Today's game, while it had plenty of execution errors that lay at the feet of the players, was not about the players. It was about coaching.
Right now, Mark Helfrich looks to be in way over his head.
When you have a Ferrari, and give the keys to someone who has never driven a car before, you probably ought to expect a car wreck.
The last three games have been exactly that; a car wreck.
After the Stanford loss, I said that the practices this year have lacked the discipline of previous years. I heard that from someone who would absolutely know and it shows on the field.
This team is acting without discipline at just about every turn. Players are talking out of turn; coaches are talking about things that were not talked about under Chip Kelly.
Mark Helfrich looks like a deer in the headlights. He is trying to be Chip Kelly in the interview room, but seems to be going through the mimicking motions on game day. The flow of the offense is clearly different as they have, pretty much, abandoned the run first attitude of the Oregon offense.
There was a lot of talk about the "Oregon Way" earlier this season when an unnamed defender put notice to Thomas Tyner that he was just another cog in the wheel and not a superstar. Unfortunately, there are signs that the Oregon Way has been lost in translation this season.
The Oregon Way is not about telling players not to be superstars; it is about an ever present overpowering focus on every detail. Kelly reeled in players that talked out of turn. And Kelly made the "Win The Day" mentality a daily approach to everything this team did on and off the field. Every game was the Super Bowl.
Helfrich has abandoned this as well. Well, maybe Helfrich hasn't in his own mind, but he HAS allowed his team to abandon this mindset. We have heard coaches talk about rivalries and revenge. We have herd players talk about being disappointed in the Rose Bowl, apparently forgetting that a Rose Bowl berth means the team has WON a conference title.
To be fair, I understand the thoughts that Josh Huff and De'Anthony Thomas were trying to convey; in a season where the team (and fans) truly believed that they were headed back to the National Championship Game, losing out on that opportunity IS disappointing. The difference is that under Kelly, no one would have talked about the title game in the first place.
Helfrich has allowed the team to soften in their approach to many things. And that has followed on to the field.
Can the problems be fixed? Yes. But it's going to take a little bit of personality transplant from the staff.
The Pac-12 has had a tremendous influx of coaching talent in the past couple of seasons and the rest of the conference is starting to catch up to the Ducks. If Oregon wants to continue to be a factor in the national title discussion every year, the coaches are going to have to up the ante on themselves.
Win the day? These coaches need to win the off-season. Otherwise, Oregon could find themselves in the same territory as Washington within a year... perennial bowl team which is not a factor in the conference title race.