert finished out of 13, the Ducks averaged 49.71 points per game! The problem was, when Herbert went down early in the Cal game, an inexperienced freshman quarterback was unable to duplicate Herbert’s results and losses piled up as a result. Yet for the entire season, the Taggart Gulf Coast Offense averaged 36 points per game.

In the three years that Cristobal has been the head coach the results are as follows:

2018:  34.80 points per game
2019:  35.40 points per game
2020:  31.30 points per game

Good gosh — Taggart’s one year, even with Justin Herbert hobbled, still outscored any year of Cristobal?

Kevin Cline

I would be happy with the Gulf Coast Offense, but Cristobal dumped that high-scoring offense too!

Before people give sympathy to Cristobal for 2020 … do remember that Alabama averaged 48.50 points in 2020, Ohio State averaged 41 points and Oklahoma averaged 43 points. If the Playoffs is where we want the Ducks to be, then the Oregon offense has to perform as a Playoff team does. Is this the year that the Oregon offense makes that move toward the high-scoring required to break into the Playoffs?

“Oh, how we love to ponder about Our Beloved Ducks!”

Charles Fischer   (Mr. FishDuck)
Eugene, Oregon
Top Photo by Kevin Cline

It is only fitting that I create some fireworks with this article, as today I turn age 65, with many years left of writing passion about Oregon Sports!

 

Phil Anderson, the FishDuck.com Volunteer editor for this article, is a trial lawyer in Bend Oregon.

 

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YES! My age-addled brain doth so recall.

Have a fire cracker of a birthday!

MaiTaiDuck

Yeah Banks committed to Oregon.

Is this the quote,
“Everyone’s gone uptempo and at the last place I was at, we had to learn a lesson the hard way,” Mario Cristobal said Sunday in Autzen Stadium, after Oregon’s third practice of preseason. “People were going uptempo on us and all of a sudden we were getting outscored.
“The elements of uptempo offense with the physicality at the line of scrimmage, it is very easily combined. We have been doing it.”
I remember the quote when he got hired too, but this one should haunt him.

https://www.oregonlive.com/ducks/2018/08/oregon_ducks_football_cristoba.html, Here you go my friend, from 2018 before his first full season. Pretty damming quote when applied to your essay. If he doesn’t get the scoring up, then the question is why is he having to ‘learn the hard way’ twice!

Tandaian

For MC being considered a OL guru, our OL I don’t think have lived up to the hype the last few years.

I’m willing to give MC a pass for last year. However, if our O is as pedestrian as usual, we will know Mario isn’t about the O and will likely cost us any change of winning a national title while he is coach.

Kurt Rambis

It’s brutally difficult to find a coach who is fantastic at recruiting, compliance, hiring, player development, preparation, and in-game coaching. So far, MC appears to have the recruiting thing down 100%. I’m not aware of any compliance issues or even rumors, so we’ll give him that, too. And individual player development leads to guys getting drafted highly – Herbert, Sewell, Holland, etc. So I tend to think we’re good there.

Hiring appears to be solid, particularly in hiring great recruiters. Hiring coaches who are great at prep and in-game? Hmm…not quite as sold on that, although it’s difficult to know how much control they have versus the head coach. That leaves preparation and in-game coaching.

And those are the two areas where I have some ongoing concerns. I don’t see this team steamrolling opponents with inferior talent like I did under Kelly or like I regularly see with Clemson, Ohio State, Alabama, etc. I don’t see the kind of halftime or in-game adjustments I see in the truly great programs. So yeah, I share some of your concerns.

The question is whether this will get better as MC gets more experience. After three years on the job, and some staff changes, I’m hoping we’ll see real progress. If not, the natives will be getting pretty restless. It’s not like we’re in the SEC…the Pac-12 is ripe for a heavyweight to stand up and take over. That used to be Oregon nearly every year. It can be done in Eugene, since it was before. Can it be done by MC?

Drake

Not really alarmed with Cristobal. He brings so much to the table with his outstanding recruiting that I certainly can’t complain. I am pretty sure he protected Herbert’s health by purposely limiting his running plays, and therefore limited our scoring average a few points.

Last year was COVID and Moorehead didn’t have much of an opportunity to install his new offense, and doesn’t count in my opinion.

If Moorehead finds the QB for his offense who can play fast and bring confidence to the huddle, we will score points. Scoring 40+ points is dependent on a good offense and defense. Last year our defense couldn’t get off the field, and we know our starting QB had issues as the season progressed.

I believe we start a new chapter with our offense, and we begin our journey back to being a playoff contender.

Duckpop22

“He brings so much to the table with his outstanding recruiting that I certainly can’t complain.” Ah, but there is the rub. How many years were we out-recruited by the powers up north and down south? And how many years did we take it to them on the field with superior offensive scheming and defensive moxie?

I believe those two numbers would be nearly identical. The high recruiting rankings need high follow-through or they are as empty as the off-season Nattys the Huskies annually crowned themselves. I stand by a statement I made while mowing Fish’s lawn. Mario Cristobal has held the Oregon offense down better than anyone since Gene Chizik.

I love M.C. the man. I even love that his initials are M.C. because it sounds like he is the Master of Ceremonies. I love the character he has brought to the program. I love that the offensive linemen he recruits could move a double-parked battleship if necessary. But, he could learn some things from coaches of the past. Particularly our coaches from the past.

Santa Rosa Duck

Congratulations and welcome aboard to Kelvin Banks, 5 Star OL, class of 2022. You can truly be an anchor to this class.

JT committed to tOSU so late in this cycle that he is probably off to fall camp around August 1 and could in theory be playing against Oregon in 68 days.

DanLduck

I can’t wait for the left tackle to road grade JTT into the Horseshoe turf!!
Sorry, no sour grapes intended.
But looking at their recruits, 5 out of top 10 are buckeyes. Ouch.
Whatever, Go DUCKS!!

Haywarduck

Congrats to Mr. Banks on making the choice of being another piece in the making of history at Oregon, welcome. JTT decided to be part of the storied history at tOSU, not the best choice in my biased opinion, but best of luck.

As far as JTT getting road graded, he may not see the field for a while at tOSU. If he does our 6’6″ 320lb. tackles will welcome him, and be a bigger test then his opposing high school O-lines, undoubtedly.

MaiTaiDuck

Well heck yes we need this offense to score over 40 a game this season and Moorehead is capable of doing this and even with Brown under canter. That’s if Mario lets him do his job he was hired to do. As far as anything Taggart did it was all superficial and the guy had one real apparent problem Mario doesn’t. Taggart was a first class lying you know what. I just don’t understand people like this that think it’s ok.

J Duck

I think we will have the depth on D to allow for a fast tempo O. What we can’t afford is a 3-and-out O. Moorhead’s PSU offenses didn’t have the talent we’re building now, so it may be up to MC to be the “MC” as in the D.J., orchestrate the parts, but let their music play out, manage the game and let the coordinators do their thing.

We’ll definitely have the beef in the trenches, and the skill behind center and out wide. We can do what the “big 3” have been doing to win natty’s, it doesn’t mean a cloud of dust up the middle on 3 straight predictable hand-offs. The D-line is the one place we maybe aren’t quite at that big-3 level (DE aside) but DeRuyter will have more talent than perhaps any D he’s ever coached.

One hour from now we’ll see if JT shifts that balance! Banks wouldn’t hurt anything either. Screw the crystal balls they gonna be Ducks!

Notalot

Upon further reflection, Charles, your book and mine differ. Coach C will always outscore Slick Wiily in mine.

I was happy when WT arrived and far happier when he left. A lot like I felt with Helfrich’s coming and going, though with MH, I was saddened for him as a Oregonian and former mastermind of Oregon’s QB’s and offense.

GODUCKS15

I’m with you on this one Charles and happy Bday as well.
FWIW UCLA outscored the Ducks 35.7 to 31.3 in 2020. Just proves your point that it’s on the coaches. There’s plenty of talent to score 45+ points a game so it’s time MC lets Joe loose.

I have not had a feeling that the Ducks can win every game since Chip left. As I’ve said before I hope MC is not the Helton of the north.
On paper there’s absolutely no reason the Ducks shouldn’t win the P12 this year. Not winning the P12 will be a major disappointment in my book. Scoring in the mid 30’s will be disappointing as well.
If not this year then what year do the Ducks turn the corner and start looking like a contender?

Hope winter is not coming for the 2021 O!

Santa Rosa Duck

Breaking! J.T. Tuimoloau is announcing today at 1:00pm PDT on CBSSports HQ. I guess that is a TV Channel that I do not have.

Santa Rosa Duck

How about we get both!!!

Santa Rosa Duck

Geesh, 247 gives us zero chance for either one. We shall see……………

MaiTaiDuck

I have never put any stock in that SEC fueled site. Also sometimes it’s real hard to put any stock in what Phrem or Eric have to say on the Duck site. I don’t know what tree they fell from but it’s quite funny to listen to the so called experts. They think they know so much about football it’s scary. Alls I know is sometimes it’s real negative what they say and I call em out.

Can’t help it or they shouldn’t be in the business. Also they don’t like being criticized and if they don’t like you calling them out they put you in a time out and I’m paying for that site. I mean everything just feels like it’s all Ducks for both these 5 star players. I’ll truly be real surprised if even one or both do not sign with Oregon. To much to pass up now from Oregon.

I can honestly say Oregon is on a high rise to the top. Look at our recruiting 3 years running and say this isn’t so.

Steven A

Your protégé is a Duck!

MaiTaiDuck

ESPON!

Santa Rosa Duck

JT goes to Ohio State.

Santa Rosa Duck

Charles, you are going through a cup half empty phase again. This is the year the Oregon DUCK offense breaks out. Moorhead is going to bring us a new, flashy and productive offense this year. Really I see it as his first year as I would not judge anyone based on the screwed up 2020 year for college football. Tim Deruyter will bring us a top defense, once again not judging what happened in 2020. 61 days to DUCKS kickoff at Autzen.

Jon Sousa

You are correct in all that you say. We have no proof that Moorhead will be unleashed. We also have no proof that he won’t. Therefore, I will take a wait-and-see rather than judge him now.

Obviously, we can look at the body of work and say, “No, MC has already revealed who he is… etc.”

I say, He will reveal who he is becoming this year. When MC took over, he had a long term make-over in mind. I am far from the only one who said this 4 years ago.

MC’s first priority was changing the culture to tougher and stronger while at the same time maintaining a culture of family. MC started by redoing the O-line (his wheelhouse and the basis for being able to “do what Oregon does only with bigger, tougher, stronger guys up front”).

MC, through the best recruiting never even imagined in Eugene before, is now rebuilding the rest of the entire roster. For the first time ever we have probably the best linebacker room in the country; we are growing a tough, lockdown secondary (that knows how to tackle); the receiving core has the best wide-outs and tight ends Oregon has only dreamed about.

One interesting thing about recruiting is that MC has recruits believing in Oregon. In spite of Oregon’s lack of scoring up to now, recruits believe that Oregon is just a year or two away from winning a national championship. How does he do that? Is MC hypnotizing high schoolers?

Four years ago I said that it would take MC 5 years to have his roster. Interestingly enough, we still have a couple people who were not recruited by MC.

MC now has two of the best Coordinators in the country. The next two years – 2021 and 2022 – are when it all should come together.

Another thing we should take into account… MC is growing as a person and as a coach. He is not stagnant. He is learning more and more as he goes. He’s no dummy and can see the same things we see. His Coordinators are no dummies either, and they have a voice in the room.

MaiTaiDuck

Everything you say is fair, so I’ll say this about our OC, If Mario wants success for the Ducks this fall and beyond he better let Moorehead do his thing. I mean doesn’t he want to see greatness. If Mario stops him from doing his thing then this might be it for the Cristabal era at Oregon because the bottom line is winning keeps you in your job.

The Ducks do not play as fast either. Forcing defenses to be ready quickly 7-10 plays in a row pays dividends but requires real mental preparation to not falter

Additionally there are certain commonalities in winning football games. Run the ball, stop the run, pressure the QB.

The teams scoring 40+ points generally can run the ball into stacked fronts more often than not. It forces secondaries to adjust closer to the line and risk big plays.

CK was adept at running the ball and forcing adjustments that created opportunities for big scoring plays. Add in the speed of getting plays off and it became a very difficult offense to defend.

Not being on the inside I have to wonder how much influence MC had over the offense versus the offensive coordinators. How many times he over rode play calls.

All of the questions about why are valid and the ultimate metric is WINS and scoring more POINTS than the other team. It’s certainly a little fischy that given the talent improvements it hasn’t translated to high point totals.

This season will be devoid of excuses. Joe Moorhead and ultimately MC will be under the bright lights and without any deflection of Covid, inexperienced coordinator, or lack of talent.

Jon Joseph

Terrific comment.

Of course no matter what you run on O you will not win if the players do not show up for the game physically and emotionally ready to play.

1 of his stats that I find to be amazing: since his first season at Alabama Saban has never lost to an unranked team. That’s leadership.

ptdduck

Good article. I wasn’t fan of Taggart’s chuck it deep passing game but he was pretty good at running the football. I didn’t think it was a good use of Herbert’s skillset to run him so much and a more run oriented QB would be a better fit for the Gulf Coast.

Another way to look at this is conference games only and that tells a different story.

Pac12 games

2017: 30.2 (15 w/o Herbert)
2018: 32.3
2019: 33.0
2020: 34.2

ptdduck

Removing Justin Herbert from the equation, Taggart averaged 15 and MC 34.2 in 2020. That’s apples to apples.

I do agree the offense needs to improve.

ptdduck

Imagine Herbert playing in Leach’s offense or Ryan Day’s? He was so underutilized at Oregon. He’s an elite talent.

I like the QB talent in the pipeline, my concern is that it won’t get developed or fully exploited. This is a critical year for the Oregon offense. Really no excuse if we can’t average at at least 40 in conference play.

Ducked

Happy Birthday Charles. The commitment and hard work you put into this site is greatly appreciated. Without you FISHDUCK and an opportunity for us to vent – which is oh so important – doesn’t exist.

Let’s vent: Oregon’s offense is boring. Cristobal has loaded up the offensive line with top prospects and clearly wants to pound the rock and let the behemoths clear the way. It has been marginally successful at best.

Under Chip the running game was far more successful because we were not predictable. We were exciting, entertaining, and drew interest from fans around the country. Oregon became a “cool” school and that boosted recruiting and fan interest.

Cristobal had Justin Herbert, for crying out loud, the NFL offensive rookie of the year, with one of the best arms in the game, and never developed a consistent deep passing game. That was inexcusable.

Cristobal can recruit, no question about it. But he is far from a great coach. He has work to do, especially on offense, the mediocre showing by last year’s defense notwithstanding.

And it’s pretty clear that he sees a need to open up the offense. The hiring of Joe Moorhead is proof of that.

I can’t wait to see what Moorhead comes up with this season. I’m pretty sure he’ll be far more imaginative than Marcus Arroyo ever was.

Go Ducks!

Charles, great comments here and a great and well delivered topic.

In addition to wondering where the RBs are in recruiting I wonder why you bring in all of the top drawer WRs if you are not going to open it up?

Lou Farnsworth

“Facts are stubborn things.” -John Adams

Jon Joseph

A fine man (and distant relative of mine) to quote on July 4th!

Jon Joseph

How do you change someone’s DNA? I think Cris would rather punch you in the mouth and gain 5 yards instead of running around you for a TD?

IMO, this is a pivotal year for Coach Cristobal. Will he allow himself to follow the lead of his mentor, Nick Saban and let Joe M run the O? Or will he meddle and insist on trying to road grade people without road grading RBs?

Last year’s regression on O and the regression in Shough’s play was simply depressing. It’s always depressing that Cris cannot seem to learn from losing to inferior squads like ASU, CAL and Oregon State? And play with urgency against USC and then pull a complete no-show versus Iowa State? Not Oklahoma, Iowa State.

The man can recruit. Beyond that I’m not certain it matters what the culture is if it doesn’t result in big time wins.

1 point wins over 3L Wisconsin in the Rose Bowl is fine but it isn’t the Playoff and victories in the Playoff.

Duck82

Charles, just like Notalot’s annual trip to Triangle Lake, it is time for your regularly scheduled article regarding offensive output! ;-)

I would pose the following to ponder. In 2010 the offense produced 47 points per game but only 19 against Auburn. In 2014 it produced 45.5 points per game but only 20 against Ohio State. Those are significant drop offs and something needed to be done about it.

Cristobal has emphasized amazing talent, strength and size to position our Ducks to compete at a NC level. Now it is time to take the reigns off his offensive coordinator. Will he?

MaiTaiDuck

Only reason we scored 20 in that game was because Allen, Carrington, Pharoah Brown and even Ekpre was absent. If just those 3 offensive players all play I wouldn’t doubt Oregon wins that game going away just like what happened to FSU.

smith72

The best offenses are hard to predict. They have balance between run and pass. When good defensive coaches can prepare their team they dominate.

Sometimes it is good.for an offense to lure the defense to think one play but execute something else. Therefore, as you Charles note, counters, misdirections, play action passes are integral parts of an effective offense.

However, the track record of the MC era is lacking in these components. In my opinion the biggest flaw in MC is the “I’m going to exert my will over you and pile drive you into the dirt!”

The result is the same plunge into the line on 4th and inches that loses ground. The defense knows it’s coming. The crowd in the stadium knows it’s coming. The announcers know! The Auburn game was the beginning of this trend.

Sadly, it occurs every game since!

Jon Joseph

If you are going to employ this strategy and you are a great recruiter, where are the big boy RBs?

smith72

Even when the Outland trophy winner was a Duck for 2 years did this strategy work? I don’t think so.

Notalot

Clemson averaged 43.5 ppg over the 2020 season per Tigernet. As long as the 2021 Ducks score 1 more than each of its opponents in 2021 I’ll be happy.

Happy 4th of July to all of the FishDuck Faithful. As a child my family spent fourths of July at Triangle Lake. Fun memories ever more distant in the rear view mirror.

Will we see Ducks Football fireworks today?

Jon Joseph

43.5 with a WR corps decimated by injury and graduation. And with new starters on the O line.

But as for depth? The back-up QB (from SoCal, sigh) throws for a record # of yards against Notre Dame in South Bend.

Clemson vs UGA in Charlotte in week 1. How delicious.

Happy 4th!

Haywarduck

There is confirmation bias and then there is just an overwhelming amount of evidence that shouts out, you are right! Charles you are completely right and the weapons he has, going forward will either lead to the points totals to grow, or continue to confirm the Achilles Heal of the Cristobal Era.

I think we will see 40 this year and the years going forward. The evidence so far confirms what you have been saying, but the evidence of offensive firepower is prodigious.

The Oregon Football Program is historically an offensive power. We now have the OC, WR’s, QB’s, and RB’s along with an Oline which will lead the way to Charles magical 40+ points average, count on it!

Notalot

The Moorhead-DeRuyter era is dawning. There will be more offense and scoring with stingy red zone defense resulting in fewer points allowed. Oh, and more takeaways with improved special teams play. Coach Cristobal must take his seat on the CEO bench. Charles, you can relax now.

Jon Joseph

My only Q regarding the above excellent observation is the running back position?

How good would Texas’ Bijon Robinson, from Arizona, look in a Duck’s uni?

I do not follow it religiously but when I do look I am baffled that the Ducks are not after more top drawer RBs?

PittDuck

Jon, I am also baffled by that. You have to wonder WHY these top drawer RBs are not stumbling over themselves for the opportunity to run behind the road grading OL the Ducks have acquired?

MaiTaiDuck

Yeah I do think Mario gets it and he just keeps evolving every year or he better. To me this is his coming out party for this loaded team. Lot of sports people are even saying Oregon has one of the best teams talent wise of anybody. Maybe their just saying the starters which would make sense. I just want to see Oregon win and win big. I want to see them get the Monkey off the back and beat OS for once.