Is Mario Cristobal the Next Dabo Swinney?

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After the Ducks’ impressive victory over Ohio State, I couldn’t help but to go a little tongue-in-cheek by lampooning my article from last week titled “Is Mario Cristobal the Next Les Miles?

The Ducks finally put together the type of performance those critical of Mario Cristobal (including yours truly) knew they were capable of having, but hadn’t. After three years of regular underachieving offensive performances, the Oregon coaching staff put together a masterpiece. The Oregon offensive had rhythm, flow, and continuity. The play calling was not predictable nor lacking in scheme. The opposing team’s defense was often out of sorts and playing on the back of their heels.

Sure, Oregon’s talent and depth across the board has improved, but Saturday’s game was much more than just an improvement at, for example, wide receiver. There was an amazing plan of attack that was then executed in a way we had not seen during Cristobal’s tenure. Was Marcus Arroyo just not that good? Had Mario backed off from this “play tough, not smart” mentality? Would we perhaps have seen this type of performance last year if Joe Moorhead had a full off-season to install his offense? Maybe a combination of these things?

Wikipedia Commons

Can Cristobal mimic the success of Dabo Swinney?

I have many questions, but only time will provide the answers. With Stony Brook on the schedule for this Saturday, we have a little extra time to savor one of the biggest wins in Oregon history. And we should all enjoy every moment of it. But, let’s not forget that the lousy performance against Fresno State was just one game, and so is the victory over Ohio State.

Speaking of Dabo

When looking at the recent success of a head coach who took an underachieving football program and turned it into a perennial championship-winning program, it should make you feel good if you’re a Duck fan. Dabo Swinney has turned Clemson into a college football power, while Cristobal hopes to achieve the same thing.

Some key comparisons:

Recruiting (per Swinney’s first four recruiting classes (2009-2012) had an average class ranking of 19th. Cristobal’s first four recruiting classes averaged eighth. Even after taking out Swinney’s outlier of a first-class that ranked 37th, his next three classes averaged 13th.


Mario Cristobal and Noah Sewell celebrate in Columbus.

By the time Clemson reached its first CFB in 2015, its average class ranking had increased to 15th. After again taking out Swinney’s first-year outlier (ranked 37th), his class average was 12th. In the four years leading up to his first College Football Playoff, Swinney’s classes had an average rank of 11th.

BCS/New Year’s Six Bowl: Swinney reached the Orange Bowl in his third full season, which resulted in an Orange Bowl loss. In his second season, Cristobal won the Rose Bowl.

College Football Playoff/National Championship: Swinney reached his first CFP in his seventh full season and won it all in his eighth. Cristobal hopes to achieve these very soon.

Swinney proves that you don’t have to be a Top-10 recruiting power to reach the CFP, but of course, the Ducks are! This is what made the win over Ohio State so exciting. Cristobal put the pieces together to win arguably the biggest non-conference game of the year. Based on recruiting and reaching a top-tier bowl, Cristobal is ahead of Swinney and the hope is that this trend will continue as the Ducks look to once again reach the College Football Playoff.

Darren Perkins
Spokane, WA
Top photo credit: Twitter

Natalie Liebhaber, the Volunteer Editor for this article, works in the financial technology industry in Bozeman, Montana.

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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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McKinley III, Verdell Earn National Player of the Week Honors

EUGENE, Ore. — Safety Verone McKinley III and running back CJ Verdell each earned national honors on Tuesday for their performances in Oregon’s historic win at No. 3 Ohio State last weekend.

McKinley III – who helped seal the win with an interception late in the fourth quarter – was named the Bronko Nagurski national defensive player of the week by the Football Writers Association of America. As the weekly winner, McKinley III has been added to the watch list for the Bronko Nagurski Trophy, which is awarded to the nation’s defensive player of the year.

Verdell – who powered the offense with 195 all-purpose yards and three touchdowns – was honored on Tuesday morning as the Maxwell Award player of the week, which is given to the player with the top overall performance on offense, defense, or special teams. The Maxwell Award is presented annually to college football’s most outstanding player.

It is yet another honor this week for Verdell, who has also been named the Pac-12 offensive player of the week, Reese’s Senior Bowl offensive player of the week, and Rose Bowl Pac-12 player of the week.

S VERONE McKINLEY III – Bronko Nagurski National Defensive Player of the Week
» Came away with a crucial interception on Ohio State’s penultimate drive to help seal the win.
» Recorded six tackles while also forcing a fumble and breaking up two passes, including the INT.
» Notched the sixth interception of his career.
» Just the second Oregon player since 2000 and first since 2007 to have an interception, forced fumble and multiple pass breakups in a game.
» Surpassed 100 total tackles for his career.
RB CJ VERDELL – Maxwell Award Player of the Week
» Erupted for 195 all-purpose yards and three touchdowns on 23 total touches.
» Ran for 161 yards and two TDs on 20 carries while catching three passes for 34 yards and a TD.
» Now tied for seventh on the UO career rushing list with 2,758 yards.
» Moved into a tie for ninth all-time at Oregon with 24 career rushing TDs.
» Surpassed 150 yards on the ground for the fifth time in his career.
» Ran for more than 100 yards in a game for the 11th time in his career, tied for fifth-most in UO history.
» Hauled in third career receiving TD on a 14-yard reception in the second quarter.
» 77-yard TD run in the third quarter was his sixth career rush of 70 yards or more.
» Fifth career game with multiple rushing TDs.
» Third career game with both a rushing and receiving TD.

(Press Release from Oregon Athletics Communications)






Lots of rumors swirling that Urban Meyer is headed to USC, claiming he’s not happy and his heart is not in coaching at Jacksonville. If there is any truth to that, the Ducks’ and other teams recruiting might take a hit. More CA recruits might opt to stay closer to home which would be a shame, because the Ducks have been killing it in Cali, pulling 5 star recruits like KT and Flowe. More importantly, Meyer might restore USC back to greatness.


He would have it much tougher at USC than he did at Ohio St. But…. sounds like an Urban legend to me.


I like what you wrote comparing MC with DS. This was also great article from James Crepea on “A signature win at Ohio State the latest step of Oregon Ducks’ process under Mario Cristobal.”

Beginning to understand MC’s methodical process from when he first got here until now. I was thinking the mess from Helfrich last days to Taggart’s debacle. He had to right the ship and build the kind of culture that is lasting. That is why I liked the comparison with DS in your article as well as JC’s article.

Between top notch recruiting, the staff he has culminated around him, and the culture he is building, he is building a powerhouse and hopefully a dynasty at Oregon

Thank you MC! Go Ducks!!

Oh Darren….such a good ponder-point that has me swooning.

When I think of how Dabo built a champion from the dust…and how Cristobal took over a 7-6 program and how things are ascending–it is an exciting thought to make that comparison.

And certainly–the ACC is not that much different when Dabo began to the Pac-12 now.

In the end, Mario’s best trait may be his extraordinary recruiting–of coaches!

And thanks for the sappy day-dream you created for me. Love these thoughts!

Tim DeRuyter_YouTube.jpg

Jeez. The mood changes so fast around here, I think I’m getting whiplash!

In all seriousness, the negativity around Duck nation last week was palpable, and while I personally think it was too much, it was also fairly justified.

Last season was pretty much a big asterisk, but as much as we’d like to chalk it up to an outlier in a pandemic, we still lost to little brother.

And while we decisively beat USC in the Pac12 champ game giving us all some hope, we followed that up by being blown out by the Iowa State Cyclones in the Fiesta Bowl.

Yeah, it was a crazy, covid year, but it left a bitter taste in all our mouths that lingered throughout the offseason.

And then the 2021 home-opener that we’d all been eagerly awaiting. Mario was finally going to unleash the offense that we all knew Moorhead was capable of, right? Right? Wrong. We got a rehash of the worst of Cristo-ball, which resulted in nail-biter, 4th quarter comeback win against…Fresno State? (For the record, Fresno may prove to be a very good team this year.)

In other words, we all had a right to be worried. There were signs. They’ve since seemingly all been washed away, but we all saw them.

No need for apologies. We’re all Ducks here. I’m sure even the biggest of naysayers was freaking out on Saturday. And I suspect the fans who were the most concerned, enjoyed the win the most.

Guys, I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again. Mario is building a monster. And he’s doing it with class, honor and integrity.

We are lucky to have him.


It reminded me of the 2014 Playoff against FSU. We dominated them! They did not know if we were coming or going. We had their heads spinning so bad they could not even look at us at the end of the game.

Then when we got to the Championship Game with the Ohio State, we got handed our walking passes. Totally different feel and outcome. The good teams, no the Great Teams, can sustain focus to the Next Victory. We did not but hopefully we are getting there.


A LOT of key Ducks were missing from the NC game, too. Tough loss.


Showed our lack of depth, focus and coaching. Man we missed D Allen, D Carrington ll but the drop off was obvious, like a deflated balloon against a herd of elephants. Game did not feel the same. I was so giddy from putting it to FSU, Jimbo and Jameis. So many turn overs in such a short span. The Wheels falling off the FSU wagon. WOW! I could see how the Ducks heads were still in the clouds and Ohio State just blew by us, sigh.

So hard to get to that point and have a let down. We had a team that could have had an honest chance had we had the leadership and focus needed. Oh my. But the game against Ohio on Saturday proved that with that Leadership, Focus and execution it can be done. I am hoping, This is THE YEAR. We have lost some good talent but the Great Teams, dig down and pull out victory because they Want It More than the other guy.


the diff btwn 2014/15 and today is that back then we couldn’t win w/out those key ducks. we lost to osu w/their THIRD string QB. they deserved that natty.

today, we can actually win w/a lot of key dux missing. i wouldn’t bet against our 3rd stringers.


Im happy as heck we beat Bucky-and am very surprised -probably as much as or more than anyone. BUT we still have to go through the remainder of the season.
AND… on our plate is UCLA, lets not forget who their coach is and If I know Chip he is watching Oregon TOSU film already.

As the Coaches say –1 game at a time–Go Ducks


After Fresno St. most everyone here (including me) thought we had confirmation that Mario was an inflexible control freak obsessed with demonstrating toughness, even if it meant demonstrating dumbness.

After Ohio St. most everyone here (including me) thinks Mario is a genius, light-touch CEO who has wisely given his lauded coordinators the freedom to be creative.

I’m going to advocate that we accumulate just a few more data points before we (including me) make a final judgement on this.

I sure hope the current wisdom is correct, and it appears to be, but I’m getting whiplash from the 180-degree perception changes.


There were no sideline discussions while JM was calling plays! TD made defensive decisions that made sense, mostly, just turn away when tOSU went hurry-up. This is what we, in this thread, have been advocating for from MC! Be the CEO and let your employees do their job–good or bad. If he has this approach during games I can see the pot of gold at the end of the 🌈…


Im a tad bit worried about the injuries this early on in the season.


Cristobal has an identity for his teams that is being built around a physical style of play. He doesn’t want to finesse his way to a win. He wants to play disciplined physical games that wears down the opponent.

The way he recruits, he may just get us back to a championship game with that blueprint.

One thing that the win at tOSU provided was recruiting film to show some of the top running back recruits in the country. If the Ducks/Cristobal can become the O line destination of top linemen, then I am thinking that we start to see some top RB’s follow.

Win, or lose, I am along for the ride, and am thinking that Mario can win it all his way.

Charles Fischer, Mr. FishDuck

I completely disagree with your first paragraph…and it is comments like that which propel me to write about it in an upcoming article. (My thoughts contain more than what would work for a comment/post) And as we know–disagreement is fine here!

But I sure agree about this game as a showcase for running backs to put Oregon on their “visit” list. We have something exciting to show with what Verdell did on Saturday.

And I agree with your last sentence, as I too want it to go well for him at Oregon.

Fun start to the season!


I think Cristobal is a fine recruiter and a seemingly good man, but his Identity as a coach is Jekyll and Hyde –so far

hopefully the good stuff continues.–Like others have said, the losses to Cal and the Beavs are hard to forget.


Off topic, but the dawgs have scored 17 points this season and their next opponent Arkansas State has scored 97 points over the same period.

Not sure if Lake is going to be able to sit down after this Saturday’s game, his seat is going to be that hot.

From a preseason prediction of 12-0, it is now looking like 0-12 is as likely as the dawgs winning any of their remaining games.

The Ducks 2-0, ranked #4 and the dawgs 0-2, looking like 0-12, priceless, almost makes you forget about this pandemic thing!

Santa Rosa Duck

Maybe Clay Helton can replace Lake?

And Lake can replace Helton. Guys. It’s a no-brainer win-win!


Actually looks like the love triangle at sc may continue. Lane Kiffin is now being considered.

Rumor has it, as part of their ‘thoughtful and strategic process,’ they are already negotiating with Sarkisian to take over after that.


Bringing up distressing news for the dawgs is always on topic. 12 -0, Bow-wow down. As the dawgs are licking their wounds from the offensive juggernaut that is Arky State, those hungry Golden Bears come to town. Right now the “pistol plunge” looks like the blur compared to what U-Dud is doing.


Watching puppy fans hopes plummet by the 2nd game of the season is kind of fun.


Definition of schadenfreude : a feeling of enjoyment that comes from seeing or hearing about the troubles of other people.

I admit to being a small person who is currently wallowing in schadenfreude re the Huskies.


Haha! The dawgs are howling for Lakes head. Chris Peterson got out at the right time. I enjoy watching him now that he’s a Fox and not a husky.
Jimmy lakes problem is he didn’t know he had 1.


I can’t bring myself to dog the dawgs too much. That 70 pts and finger wag in Autzen on natl tv was very humbling. I’ll never forget the Alamo, either. Scarred for life. I just want to see massive points by the Ducks and goose eggs by the Duck D. Whether that happens or not, I want to watch the Ducks be the classiest organization in all of CFB. 😀


The 70 and finger wag showed the complete and utter lack of class of Washington, the team, let alone their delusional fanbase. it was definitely a statement.


It would be nice if MC became the next coach to have a dynasty.

I reviewed all the QBs that made it to the final 4 since 2014.
2014 Mariota     Winston     C. Jones 205.9 72.1 B. Sims 161.9 84.4
2015     Mayfield     Watson     C. Cook 142.2 76.9 J. Coker 139.4 70.2
2016     J. Hurts     J. Browning 176.5 81.3 Watson     JT Barrett    
2017     J. Hurts     K. Bryant 138.1 77.6 Mayfield     J. Fromm 168.2 84.1
2018     K. Murray     T. Tagovailoa     T. Lawrence     I. Book 162.5 80.1
2019     Burrow     J. Hurts     J. Fields     T. Lawrence    
2020     I. Book 144.3 84 Mac Jones     J. Fields     T. Lawrence    

Anthony Brown’s season
2017 103.5 55.6
2018 134.8 62.9
2019 154.5 72.7
2020 153.8 88.8
2021 129.1 72.2

As you can see, nearly every team had a NFL caliber QB to make the playoffs. I put the RTG and QBR next to guys who were not NFL QBs. ABs current numbers would be at the very bottom of previous seasons QBs had to make the playoffs.

We are only 2 games in, but it is pretty clear AB will need to play even better than he has in order for the Ducks to make the playoffs. We should be happy with the win vs tOSU, but we also need to be aware we will need more out of AB if we want to make noise in the playoffs.

Charles Fischer, Mr. FishDuck

My personal spin to what Brown did…he will get better as he has not played in games in two years and needs to get the rust off. He did have quite a few drops that not only would have made his completion percentage better, but also could have changed the game.

The major point in his favor is how you felt confident with him running things. No “heart-in-the-throat” as you would with an untested QB newbie going back to pass on third and long.

And he made some big plays with his feet when it mattered. No fumbles, no picks–he did not hurt us.

Jon Sousa

Not just drops. He put a perfect in-stride throw into Pittman’s for a big gain and it was called back for an unnecessary and somewhat controversial holding call. That penalty stopped the drive.

J Duck

I think MC has great coordinators and coaches, and he leads a fantastic culture. Talent is necessary though. He has brought that in. KT and Flowe out? Didn’t matter.


This is not good, from Bruce Feldman:

“Oregon LB Justin Flowe, the former 5-star, is expected to be out the length of the regular season, if not the rest of the year due to foot injury. LBs Dru Mathis and Jackson LaDuke are also expected to be sidelined with injuries for an extended length of time.”

Jon Sousa

I remember when Keith Brown was being recruited and committed early, he was asked if the commitments of Sewell and Flowe didn’t give him second thoughts. His answer: NO! Let’s make Oregon linebacker U!”

We sure are glad he had that attitude now… because now we need him big time.

Really sorry for Flowe. This is great for his humility (and he may become a much better player and man because of it), but only getting to play in one game last year and only one game in his second year??? I hope he is not having nightmares of becoming the next Cam McCormick. Doubly sorry for Cam.


I think we are all realizing Mario Cristobal isn’t,

A. Nic Saban
B. Chip Kelly
C. Les Miles
D. Dabo Swinney
E. thankfully Clay Helton

Mario Cristobal is Mario Cristobal and that is good enough!


Completely agree, and great article, writing. I was just having a little fun with all the Cristobal comparisons we have all gone through.

Cristobal is a hard one to crack, but the hardness along his empathy for each student athlete is why he is so good. We have our coach, nobody else’s and that is more than alright.

We have seen him breakthrough and win some tough games, now the big task in front of him will be to win the games his is expected to win. This may cause some continued angst among the fans, and pundits, but he is showing he knows how to figure things out.

I do think it is time to step away from comparisons, and just appreciate he has his flaws, as we all have them, but agree he is taking us on a great ride, his ride, and for that we are grateful!


Very smart cat. Like Sylvester, but a few years younger. The Buckeyes are now sufferin’ succotash.

It’s hard not to smile at the increasing caliber of athletes coming to the University of Oregon under MC and some great assistant coaches.

Last week was a nice example of that on display where the next man up was capable and belonged on the field.

The process MC talks about is starting to produce. Optimism warranted.

Santa Rosa Duck

Thanks Darren for your perspective. Let’s hope that the USC Athletic Director does not see Mario Christobal in his crystal ball.

J Duck

I don’t think he’d do that…


Only problems I can see Mario leaving for would be Alabama or Miami.


Oregon is not an easy place for a coach to recruit to. Do not be fooled, Oregon’s current recruiting bonanza is because of Coach Cristobal, his hard work and efforts. He demands it of himself and his staff. That is surely proven.

But the schools he competes against for those recruits, have history, are the Blue Bloods. National Championship wins will bring Oregon, the kind of recruiting leverage it needs. Recruits faced with going far from home, will have the option to stay closer to home to achieve that success. Coaches that develop players into NFL talent, will also show the successes of recruits to achieve their goals.

USC is now understanding that being USC alone and not winning National Championships is hurting their brand and influence among the local talent. I remember when the talent brokers were USC, UCLA and Washington. Out of the three, UCLA with Chip, is doing it with style, hoping the wins start attracting the talent, like his days at Oregon. USC just brought in Donte Williams, now interim Coach, because of his California recruiting. Washington, well, they are O-2 and Jimmy Lake is well, Jimmy Lake at Washington.

As far as Mario and USC looking at him, pay him and his staff. California is such a mess that just giving Mario and his staff some comfort pay will make them happy. Oregon is a perfect place without all the expectations of USC and a Southern Cal fan base. We may gripe but California Gripes are a whole different Fruit.


Thanks for the ponder point Darren. I am actually thinking that Mario Cristobal will be the next… Mario Cristobal! He is doing things his way, and he showed he can be a CEO and let his Coordinators do their jobs.

I also think Fresno State was way under rated when we played them. We will know a lot more about them when they play Chip’s Bruins. I would not be surprised to see them at the top of the Mountain West.

Did anyone else notice the lack of pistol plunges on Saturday? I think I only saw 6 plays out of the pistol. The rest were shotgun or empty backfield.

Go Ducks!


Yes, I think we’ll know a lot more about the Ducks and Cristobal later in the season, especially after the ucla game. Go Ducks!

J Duck

Several of the pp’s looked like decoys like ABs winning run against Fresno…hopefully it’ll stay that way!

Jon Sousa

We are going to need Moorhead and DeRuyter both doing their things against UCLA.


That’s a good question, just have to make sure that Fresno State was the off game, and Ohio State was the norm. KT & Flowe on the sidelines? Not a problem.

Stony Brook is a great game to have up next, and then it’s “Pac-12 After Dark” and Arizona. Gameday” should be at the Rose Bowl for Oregon @ UCLA, Oregon has the opportunity to entrench itself in the top 4. This is all happening as USC finally makes the move it had to to compete with Mario & Oregon.


MC certainly has the team on the upwards trajectory to be a great program year in, year out, with his PhD in Bama football processes.

Depth was on show for certain with recruiting, I mean, just look at the LBs and DL that had to step up in the name of a ridiculous amount of injuries! It was pretty awesome to see Nate “the Walk on” H plug some gaps and play well.



Nicely done Darren.

Although your article last week was a great amalgamation of solid data, historical perspective and comparison between two coaches,

this is the one I want to bear fruit!

May this be a turning point where the reins are relaxed on coordinators and the considerable tailwinds from this WIN carry through what

could be a magical season for our BELOVED DUCKS!

This could be an INTERSTATE HIGHWAY to a great place

That road from your other article was a road of Les Miles.