Quarterback Quandary: What Would Former Oregon Coaches Do?

Charles Fischer, Mr. FishDuck Editorials

It is a common discussion over the years for Duck fans–which quarterback do you want to see playing? The current controversy brought about by subpar-play of Anthony Brown has ignited the Oregon message boards hot with discussion, although only the Our Beloved Ducks forum is a safe place (for free) to post your thoughts. I was discussing this quarterback situation on the phone with a Duck-Buddy, when all the quarterback competitions over many years surfaced and it was quite a trip down memory-lane recounting the names. Remember…

1996: Tony Graziani and Ryan Perry-Smith?
1997: Akili Smith and Jason Maas?
1999: AJ Feeley starting the season, getting hurt and never getting the job back from Joey Harrington?
2003: Jason Fife and Kellen Clemens?
2006: Brady Leaf and Dennis Dixon?
2010: Nate Costa and Darren Thomas?

Boy we had some big discussions/arguments about who should start and when over those years.  I recall being allowed to attend a closed fall scrimmage at the Nike campus because I was on the chain crew at that time–and writing later that, “I think the offense runs a little better with that new untested quarterback, Dennis Dixon.” Now we just laugh at how silly that sounded, but at the time–it was news.

Kellen Clemens began the 12 game win streak over the Huskies in 2004.

It also got me to thinking about how former Oregon coaches handled these quarterback questions during their time, and made me wonder what they would do with the current scenario? And please put aside your feelings about them one-way-or-the-other, and give me your thoughts in the OBD forum about how you think a prior coach for the Ducks would decide between Brown and 5-Star freshman Ty Thompson?

We are all speculating since we are not at the practices, in the film or quarterback room, and do not know how the former coaches would meld with the present quarterbacks, but let’s take a shot for fun!

It would be hard to know with Willie Taggart since we only had a short time seeing his use of quarterbacks, but I feel that he loved running quarterbacks and thus Jay Butterfield would have never been in the conversation. Would he have gone with experience or raw talent at this stage? I am going to go with experience with him, thus not only would he play Anthony Brown, but would probably run him between the tackles even more!
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As good as he was, Dixon was part of a two-QB system for a while…

Mike Bellotti ran a two-quarterback system often during his time until one either got hurt or truly established himself on the field with his performance. I recall how it truly was close between Brady Leaf and Dennis Dixon, so Coach Bellotti was trying to win with Leaf until Dixon’s talent truly emerged. So I believe that Mike would be alternating both Brown and Thompson at this time.

I remember arguing for Nate Costa over Darren Thomas, but Thomas got the start and kept it under Coach Chip Kelly. Yet even when an experienced quarterback who had taken us to the ‘Natty was up against a very inexperienced phenom in Marcus Mariota–it was apparent that Chip was going to go with youth, thus the departure of Thomas in summer of 2012. Hence I think Chip would go with Thompson, or do you read that differently?

Mark Helfrich did not like the practice performance from a group of quarterbacks after Mariota, and thus went out and got Vernon Adams(when a QB transfer was scandalous!) who could have taken the Ducks to great heights were it not for his opening game injury. The point is–Helfrich did not like what he saw in the quarterback room and he made a change. I think Coach Helfrich would be working Ty Thompson into every third series to break him in, and being a good quarterback coach, he probably would have been doing that beginning in the Arizona game!

Rich Brooks left the offense to Mike Bellotti, who he attracted to Oregon.

Rich Brooks? He would have gone for experience and stayed with Brown because, “we are going to win it with defense” anyway.

So the choice is not just one quarterback or the other, but would a coach begin to alternate the two? Is that appropriate in 2021? (Mr. FishDuck says, ‘yes,’ and now) I am quite curious as to what you think the former coaches would have done, and how soon would he have implemented his plan? This is fun remembering the coaches and making our guess because…

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

Charles Fischer   (Mr. FishDuck)
Eugene, Oregon
Top Photo by John Giustina  (He was the official Oregon photographer for 20 years and shared the epic pictures you see above. Very grateful!)

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