Under Cristobal: No Promised Land Without Dramatic Changes

Charles Fischer, Mr. FishDuck Editorials 15 Comments

I wrote those words up in the title in the first month of Mario Cristobal‘s first season in 2018, and wrote them again in an article last year, that you would think was written right after this last game with Stanford. Same issues, same underperformance and same game management. Steward Mandell quoted my final line of that article for one of his articles, and it got hundreds up-in-arms on other sites because I was not a boot-licker for the head coach.

When he does well, like landing the best recruit in Nebraska as he did yesterday–I say so. But when he loses another game to an inferior foe as he did in 2018, 2019, 2020 and now in 2021–he deserves some grief. Yet what we see on the field is not matching the recruiting or even the full potential of the players, especially on offense. This is an especially difficult time for a devoted Duck fan, because our hopes and dreams for this team are obviously not going to happen.

But I remain a steadfast fan no matter what, as we have certainly had much worse that this. (But the torture of the potential…) There are too many problems to list and frankly–I think so many of you did an outstanding job pointing them out in the GameDay thread(Which had over 160 posts–cool)

Kevin Cline

Not the first time with a Stanford Tight End and Pac-12 Officials.

“The Officials Alone Took the Game Away”

Yes, I get that when referring the final drive concerning Brandon Dorlus, Kayvon Thibodeaux and Mykael Wright. But I was hot in the first half, as I do not think the tight end of Stanford had complete control of the ball on the first touchdown before going out-of-bounds. Yet it was a Cardinal score regardless? Then the 4th down attempt by Stanford that the Ducks thwarted by a bad spot from the officials? Whew!

Bottom line? This is Pac-12 officiating and this is not the first time a tight end from Stanford benefited from a bad call while rolling out-of-bounds  in the end zone. (Think 2012) It is par for our course in this conference…——————————————————————————————–
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Tom Corno

A great quarterback could transform this team…

Now I Gotta Admit–I was WRONG

When I am right, as I was about Cristobal and the Oregon offense–I will crow to your highest tolerance level. But I was wrong about Anthony Brown, as I thought he would be much better than what we have seen over five games. I am aghast at how inaccurate he is at throwing passes to crossing receivers that end up behind them way too often. His decisions in the option game and which blocks to follow have cost us points in prior games, but was another factor in losing on the farm.

All of his critics were right, and I was wrong and am ready for the Ty Thompson show. We have already ruined our year, so we might as well take our lumps now with his learning curve and build for the future.

You have seen me write often over the years that, “greatness and weakness emerge early,” and weakness that emerges early never turns into greatness–you put a ton of work into coaching them up into being merely average. This is true in business and sports, as managers can’t send Dodo Bird salesmen to Eagle school, as it doesn’t work. You gotta find Eagles up front and give them the time to grow. (Reps) Brown has been given his chance and will not reach the upside this program needs.

Tom Corno

Play the promising freshmen like Terrance Ferguson?

Did the Ohio State Win Mess-Up the Personnel Path?

Did the coaches go with “experience” in a sixth-year quarterback who is inaccurate, and veteran receivers who don’t get open? Or was the plan to play them until they lost to Ohio State, and thus the justification for “change” was present? With the win–the veterans remained in place, and perhaps stymied the progress on offense that could have begun with the young-guns? I am also ready for Dont’e Thornton and Troy Franklin to have major playing time and thus between them, Thompson and the two freshmen tight ends–it would be inconsistent now, but exciting later?

If Verdell is out for a while and we have to rely on the passing game–yikes. Make the change now please!

Although there is learning that needs to take place in the coaching suite, aren’t there a ton of coaches now on-staff as “quality-control” and serve as consultants to the program? Do they give Cristobal game-management advice? Does he listen?

Oregon Will Not be a Championship Team Until we see Championship Coaching

The worst part of this is not losing a game, as you will run into a hot team or have a bad day. We are seeing consistent underperformance, and the Ducks would have lost to any number of mediocre Pac-12 teams on Saturday. We just happened to be playing Stanford on that day, as they were not an impressive team to me. The Cardinal were a classic .500 team that Oregon routinely loses to under Cristobal in each year of his leadership. There is no shame in losing to a great team, but on Saturday–Cristobal should be ashamed of himself, and not his team.

Tom Corno

The Special Teams are improving…

Can this team turn around and become great? Absolutely, as the upside I gushed about last week remains with both the players and the coaches. But when I think of my axiom…“greatness and weakness emerge early,” … how do you apply that to Mario Cristobal and his staff? Yet conversely, we cannot forget the incredible victory in Columbus; so how do you sort this all out?

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

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

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Love the website guys!
My two cents on MC:

1) He is evolving, although probably slower than some of us would like.

  • he got rid of Arroyo who was a horrible OC
  • he brought in Avalos as DC and then DeRuyter – both of whom are solid
  • new OC, at least on paper, shows an evolving style for the better

The Ducks have just been plagued by horrible and inconsistent QB play. Brown is a terrible passer and will never get better.
Also, the team is extremely young at all positions and their inconsistent play and mistakes show that. But the talent is there and its coming.
Even a 20% increase in QB play would make most of the problems go away.

2) The bad:

  • MC seems reluctant to push aside QB Brown and underperforming WRs such as J. Johnson and J. Redd and get the more dynamic and younger players in there
  • Inconsistent O-Line play. The Ducks struggle with ANY team the runs a stunting and twisting rush, and have for years. Teams like tOSU play them pretty much straight up, and against those teams they excelled. One of the coaches here can speak to that.
  • clock management – I see improvement – but more is needed.
  • My only fault w/ recruiting is along the D-line and RB – but it seems to be getting better.

Overall, I love the guy. Helfrich was a disaster and I can’t even speak his name. MC will get there. We don’t know what goes on at practice, and its often hard to tell what was poor coaching and what was a player mistake. Unfortunately, it seems we are at the whim of poor QB play, at least for now.

But remember: Cody Kempt, Justin Roper, Andre Crenshaw in the wildcat, Brady Leaf, Freshman Braxton Burmiester, Ryan Lockie, Dakotah Prokup, Masoli at times. All of those guys played under Bellotti, Kelly, Helfrich, Taggert, and MC.

There, I feel better already

T Bone

Well I guess we can safely lay to rest any discussion of Mario going to USC…😂😂😂

T Bone

Seems to me, it’s been difficult for the coaching staff to develop a quarterback at Oregon ever since chip left… I get Mariota and Herbert could be considered the exception but they were NFL talent from the start… until they figure out the QB situation Ducks are going to continue to struggle…


Lots of infuriating things in this game.

You have all pointed them out. 4th and 1 walk in touchdown with the bad read by AB, clock management at the end of the game by passing the ball, AB with constant missed reads. Constant….

This isn’t on pure coaching. This is a QB that is not used to an effective RPO offense no matter how much practice time he gets. I am ready for the next man up, win or lose. As he will be better for the next 2 full years under center.

And the Pac 12 reffing for the last decade. WTF is going on there.

The REFFING is the sole reason I read tweets about Cali (or west coast) recruits wanting to play in the SEC, where a little hand fighting and less “well it must have been roughing the passer/kicker/leading with the crown” crapola in Big Boy football. Good grief.

The conferences’ own paid Refs are atrocious. Just ask Wisconsin.


Jay MacPherson

As I’ve written before, bottom to top leadership is lacking in the organization (top leading alone doesn’t cut it in dynamic situations like a fast moving game with many parts). A great example from this past game: by half way thru the second quarter, I told the tv to pull Anthony Brown…after the game Anthony admits he played like sh_t; yet he did not lead by taking himself out of the game. That sh_t play was obvious early, and I think Anthony was well aware by then. Did anyone on the sideline consider pulling him? We won’t likely know (tho his backups probably had this in mind).

Family is a great atmosphere and attractive to recruits. It must be coupled with empowerment to lead which is difficult for some parents (aka coaches).

J Duck

Spot on Sir Charles, spot on. If we rabid duck fans take our yellow tinted sunglasses off and be honest, you are spot on. Canzano was actually spot on today too…


I appreciate your comments above, Charles. While being a Duck fan to your core, you maintain the ability to look at the team’s performance with some level of objectivity. That’s what I strive to do, and, frankly, that’s why I come to your site. While I love the Ducks and truly suffer when they lose, I try to look for ways they can improve so they don’t lose like that again.

Having said that, I’m not ready to give up on Cristobal. He’s a fabulous recruiter, and I think he’s a highly-principled guy. He has a way to go, though, in becoming that effective CEO on the field that Mike Bellotti became late in his head coaching tenure. I also wonder whether Mario is a bit too conservative in his coaching approach. I’m seeing that trend in both overall offensive and defensive schemes, and I’m also seeing it in playing time–or lack thereof–for some of the young players.

On defense, the bend-don’t-break soft coverage drives me crazy. Yes, Stanford scored on a crossing route in overtime despite the shift to tighter coverage, but I’d rather see an occasional deep pass for a touchdown rather than countless 8-10 yard crossing routes completed as opponents march down the field.

On offense, we just need a quarterback who can get on a roll and sustain it. Brown has not demonstrated that he’s that guy.


Every season, it’s the same ol’ same ol’. The Ducks underperform and lose games that they shouldn’t. Yet when MC manages to win the Pac 12 title, how quickly do the fans forget and instead voice their approval, with phrases like “Pay that man!” and “Lock him up!” Just like how Bama is expected to get to championship game every year, the Ducks, with the best and most talented roster in the Pac 12, are expected to get to conference championship and win it. Anything less, and the season is a bust. We should be raising our expectations, but how can we, when we have an inept HC who is frequently being outcoached? It’s not realistic.

I know last year was fluke year for many teams but did MC seriously deserve a pay raise and contract extension, for finishing the year 4-3? Remember, the Ducks got their invite to the conference championship by default, not because they earned it. I was more impressed with his recruiting than his coaching. That aspect was deserving of a bonus. Fans criticize the team for it’s complacency but maybe, a lot fans are also settling for less too. Many of them were telling me to be patient and give MC time to recruit several classes and build upon that depth. There were just too many obvious red flags that kept me from buying into notion that he was going to lead the Ducks to their first championship title.

I have been shaking my head since MC’s first season as Oregon’s head coach. No doubt, the man can recruit, but there is so much to be desired from his coaching on the field. I could list out all the things that he’s doing wrong, but for the sake of keeping it simple, I’ll stick to him not playing all the right players and not putting his team in a position to win every game, as vague as that may sound. I really feel bad for guys like KT. He could have chosen an easier path to a championship and been crowned a champion already with a team like Bama, but instead, he chose the the Ducks. That shows real character on his part. And how do the Ducks and MC repay him? By squandering his talent, just like they did with Justin Herbert. It’s no secret that a healthy KT is far and away, the best player on the field every Saturday.

Under MC, the Ducks are recruiting at a level never seen or enjoyed before, by previous Oregon teams. With guys like KT, Sewell, and Flowe, he is bringing in a different caliber of recruits, usually reserved for the elite teams. I would say 8 out of 10 times, with a serviceable QB, the Ducks should beat their conference foes on sheer talent alone. But what’s the point of having all that talent, if you don’t play your best players and put them in position to win? On offense, it’s getting the ball to your playmakers in space. Ducks have been terrible at that this season. At times, MC along with Arroyo made last year’s NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year, Justin Herbert, look average as a Duck. That was a prime example of how MC and the Ducks underutilized the talent and potential of that team. And it’s no different this season.


Great post DuckIt……

In previous posts I have mentioned that Oregon’s propensity to lay an egg , or two, at some point during the season, often on the road, would once again derail their season. Yesterday it happened. I’m pretty sure they will lose another game or two.

Have you ever heard anyone say they were out coached by Cristobal? Certainly out-recruited, but never out-coached. His coaching is really hurting this group of 4 and 5 star players, whose raw talent and ability is being squandered by insisting on playing smash mouth football, instead of taking advantage of his players’ athletic gifts. He’s coaching them down, not up.

The quarterback situation has reached a crisis point. A change must be made, immediately. Two weeks to the next game…make the change now. Get Thompson ready. He’ll make his own share of mistakes, for sure, but no more than Brown is making now, and he will gain valuable experience. The Ducks need to make use of their talented young receivers, who with a strong armed, more accurate QB, will be able to stretch the field and open up the offense.

And DuckIt you mentioned KT, Sewell and Flowe, all fabulous players whose ability is showcased every week. Why? Because they play defense. You can’t stifle their speed, tenacity, strength, drive. Well, perhaps we have offensive players that may rival their ability, but under Cristobal’s antiquated coaching we may never know. He’s recruiting 4 and 5 stars and turning them into 3 stars.

Last week I posted that despite being 4-0 , “why do I feel the sky is about to fall?”

Well, it fell, and it may fall again unless the Ducks make some blatantly obvious necessary changes.

Otis Day

IMHO Cristobal et al. out-coached Ryan Day and the other tOSU coaches.

Duck lifer

I feel that our 4 and 5 star kids are leaving Oregon at a 2 or 3 star level… not good and this is a direct reflection on the coaching staff, namely MC

Steven A

Once again, the perfect storm on a cloudless day down on the farm.

I agree, time for new blood at QB. a sixth year QB:
1) shouldn’t be missing also most every long ball and where are the vertical calls?
2) mis-reading the D and getting stuffed at the goal line when Verdell would have walked in.
3) consistently throwing behind receivers over the middle.

With Moorehead, I think we win, but I still want to see more of a vertical game. Big time WR recruits must be re thinking their decisions.

But, we did have our Defensive coordinator, at least I think we did or was he on chicken soup duty for Moorehead?


Long time, first time. I guess I have doubts if Cristobal the recruiter can overcome the current stubborn antiquated version of Cristobal the coach. Luckily our Ducks get another chance soon!