Cristobal’s Problem? It’s the Oregon Fans!

Charles Fischer, Mr. FishDuck Editorials 12 Comments

Yes, you read that right; the problem for Mario Cristobal are the fans at Oregon. He runs a team under an old philosophy, an old way of winning. Since then offenses have changed and what is required to win has also changed, as his mentor has been at the forefront of that trend that now wins national championships. Meanwhile Greybeard-age Oregon fans like many of you and I have watched a ton of Oregon football over the years and witnessed scads of coaching styles.

We know what works and what doesn’t by the simple eyeball test.

Oregon fans who know very little of the football Xs and Os have also watched, read and processed so much Oregon football information over so many years–they can tell with their gut feelings from watching if things are clicking or not. I’ve heard from many of them by email, but also in the new forum. A common refrain is appearing often, and one that I personally identify with…

“I like Cristobal and want him to succeed, but nearly half-way into his fourth season it becomes apparent that what we see is what we are going to continue getting.”

We’ve seen a ton of Oregon football, my feathered friends. I will not recount the Brooks, Bellotti and Kelly years, because you lived them too, you saw the press conferences, the statements and the results–and you know that what you are watching now is disjointed on the football field. I have been humbled by all the amazing posts written in the forum about the current state of Oregon football, as so many have nailed it better than I. And because of the protection givens in the forum–we see more diversity of thought, because people feel safe to post. The result is learning from others like I did not anticipate…

Eric Evans Oregon Football Twitter

Not a lot of fans in the stands at Stanford either!

Too Many Fans are Losing Interest…

I am concerned about the attendance at Autzen, because the entire athletic budget depends upon it. And things looked pretty sparse for the last two games compared to what we are accustomed to seeing. I’ve had a number of fans tell me how their spouse or friends who admittedly are fringe fans–and loved the high scoring days–have been tuning out of the current Oregon football program. We need all the fans on-board to succeed, and when a significant percentage have checked out, the impact on Our Beloved Ducks in all sports is going to be felt. I have a text from an intense Duck fan right now…

“I’m so furious I don’t want to even watch a game for a few weeks. MC’s (Mario Cristobal) ‘habits’ are so frustrating, and the Prima-Donna nature of the players are an affront I’m not willing to tolerate much more.”

This is a die-hard fan in his 60s, and what he wrote is felt by many others. For proof, go here or here and read about the concern for the direction of the program, as people have heard a ton of talk over the last three years that does not match what they saw against a mid-lin Cardinal team.

It is One in Ten-Million…

How many CPAs do you know could be great salesmen? How many great salesmen (and saleswomen) could be CPAs? A football coach has to be a master at the Xs and Os, and yet be a champion recruiter/salesman at the same time. How many people are built like that? Now you add the CEO management skills of which few people have to run an enterprise spread out in so many areas that demand their time and attention. The top CEOs are paid millions, and the great football coaches have those skills. So how many people could be a world-class CEO, a champion salesman and a CPA at the same time?

It is one in ten-million, if not more.

From Twitter

You cannot expect every coach to be like Nick Saban.

That is why there are so few football coaches like a Nick Saban. Most people with those skills are getting the 40 million per year to run major corporations, as they are rare, the coveted men and women. My point? The other 98% of football coaches have flaws, as none are going to be another Saban. Some like Mark Helfrich, who can do the Xs and Os, but are not leaders who can run a large enterprise. Some like Mario, are great leaders and recruiters–but have flaws in other areas.

Can you live with Mario’s flaws?

It is an important question for Duck fans, as we are clearly going to need to be much more patient than we thought. And yes, it begs so many other questions that we can banter about in the forum. But if Cristobal’s problem is Oregon fans, then perhaps we need to reconsider our approach as fans to Oregon football for a while? Trust me, this is hard for me too!

You recall my expression about how “Greatness and Weakness Emerge Early,” and we have seen weakness from Mario on the offensive side from the very beginning to now. We have also seen greatness in recruiting, culture, leadership and being an exemplary representative of the University of Oregon. Who doesn’t like Cristobal? (Other than Husky fans?) Perhaps with time and lessons learned–he will allow his CEO skills to truly place others in charge of the areas where he is weak?

So…YOU Want Cristobal OUT?

For me? No, as I agree with the majority in that we like so much of who Cristobal is as a person and his demeanor/leadership that we are willing to wait for him to learn on the job longer. But many are beginning to question whether he can learn the lessons that we watched other coaches absorb over the years. Yet….what are our choices?

Mario Cristobal at OSU_Fox Sports Video.jpg

Fox Sports Video

Can we return to that offense again?

The top coaches are not leaving the attractive gig they are in, and thus you are left hiring a newbie rising star or an unproven assistant that can work, but often does not. Besides–that is what we have now. I am changing my perspective as a fan because I now know that Mario learns everything the hard way, and it takes many, many times before he does. It will blow many seasons, but his recruiting of coaches and players may make the wait that much more rewarding later?

Can you see the path of transformation I am beginning to make as a devoted Duck fan? Perhaps if others embark upon this–Cristobal’s problem won’t be the Oregon fans…

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

Charles Fischer   (Mr. FishDuck)
Eugene, Oregon
Top Photo by Tom Corno

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Merry Yoda

I was just as upset about the Stanford loss as other fans here. I was frustrated at the coaching, yes. I was frustrated at the play on the field, yes. I was frustrated at the refs, lol don’t get me started, I’m convinced they had it out for the ducks.

But I get frustrated by the overreaction of our fans as well. In no way should we get rid of MC. He is recruiting like Chip never could, and in my mind its just a matter of time before it really starts clicking for the ducks.

Do we really need to “adjust” to the coaching? What’s to adjust? Hasn’t it always been like this, at least in spurts? Let me point out that we have NEVER had a Saban. Ever. Chip came close, but look at UCLA now…2 losses. I remember Bellotti’s wins. But don’t forget all the losses too, we had some really mediocre years in there! A 9 or 10 win season was a big deal.. There’s only been one undefeated regular season. Only ONE, the unicorn Chip season. And Brooks … he had one magical season before he left, and still lost to Penn State badly in the Rose.

If fans need to change anything, it’s our lofty, nearly delusional expectations. One loss does not mean throw out the baby and the bathwater. Like we’ve done in the Brooks years, and the Bellotti years and the even the Chip years (remember Boise state?) , we grumble and mourn and turn off all sports media coverage for a week, then come out of our hole for another game and hope we come out 1-0 again. See what happens.

Mario is the one in my eyes. Lets just hope he stays for a while to get this team to the very top at least once.

Boblaw

Right on!

DuckIt

I fully agree Charles. The fans are tuning out the Ducks, and it doesn’t help their cause that half their games are being broadcasted on the Pac 12 Network, after half the country has gone to sleep. My fear is that some of those viewers could prove to be potential recruits. I still hear and read about Oregon recruits who first started out as fans. They comment on how Oregon was their favorite team growing up, because of its fun, high-scoring, electric offense. 

A number of them, including Marcus Mariota would even state that Oregon was their dream school. No one except the true fans, have any memories about Oregon’s defense. It was all about the exciting, speedy offense that attracted fans and maybe one or two kickoff/punt returns. I was even amazed to learn that the Ducks were growing their following overseas as well. That is how popular the Ducks had become.

The problem is what has Oregon’s offense done lately, to entice both first-time viewers as well as existing fans, from changing the channel? Aside from the Ohio State game, our offense has looked constipated each game. Oregon’s fast, fun offense is becoming a distant memory, even for us loyal fans. Those kids that used to spend their Saturdays, in front of TV, watching LaMichael James or Marcus Mariota light up the scoreboard, have all grown up. I doubt that the casual Duck viewer is going to have many fond memories of Oregon’s offense, post-Mariota.

If we estimate that the average age that boys start to watch football, is around 10 years old, then at most, the Ducks may have maybe 1 or 2 more relevant years, where these potential recruits still have fond memories of Oregon’s high-octane offense. I’m basing this number on Mariota’s departure to the NFL and the age of senior in high school. I hope that I am wrong, but I have a hard time believing that Ducks have been winning over many fans with its struggling offense.

Duck lifer

Charles, great article! I think that was one of your best. I agree with so much of what you said…

I love so much of what MC is doing… his toughness, his dedication, recruiting abilities, leadership qualities and so many other things he does and does well are some of the things I’ve waited my whole life to see at Oregon.

However, I also think that his in-game coaching and overall game management leave something to be desired… he’s still having clock management issues which is troubling as this seems to be an indicator of much larger problems.

I think that we all have some legitimate concerns in regards to MC, but as you mentioned, getting a Nick Saben isn’t easy, almost impossible, so I do think we need to rally around our coach and fully support him. BUT, that doesn’t mean we have to love everything he does and it’s good to debate these issues and be critical of him when the need arises.

That’s how we all learn, and hopefully he does as well.

Gizmoduck

As a high school assistant football coach here in Oregon, all I can say is I absolutely love Mario Cristobal. The stability and vision he has brought to the program, as well as the example he sets for coaches who look up to him. (I’ll admit some of us do that.) are not commonplace. Is he perfect? Not at all. But if you listen to him, he always says he, and the program are striving for perfection.

Truthfully, every game is different. Having to manage the emotions of 50+ 18-22 year olds is a titanic feat that maybe none of us can fathom. Sure we were spoiled in offense and points during the Kelly/Helfrich years, but those days are gone. Mario is building his Oregon legacy on something different. Not an offense that you can plug and play for 45 points a game.

We know from experience that’s not sustainable (See Clemson, tOSU, Oklahoma) I believe he is using Oregon’s national brand to bring us to an elite status recruiting university. In the future it won’t matter what the offense is, the players will be good enough, and mature enough(that’s key in this scenario) to play against anybody.

I think we are also really underestimating the youth of this football team. experience counts. Just because the talking heads say the Pac 12 is down, and Oregon should roll through it, doesn’t make that the truth. Oregon is talented but young, these teams are playing their biggest game of the year. It takes time to teach young guys how to match that energy week after week.

Also, it’s just one game. Anyone that truly thought they would be undefeated at this point in the season before the season started, would be called a starry eyed homer. Can they play better, sure. As for me I’m just enjoying the ride. I didn’t think they were playoff bound this season, so to be this far in the mix is a great surprise for me.

Oh how I love to talk about my beloved Oregon Ducks.

Steven A

Although the press is not allowed to view practices, I am hoping Cristobal and Moorehead have seen enough of average at best QB play and give Ty the start and the first half vs Cal. If he fails, then give AB the second half.

This is the perfect opportunity to show head coach leadership. Plus AB admitted how bad he played, so a change shouldn’t come as much of a surprise.

T Bone

Time to move on from A Brown… He won’t be here next year so let the Ty Thomson era begin… He threw one long ball against Stanford (overthrow) and nothing over the middle… anyone can hand the ball off… move on…

Haywarduck

I can guarantee Mario is going to get another 4 years and another contract extension before that ends. The only question is will he leave before his contract is up. Mario isn’t Mark Helfrich.

Mario’s problem is he loses the games players don’t get up for. Oregon dominated after the first quarter and fell apart at the end of the game. This is what Mario often does when on the road against lesser talent, he’s what 6-6 in that situation.

The Stanford game is also what happens when the turnover ratio goes against us, while we don’t have a decent 3rd or 4th down conversion ratio. I was out of town during the game and left when we went up at the end. I could see the writing on the wall, this team wasn’t going to get it done, unless they got a turnover, and it wasn’t worth watching if what happened, happened, too predictable.

The crazy part of it for me is I have a larger emotional response from the beaver game than how the Ducks play. The beavers, maybe it was partly the joy of seeing the dawgs lose, play inspired, wily football. The coaching leads players to reach their potential. They are also the underdogs, and I have an affinity for underdogs.

The way the Ducks play is like watching a lion play with their prey, and then letting it go because they just aren’t hungry enough to get it done. When that happens in the wild, this is unconfirmed, but comes from a reliable source, the zebra, will come in and smack the lion. This is what happened on Saturday, Oregon didn’t want it, didn’t know how to truly dominate, and then couldn’t finish, so the zebra abused him. This is the way it works in the wild.

I agree many fans will fall off, but not too far. I will never root for the beavers when Oregon plays. When Oregon goes to a bowl game I will either go or be glued to the tv. I will also hope the Ducks don’t have to play in the untamed Pac-12 where the zebras can punish poor coaching, but maybe that is what we needed!

DuckIt

LOL. A herd of power-hungry “zebras” blindsided the last remaining lion of his Pac/pride and delivered THREE crippling blows, each time driving their hooves into his back. As the zebras repeatedly stabbed this lone lion in the back, leaving him bleeding, battered, bewildered, and betrayed, any hope of that lion being crowned king of the jungle this season, started to dwindle.

The Constitutionalist

I like MC, I really do.

But I like winning more.

More than winning, I like winning big.

Even so, I’m not ready to say definitively yet that I’m ready to pull the plug on MC, but I get closer each time we lose a game like this. Right now, MC’s coaching seat (in my mind and in my mind only) is warm and heating up. It’s not going to cool down with wins. Maybe my expectations are too high, but winning isn’t expected because it’s a hard task, it’s expected because it’s the bare minimum.

What will solidify MC’s coaching position, again – to me, is proving that he can make the difficult adjustments required in today’s CFB. So far, he hasn’t.

Until that happens, I refuse to continue telling myself the lie that MC just needs one more year.

Duck lifer

Those first 3 sentences, BOOM! Exactly right!