Sunday, September 25, 2016

September 25, 2016
So, I am not going to defend or condemn any of the coaches. What I will say is this; about 12 years ago I coined a phrase following the 2004 season when everyone called for Bellotti and staff to be fired: Arkansas Syndrome.

It is about 545 miles from Fayetteville, AR to Tuscaloosa, Alabama yet they might as well be a million miles apart. Arkansas has neither the tradition nor the identity to be on the same level as Alabama - and yet when they could not win national titles under their best coach since the 70's, he was unceremoniously fired. A sequence of coaches has left the team mired in mediocrity. The reason? they thought that they could simply bring in the best of the best; that every great coach was drooling over the job.

This is the same thing that happened when Oregon fired Ernie Kent. Everyone thought "Tom Izzo, Brad Stevens" and a list of the best of the best coaches. In my opinion, none of the 'big boy' names are coming to Oregon. The only name bandied about which might have some plausibility is Todd Orlando. Tom Herman Ain't coming. Nick Saban, Urban Meyer, Jim Harbaugh, none of them. So, IF Oregon were to fire the staff, they'd have to find an 'up and comer' who can turn the program around... but there are very few who can change the team as quickly as the aforementioned 'big boys.' Which means that this team is going to be middle of the pack for a couple of years longer than that - giving fans even more reasons to criticize, complain, and call for firings...

Personally, I doubt Helfrich gets fired for 6-6. The team lost almost the entire starting front seven from last season, a freshman starting at Safety, a freshman starting at LB, is attempting to institute a new defense, has four redshirt freshmen staring on the OL, has already suffered two season ending surgeries, and an injury to their top RB and top TE causing both to miss this game.

Further, while wins matter in college football, they are not the sole source of evaluative data for the Athletics department. Unlike the NFL where the only thing that matters is wins and losses, APR, GPA and other academic concerns also carry significant weight in how coaches are evaluated. Fans have the choice to give up their tickets, write the athletic department and speak with their wallets as a consumer, that is what people do when they are dissatisfied with a product. But I have a different view of college athletics. To me, this is not toothpaste, a car or any other product. It is my alma mater; and these are 18-21 year old students. I don't buy season tickets as some sort of product solely intended for my entertainment and consumption; I do so because I support my university through thick and thin; and I do so because I know that this university is a great place and is doing good in the world. It is my entertainment (I don't hunt or fish), and it is my love. I do not abandon those who I love.

USC has the kind of resouces most only dream of; and a fertile recruiting ground, long history, and even they cannot dominate for 20 years. "Runs" come to an end. USC, Texas, Florida, Tennessee, all had long successful runs which came to an end. Oregon has also seen (most likely) their long run of brilliance come to an end. I will not stop buying my season tickets; I will not stop donating money. It's not in my nature to do so.

Chip was lightning in a bottle; expecting to capture that a second time is asking for a lot; and begging for disappointment.

Now, does this mean I am happy with a mediocre team? Of course not. Am I going to be happy if the team keeps sinking further down the ladder of the Pac-12 Conference? Of course not. But my support will be unwavering. My love unquestioned, and I will enjoy the time I get to spend with my family and friends at tailgates just as much because there is nothing like the smell of BBQ on a Fall Saturday afternoon.

I was thinking the same thing last night - 2 plays from 4-0. Would people be looking for improvements still? Yes. But I think the people that simply do not like Helfrich would be calling for his head even if the team were 4-0.

The final play. This may have been a 'call at the LOS' by Prukop. Based on his comments he saw press, single coverage on Carrington's side and that has a known response: corner fade. That is generally true, and had it worked, I doubt people are as hypercritical. But that is a game management thing as well, two timeouts, just over 1:00 left on the clock, I think you run an inside zone read. I think that corner fade, if it's third down, I'd be okay with the decision.

Most importantly, that was an execution problem. Supposing that it is the right call to throw to a receiver who has outside leverage for a corner fade (oh, and he was open), you must, must, must, MUST throw to the pylon where it is either a catch or an incompletion. Prukop simply short-armed that throw. It was a poorly executed throw.

So, in my eyes, much of what we are finding fault is related to the lack of QB development (issue was addressed and Yost needs more than 4 games to get the results out of the position we are used to).

On the other side of the ball - I think we know what the issue is. I see a lot more pressure and plays being made by the defense, but I also see a lot of mistakes, players out of position, players with bad technique. Unlike some, I think that this team has some talent. I think the scheme last year was bad and its architect unable to make anything happen. The scheme is better, but there needs to be a lot of growth by the players.

And until we get into practices and get honest practice reports, we are left to scratch our heads. We always talked about, AJ, what would happen when the results on the field could no longer justify the fan exclusion. That time is coming, yet I doubt that the team decides to start having open practices.

The answer is that the depth at LB is poor. Oregon is giving significant PT to two former walk-ons; that says that there is a lack of development there. And they are being asked to do things, like the double ILB blitz, that sometimes exposes the rest of the defense because they lose leverage, or take bad angles, or miscommunicate at the line before the play.

There is also a lack of experience in the front 7. A lot of freshmen and redshirt freshmen getting a lot of playing time. I do not call for firings; not my thing. I have had the misfortune of having to fire people in the real world, and, in this case, that responsibility lay on the shoulders of Mark Helfrich and Rob Mullens, not Scott Reed. As you astutely pointed out yesterday, the mods here will not be calling out for coach firings.

What I say is this, the defense needs better players. They need better execution. But there are, contrary to popular opinions, signs of life. By most measures the second half defense, which was the issue in weeks 1 through 3, was better than the first half defense. They gave up only 2 of 6 on third downs as opposed to 4 of 6 in the first half. They got off the field, forced punts, created turnovers, started to get pressure on the QB. The explosion plays this year seem down despite the fact that the defense has been more aggressive. Those are positives. 


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