There is a certain renewed sense of hope and energy within the Oregon football boosters and alum. Josh Wilcox has been very vocal about his dislike of Oregon’s previous coach – but how much of that is related to Taggart’s inadequate attempt to reach out to former Ducks from the pre-2010 era and how much is related to Oregon having passed over Justin Wilcox for the job?
The reality that Taggart did not call Dave Wilcox – one of the few former Ducks in the NFL Hall-of-Fame – was a slap in the face to the program in some respects. Yes, Taggart took that now infamous picture with Mike Bellotti and Rich Brooks upon his arrival, but it seemed contrived even in the moment.
As the hire was announced, many were unimpressed; looking at his porous defense in 2016 and lack of time to complete recruiting, the expectations were bleak. The Ducks shot for the sun and instead got a passing comet – it seemed. Then Taggart hired Jim Leavitt, Joe Salave’a, Charles Clark, Brian Heyward for the defense and all seemed to be okay among many.The later addition of Mario Cristobal following the David Reaves departure was viewed as doing for the offense what Leavitt would do for the defense; change its identity.
Recruiting picked up significant steam and the fans (and boosters) amped up their own excitement. Suddenly the passing comet seemed like a burgeoning star. The defense improved, recruiting improved and suddenly, the most vocal critics quieted – until Taggart bolted for Florida State.
It is a bit of revisionist history for those saying ‘never’ and ‘always’ as it relates to the hiring of Taggart. Many were skeptical at first, but most bought in at some point during his 11-plus months in Eugene. Whether it was the unrealistic seeming recruiting momentum, a budding superstar at quarterback or the blowout win against rival Oregon State, most said ‘I’m on board’ with the direction of the program.
Was Taggart a ‘used car salesman?’ Maybe. But the idea that he was longing to leave is a bit misconstrued. When he purchased David Yost’s former home, he poured a lot of money into it – more than he could get back in less than a year. That was an investment in a three or four-year stay
Nonetheless, rumors percolated that Willie Taggart's family was not entirely happy in Eugene and that they longed for a return home. While there is always a discomfort in leaving what you know and love (trust me on that), they were making it work the best they could.
But were they truly invested on a more personal level? I don’t think anyone can definitively answer that question – but actions tend to speak louder than words at times and that is what makes the hire of Mario Cristobal more exciting for those fans and alum like Wilcox. Mario Cristobal has reached out to people like Dave Wilcox.
His wife Jessica already seems excited to be in Oregon. The excitement she feels, the passion and energy she seems to bring with her can be a difference maker for this staff. Sure, it will still be about winning games; in the end it always is. But there is a difference between being invested in property and being invested in a lifestyle.
When you add in Cristobal’s more holistic approach to tapping into the past of Oregon football as well as his approach to the future of the program, there just seems to be a family fully invested in something more than a few more wins. And that is a good thing.
#TBT to last weekend at Hoodoo. I’m absolutely loving this #oregonlife !!!— Jessica Cristobal (@JessCristobaLLL) February 27, 2018
Every weekend is an adventure of exploration and seeing the most incredible parts of this awesome state. #goducks #cristOballinontheslopes pic.twitter.com/t19Pn2WB7c