Would Willie Taggart Have Outperformed Mario Cristobal?

Charles Fischer, Mr. FishDuck Editorials

These are not two of your favorite people to contemplate right now, but I would ask for your indulgence and fantasizing along with me. I understand how people are angry at Coach Willie Taggart for leaving after only one year, but if Coach Mario Cristobal had been offered his dream job in Florida after only one year–wouldn’t he have bolted as well? Let’s pretend that Florida State did not come calling, and that Taggart was here for 2017, and then for Cristobal’s four years; would Taggart have outperformed Cristobal from 2018-2021?

It is an interesting point to ponder, but we have to put on some blinders to make it work; we cannot bring the “Brenner” case into it, because while it would have hung over the program–it did not affect recruiting for Taggart’s one year (2018) that he began and Cristobal finished up with. We also have to pretend that the staff remained intact over that period, of which can help this fantasy, but also hurt it in some areas. It is a fascinating question for me, because even with my issues with Taggart about his character–I’m thinking he would have brought more wins to Oregon than Cristobal.

Who REALLY Broke the Oregon Recruiting Glass Ceiling?

Coach Taggart had a recruiting class ranked in the top five with both 247 and Rivals when he left, and Coach Cristobal did a remarkable job retaining most of the verbals, but he did finish at No. 13 in the 2018 Rivals standings. It was Willie Taggart who proved to Oregon fans that great recruiting could happen at Oregon, and Cristobal continued that recruiting legacy of which began in 2017. Players loved being in the combo offense under Marcus Arroyo that was primarily the original Oregon Spread, complemented by Taggart’s Gulf-Coast Offense.

Opening Day of 2017; how much better would Herbert have become?

In the games when Justin Herbert was not hurt in 2017, the offense averaged nearly 50 points a game, and it was exciting to be a part and certainly continued the scoring “brand” that Oregon was known for nationally at that time.  I believe that Taggart would have expanded on his success in recruiting as his offense would have pulled in the elite running backs and receivers that eluded Cristobal. Meanwhile, when Oregon limped to a 7-6 victory in the Redbox Bowl, and even Mario admitted that changes would be needed on offense. (How about not changing what worked for the decade before you?)

I firmly believe that had Taggart stayed…the “Plodding-Pistol” would not have been the centerpiece of the offense, in fact I believe the opposite would have occurred. The enormous success of the Oregon Spread with the Gulf-Coast offense would have produced a no-brainer decision to deemphasize the Pistol formation and flow with a higher scoring offense. The players that Taggart would have attracted when you consider the Oregon Brand at that time? Whew!

The Defense Would Have Been Different Too…

The 2018 defense under Jim Leavitt gave up a very respectable 25 points per game, and had Taggart not left–he would not have been in the bad mood as when Cristobal was elevated. I believe Oregon’s growing success under Taggart would have attracted great defensive players to Oregon similar to when Arik Armstead and DeForest Buckner joined the Ducks during the times of offensive explosions. We would not have had the extraordinary year of 2019 when the Andy Avalos defense only gave up 16 points per game. But under Leavitt–Oregon would have been winning, while the other defensive years other than 2019 under Avalos were not spectacular.

Sack-masters like Arik Armstead would have joined Taggart, with his high-scoring offense.

High scoring offenses attract pass-rushers, as they know opponents will be passing extensively to stay pace or catch up, and that presents opportunities to create huge sack numbers. (The opposite is the opportunity under the Cristobal offense) Would Oregon have signed Thibs? If not, I believe plenty of other quality defensive linemen would have joined the Ducks since the defensive line coach would have been the same, regardless. (Joe Salave’a)

What About the Games That Got Away?

If instead of averaging 32-35 points per game during Cristobal’s time…what if Oregon averaged closer to 40-42 points per game? (Oregon averaged 45 points a game for four years straight between Chip Kelly and Mark Helfrich) How many of those games that Cristobal lost to less-talented teams could have been saved? Do you think the loss at Arizona State in 2019 could have been avoided with one more touchdown? (28-31) Or how much different would Willie Taggart’s fourth-and-one call would have been against Auburn? It is staggering to consider it all…

What if the massive holes and cutback lanes that Kani Benoit enjoyed in 2017 had continued?

I was talking with FishDuck Analyst Mike West about this topic and he insists that 2018 (9-4) and 2019 (12-2) would have been Playoff years for the Ducks under Taggart! Effectively the question becomes…“if Oregon scored a touchdown more per game with the Taggart offense, how good would Oregon had been?” Whew! It certainly would have been better for Coach Taggart’s career than his time at Florida State! Let’s discuss it in our “forum-with-decorum” because…

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

Charles Fischer   (Mr. FishDuck)
Eugene, Oregon
Top Photo by Gary Breedlove

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