I think it is time to put the ‘Helfrich bashing’ to rest. There is an old saying that everyone rises to a level where their position exceeds their competence – except for the very few who excel when they reach the highest levels.
Sports is entertainment, but a high pressure entertainment for those who run organizations like Oregon football. With the high dollar contracts come high expectations. When those expectations are not met, then people are fired. I won’t tell anyone to have sympathy for a man who got paid $11 million dollars when he was fired. I will say, let it go.
Mark Helfrich inherited a program that seemed at the top, but also spent the first three years of his tenure under NCAA probation. With that came a lot of negative recruiting. Official visits were severely constricted as were off-campus evaluations. He did what he thought was best; created an aura of exclusivity around Oregon offers. Sometimes that worked, and others it did not.
But truthfully, the constant need to rehash his failures during this renaissance of Oregon football not only seems petty and spiteful, it also does a disservice to the hard work of the new staff.
Willie Taggart has a staff assembled that is like an all-star team of recruiters. It would be difficult for just about any coaching staff at a school not named Alabama, Michigan, USC or Ohio State to recruit at the level Oregon is recruiting right now. So maybe the difference is not so much that Mark Helfrich’s approach failed, but that Taggart and his staff are just that much better.
Remember what US Olympic Basketball looked like prior to 1992? There were some very good basketball players. But then The Dream Team came along and it was different level stuff.
I know that almost everyone talked about ‘The Oregon Way’ as a good thing, until it became a bad thing. But that is the nature of being a fan. The truth was, much of that Oregon way was a good thing. What was missing was not the aura of exclusivity, it wasn’t that the Ducks weren’t reaching out to all of the same types of kids that Taggart and staff are now; it is that there was not the same vibe around the program. An aura only works if there is actually an aura.
Mark Helfrich knew the perils of taking over after a ‘legend’ and he embraced the challenge. His failure to succeed at the level of expectations placed upon him is not anything which should cause us to continue the narrative.
Mark Helfrich worked hard. He worked as hard as Willie Taggart. He was just not as successful.
For me, I am just going to let it go. I would rather revel in the success of the current staff without it being a comparative need to remind us of past failures. Taggart said recruiting is like grooming. I will use brushing your teeth as a perfect example here. When you brush your teeth, all of those food particles that can cause bad breath, tooth decay and gum disease are washed away. Let’s ‘brush our teeth’ so to speak in terms of recruiting. The past can no longer haunt us.
As long as we keep brushing our teeth, we will be fine.