Analysis: Is Dan Lanning an Upgrade from Mario Cristobal?

Charles Fischer, Mr. FishDuck Editorials

Coach Cristobal always said that when a coach leaves, it gives him an opportunity to “upgrade” at that coaching position. My question to all my FishDuck Friends is, “did Athletic Director Rob Mullens make an upgrade hire of Dan Lanning replacing Mario Cristobal, or not?” It is a fair question, and makes me wonder about what the odds are that we get an upgrade, as I would when I have some fun with Fanduel’s NCAAF odds. Let’s ponder the different aspects of the Head Coaching job at Oregon and consider how both coaches compare?

I recognize that much of this is conjecture about what Coach Lanning will bring us, while with Mario–we know precisely what we had in his four years with the Ducks. And there are many components to all of this, but based upon what so many sources have stated about Coach Lanning, and what we know of Cristobal regime, I think we can begin to establish a baseline of goals, and later expectations for what we hope to see in Lanning-Land.


I cannot imagine how a defensive guru of Coach Dan Lanning’s caliber could not improve upon a not-so-impressive 25 points per game given up by Oregon in 2021. I understand that Oregon does not (yet) have the talent of Georgia to suffocate opponents to less than 10 points per game as the Bulldogs are doing, but the defense is the one area I have some certainty about improvements that I look forward to watching for.  Lanning is an Upgrade.

We need better than 8.5 points per game average against Utah…


We do not even have an offensive coordinator yet, but I am counting on Rob Mullens to emphasize the importance of the prior Oregon Brand on offense to nudge a good pick. Keep in mind that Coach Lanning was only 25 years old when Chip Kelly and the Oregon No-Huddle was popular nationally. All the young coaches were studying the Spread Offense and what Chip was doing, (That FishDuck guy and his videos) and I have to think an acknowledgement of the importance of the offense to the fans is understood by Lanning.

The offense must be improved from the pedestrian 31 points per game of 2021, and I believe it will with the new OC and for many reasons to be discussed below. Lanning is an Upgrade.

Special Teams:

Cristobal had excellent punting and placekicking this year, so I cannot picture improvement in those categories. However the punt coverage, (Utah game) punt return and kickoff return were sub-par. To me, it is a stretch to say that Lanning will upgrade these platoons without knowing more about who he places in charge. A trick play or fake punt to throw off the opponent would be nice. Lanning is a Wash/Break-even.
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Culture and PR:

Cristobal is King in this department, as his relationships with players, recruits and parents are unparalleled in my observations of Oregon football as a 35 year season-ticket holder. The reports are that Lanning is also superb with the public, but I cannot imagine doing as well–although coming close will meet what is needed. His skills in dealing with the media, boosters, parents, recruits and players are going to be tested as he is following a giant in those areas. Lanning is a Downgrade.

Can Lanning duplicate this?


This is the toughest one for me to select a winner, as this is what made Mario Cristobal’s success in Eugene. Yet reports show that Coach Lanning was the No. 8 recruiter in the nation and would have been No. 1 in the Pac-12. It is easier to recruit players in the Southeast to stay home near Mama’s cooking, but how will he do recruiting nationally and bringing them to Eugene when we have 42 degrees and freezing rain as we do today? My gut tells me that, “he will be very good on the trail as his energy and youth will work to his advantage.” 

But it also depends upon the staff he assembles; he can have as good of recruiting, (as the facts suggest) but we know for certain that Mario would deliver a top-ten recruiting class every year. I have to go with the bird (Duck) in hand; Lanning is a Downgrade.

Game Management and Adjustments:

This is one of those categories that I do not have to guess at how Coach Lanning will operate because it could not be worse than what we witnessed from Coach Cristobal. This has been some of the most boneheaded stuff I’ve seen from a head coach at Oregon, thus when the performance is this low–I do not see how it could get worse. A no-brainer for me: Lanning is an Upgrade.

Mental Preparedness of the Players:

This is a second area where it could not get much worse, as having 10 wins seems amazing considering Cristobal’s record on the road, losses to teams less talented and stunning the fans with his teams coming out flat for many games. This was a surprise to me considering the culture Cristobal was building, so I am a loss for an explanation. The good news is that I no longer have to worry about it, as it cannot help but improve; Lanning is an Upgrade.

What was supposed to be entertaining often made us want to look away…

Player Development:

Admittedly, this is difficult for an outsider and not being a coach. But the question posed to me by a Duck-Buddy about this really pulled it into focus; “the quarterback is the most important player on the field by a factor of five, thus did Tyler Shough and Anthony Brown improve over time? Did it matter who the quarterback coach was?” Whew!

I could spend some time discussing how one of the greatest offensive lines ever assembled at Oregon was wasted in 2018 and 2019, but the quarterback question gives us enough direction for this category. Lanning is an Upgrade.

My conclusion? I believe everyone was served well, as Mario got to go home to a fat contract, while Oregon has the opportunity to take the next step. What are your thoughts about my grades?

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

Charles Fischer   (Mr. FishDuck)
Eugene, Oregon
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