Keeping it in the family
The Oregon Ducks knew who their next head coach was going to be even before Chip Kelly made his decision to leave. According to George Schroeder from USA Today Sports, the University of Oregon planned to promote offensive coordinator Mark Helfrich if Kelly spurned them for the NFL.
Sure enough, Kelly is gone, and Helfrich has become the new face of the team from Eugene.
But while the team knew who their guy was going to be, the question becomes, did they make the right choice?
Helfrich doesn’t have a ton of experience, but then again, neither did Kelly. The higher-ups at Oregon seem to know what they’re doing, and there are a few big reasons to believe in the decision they’ve made heading into the 2013 season.
If the Ducks had hired a bigger name from outside the program, you could kiss goodbye everything Chip Kelly worked to establish.
It’s true that there were bigger names available, but the University of Oregon has become known for so much more than just X’s and O’s. The ‘Win The Day’ mantra and the up-tempo offense became staples of the Ducks, and quite frankly, the fan base would be disappointed if those things completely disappeared.
Helfrich not only has an understanding of the playbook, but he recognizes the importance of the culture. He’s different from Kelly in a lot of ways, but he’ll slowly integrate his system into the routines of the past, which had been so successful.
If Chip Kelly did anything wrong during his time at Oregon—and this is nitpicking for UO football fans—it was that he rubbed the media and the boosters the wrong way.
Simply put, this is never going to be a problem with Helfrich.
From a personality standpoint, Helfrich much more resembles Oregon State Beavers coach Mike Riley than Kelly. He is the kind of guy who is going to smile and shake hands every occasion he gets, and he is going to make a lot of friends along the way.
Quick Hire, Player-endorsed
Coach Kelly couldn’t have left at a more inopportune time. Nobody can blame him for taking his talents to the next level, but making the decision to do so right in the heart of recruiting season makes it tough to swallow as Ducks fans.
The university needed a head coach before National Signing Day, and they worked swiftly to make that happen.
Not only did they make a quick hire, but they made one that the current players in the locker room seem to endorse. It’s possible that Oregon loses recruits with this coaching change, but if you’re taking care of the ones you’ve already got, getting them the right guy is important.
The players at Oregon love the system in which they play—that’s why they go to Oregon and not a pro-style offense somewhere else. Helfrich knows the system, he knows the players and it’s important to keep your top-tier athletes from jumping ship when change takes place.
A More Versatile Offense
As fun as Chip Kelly’s offense was to watch, there’s no denying he struggled to compete against bigger defenses. Oregon historically doesn’t recruit big players to protect its run game, and with the ground attack being the primary part of the offense, it became tough to stray away from the plan.
With Helfrich making the calls, the Ducks can be expected to throw the ball more often moving forward.
Oregon needs a ground game to be successful, and the new head coach knows that. But they also have to feel comfortable throwing the ball, and that’s the combination that Helfrich is going to strive for.
He is a former quarterback, himself, and he appears to recognize that having a reliable throwing game can make all the difference when you’re getting swallowed up at the line against bigger, stronger opponents.
Oregon for Life
When Chip Kelly was promoted to the head coach position at Oregon, you knew it wasn’t going to last forever. Mike Bellotti was essentially forced out of his spot as a way of keeping Kelly in town, and the university felt like a stepping stone as the young coach moved on to something bigger and better.
The feeling with Helfrich couldn’t be much different, as he’s not just an Oregon employee—he’s an Oregon fan.
As a Coos Bay native, Helfrich has cheered for this team since his days as a young observer. According to Adam Jude of The Oregonian, Helfrich considers this position “the opportunity of a lifetime,” and that he jokingly asked for a lifetime contract.
How long Helfrich sticks around has yet to be determined, but when it comes down to it, you know you’re getting a guy who wants to be here—not a guy who is looking for the next great opportunity.