Kelly has flirted with the NFL before, and after some initial talks this offseason, he insisted he was staying in Eugene.
That didn’t last long, but the Ducks already had a contingency plan ready, so when Kelly headed east to take over as the Philadelphia Eagles‘ head coach, there was no delay in announcing his successor.
Oregon’s offensive coordinator, Mark Helfrich, was promoted to head coach. Done and done. Elevating Helfrich allows the Ducks to maintain consistency in their signature high-flying, fast-paced offense, and since he’s been with the program for three seasons, the current players are familiar with him and his expectations and the adjustment period will be minimal.
Stepping into Helfrich’s role as offensive coordinator is another internal hire, Scott Frost. Frost, who was the wide receivers coach at Oregon for the last four seasons, will officially take over Helfrich’s duties as both OC and quarterbacks’ coach.
Not only are the “new” coaches old hands at managing the Ducks’ zippy offense, but Oregon also has returning stars at quarterback and running back/receiver/returner with redshirt sophomore Marcus Mariota and rising junior De’Anthony Thomas.
It’s a win-win situation for the coaches and the players, at least on offense. The coaches have a roster full of talented personnel, and since they’re already familiar with the players, they have a jump start on preparing for the year. The players, similarly, have already worked closely with these coaches and will be able to trust them immediately.
Yes, the top-notch facilities and limitless uniform combinations and all the other benefits of Nike funding certainly help the program, but the real reason the Ducks have been continually successful is because they’ve been able to build – and maintain – a program that is incredibly functional.
From athletic director (and former coach) Mike Bellotti to Kelly and now Helfrich, Oregon has developed a signature playing style and brought in the players to support it, and by promoting from within, the program has been able to maintain its high level of success despite turnover on the roster and the coaching staff.
There’s a popular old saying: “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” That’s how the Oregon football program operates these days, and like the Oregon offense, many other teams have tried it, but few can do execute it quite as well as the Ducks.