Does Oregon Have a New “Saban” in Dan Lanning?

Charles Fischer, Mr. FishDuck Editorials

I know, the title above shouts “tap-the-brakes,” yet Duck fans would admit they like what they see about Coach Dan Lanning, but we also know this is clearly a “honeymoon” period for the new coach. We can’t get too far out in front of our skis in our excitement, (enough clichés’ yet?) as I was pondering about our coach in between staying up to date on all the latest US sports news. I have a theory about coaches, and have been comparing our new coach to my criteria and thought we ought to consider this together as fans of Our Beloved Ducks.

How many CPAs can also be master salesmen? The answer is almost none, yet every great head football coach must be superb with the Xs and Os, and yet be one of the best recruiters in the nation to achieve his goals. That challenge is tough enough, but in addition–he must have amazing CEO skills of which few people have. When I worked in my own office and independently of anyone over the years–I had no respect for management skills.

“You just tell people what to do…how hard is that?”

Coach Lanning includes the local Kidsports into the practice…

Then I started FishDuck and had anywhere from 30 to as many as 100 volunteers at the same time. I learned it took enormous skills, and every decision has massive ramifications with people right down to even the non-verbals when communicating. The very best managers get the mega-millions per year from major corporations, and the bigger football programs are not that different in so many departments to manage with multitudes of people.

How many coaches have the Xs and Os of a CPA, the elite recruiting skills of the best salesman, and have top CEO management skills? About one in ten million, if not worse. That is why you can name on less than one hand the college coaches that reside in that rare club. The rest of coaches have weaknesses, and it simply depends upon where that weakness is. Willie Taggart was weak in the CEO side of things, while Mark Helfrich was superb with the Xs and Os, but was not a great leader or recruiter.

Mario Cristobal was a tremendous recruiter, but his weakness in the Xs and Os has been well chronicled here before. None are ideal, as they all come up short somewhere. I fully anticipated that I would not know for a year or so if we had enough indications about Coach Lanning, to see his strengths and weaknesses. But I believe that “Greatness and Weakness Emerge Early,” and I have been astounded at some early clues from the Dan-Man that get me excited.

Dan Lanning checks in with the Baseball Team.

I wrote recently of how an Oregon player felt that Lanning was “Brilliant” as he dazzled the gathering they had for viewing the Super Bowl. Lanning was calling out plays and coverages before they actually happened, and the impression upon the Ducks watching (compared to what they had seen before) made them believe that they were in the presence of an elevated Xs and Os understanding. Recent quotes from coaches on both sides of the ball affirmed that a factor in coming to Oregon was “the expertise of Dan Lanning.”

We have heard the stories of how Coach Lanning has quite the reputation for bringing in elite players at his prior coaching stops. In just a short time in Eugene he has turned a blown-apart recruiting class back up to quite respectable, and when the portal transfers into Oregon are accounted for–it is an amazing turnaround. Of course I would be negligent if I did not mention the No. 1 Offensive lineman and 5-Star that Lanning’s team attracted to Eugene recently over the biggest of the nations programs.

Yesterday the report on gave a quote about Coach Lanning when they were running the four/two minute drill;

“It’s practice for the players, but it’s practice for me, you know?” he said. “So I’m sitting here thinking, OK, when do we want to use a timeout, or how will we use a timeout? What’s the situation: Is the clock stopped? Is it not? Just more than anything, me coaching the coaches and me coaching myself; it’s an opportunity for me to get better.”

Holy Crap. Have you ever heard an Oregon Head Coach say that?  And to the press? And he does not realize how last fall the fans were enraged at seeing a time-out after half-time, and time off the clock wasted before halftime of a key game. We have a new coach walking-the walk with what he tells the players? Knock me over with a Duck feather…

Coach Lanning inspiring his team…

So we have checked the Xs and Os box, along with the master recruiter box, but what about the champion CEO skills needed? My friends, that was proven to me when he was coaching the Georgia defense to a National Championship, and yet assembling one of the finest staffs in the nation simultaneously.

Meanwhile an experienced former coach struggled to assemble a staff and it took him months to achieve what newbie Coach Lanning did in weeks. We have seen other clues in how he explains the strategy and purpose of his practices. He gives you the confident feeling that he has it all organized and figured out, of which is pretty good for his first time as a head coach.

I was telling a Duck-Buddy recently about these clues concerning his skills, and I wondered out loud….“Does Coach Lanning have it all? Could we be seeing the next Nick Saban of college football growing before our eyes?”

I know what you’re thinking. I exemplify the wacko-wailings of a fan who wants to believe. Yet the examples and evidence–while still in the early stages, are compelling thus far. To me, this is part of my entertainment of Oregon football, to watch for Lanning’s progression in those three areas, and to see how they translate into wins over the next three years. This is the earliest I’ve noted these skills in a new coach, and I’ll be watching for more because…

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

Charles Fischer   (Mr. FishDuck)
Eugene, Oregon
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