football Edit

Flock Talk: Most Precarious


Coaching at an elite level is precarious at best. Remember when Chip Kelly was a genius? Did he stop being a genius? Did the rest of the world catch up to him? Did he lose the fire? Or is there some combination of all those things and some other indeterminate factor?

Around Duck Sports Authority, we don’t look back too often lamenting the loss of what is no longer in the locker room – we look forward. But there is value at looking to the plight of Chip Kelly. As many are correct to point out, the situation into which Kelly stepped was not tailor made to immediate success. Some people felt his coaching acumen would take less talented players, instill discipline, create an offensive identity and start rolling very quickly.

But this is still the UCLA where the head coach and defensive coordinator got into a screaming match n the sidelines during a game. That was 2014 – some of the players at UCLA last season were on that sideline. Culture shock is a difficult thing to overcome and changing culture even more difficult.

Why do we bring this up? It is an important lesson in the realities of college football and could be directly applicable to current Oregon head coach Mario Cristobal. Cristobal is known to have a lot of passion and energy directed toward the sport; he is a man with high aspirations. But he is not infatuated with the NFL as Kelly was; and he is not someone for whom a ‘dream job’ is always at the doorstep. Right now, he is in his dream job and he knows very well the perils of chasing down that which might be unattainable.

That’s not to say that he is never going to leave. At some point it seems inevitable that someone will come calling and he will take that call. What he has done, however, in his short tenure thus far is to take the culture that used to exist in Eugene and reinvent it. The Ducks have an identity which – to the chagrin of many – is defensive oriented right now. But more importantly, there are no excuses. He believed Oregon could recruit at an elite level; he believed that Oregon could have a strong presence in the trenches; he believed elite play-makers would want to play in Eugene.

Belief, though, is not enough. He had those beliefs; and then he went to work. He is relentless on the recruiting trail and he is relentless in the film room. Everything he does is with a purpose. Most importantly, unlike Chip Kelly, he has not abandoned his own identity.

While many watch UCLA and see a tepid version of what Oregon used to be; that could not be further from the truth. Kelly has tried to bring his NFL experience back to the college game; he wanted to re-revolutionize the college world. Apparently, he forgot the story of Charlie Weis. College athletes only have 20 hours per week to work on their craft; professional football players work full time; overtime; on theirs. Sixty hours of work can absorb the complex schemes demanded in the NFL; twenty cannot. Sometimes ‘significant schematic advantages’ are worth as much as the paper on which they are written.

Mario Cristobal is a student of the game; he knows enough of the history of college football to understand that a coach has to stay true to his core beliefs; otherwise he is living on the edge of a most precarious cliff.

The tight-wires strung and you're out in the middle All eyes upon you no net below Inches to go and you're almost home free Feel the wires swaying to and fro Feel the wires swaying to and fro

Doesn't it seem most precarious


Devon Williams is in the transfer portal. For him this is also a precarious position. While his athleticism is undeniable, he is also a third string receiver with five career receptions. While someone is going to give him another chance, he is on that high wire right now.

USC no longer has to honor his scholarship and if no one else comes calling; where would he turn? This is the risk of the portal. However, you can be sure that he has talked to enough people to know that there is still interest. That interest includes Oregon.

Will he sign with the Ducks? That is difficult to say. He was very disappointed with his playing time at USC and the depth at Oregon does not look particularly promising for him. I don’t think that this is a slam dunk for Oregon this time around. If he still wants to stay close to home there is a team across the city that is in dire need of athletes. Also keep an eye to the North. I know that the Huskies would love to add someone like Williams and will make a case with he and his family.

I have reached out to him and will let you know if I hear anything directly.