This week at SB Nation in a segment they named “Easy Call,” columnists Dan Rubenstein, Spencer Hall, and Bud Elliott discussed the PAC-12 Conference over a beer and a fried fish sandwich.
The sandwich looked delicious, but Hall’s comments on the Oregon Ducks were harder to swallow.
He said the Ducks were likely to fall back this season because of “the Helfrich effect,” that mediocrity under the headset would continue to drift the team back toward the pack in the PAC-12.
“They’re just seem like a less cohesive, coherent unit. They just seem less threatening offensively. And less dominant on the run, which was the bread and butter of the Chip Kelly offense.”
Hall continued, “It will be interesting to see if they take a step forward and develop a new identity, or if they continue to take this gentle slide down.”
People have opinions, because 40-odd days before the season starts, it’s all the football we have.
Still it’s clear that 2014 will be the year Oregon fans make up their minds about the coach who replaced Chip Kelly. There’s enough talent to win a conference title, but in college football, coaching makes a bigger difference than in any other sport. Great coaches fuse their programs with an identity and a resolve. Alabama was 10-23 under Mike Shula in 2003-2006. Nick Saban has taken the same university to three national championships. Urban Meyer won two titles at Florida. The same program is 22-16 under Will Muschamp.
Helfrich is principled, intelligent, dedicated and congenial. He has to improve his organizational and motivational skills to become a great football coach. It’s too early to say he can’t, but 2013 was not conclusive.