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.