Oregon offensive coordinator Mark Helfrich may have been all smiles during the Ducks’ Fiesta Bowl blowout win over Kansas State, but head coach Chip Kelly’s sudden departure from Eugene is no laughing matter.
Helfrich may now be asked to step up and take on the reins of the entire program.
In late December, prior to the Fiesta Bowl, rumors were swirling that Kelly was as good as gone from the program he had built into a national powerhouse. In fact, the day after the Ducks’ big win, Browns owner Jimmy Haslam and his entourage had flown to Arizona to meet with Kelly. So did the decision-makers for the Arizona Cardinals. And those from the Buffalo Bills.
And the Philadelphia Eagles.
However, despite all the incessant chatter and all the interviews, Kelly initially declined each and every one of those job offers, choosing instead to return to the college campus where he had been practically idolized.
His decision absolutely shocked and thrilled Ducks fans everywhere, including celebrity alum Mat Kearney.
All the smiles and all the celebrations, however, proved wildly premature. Kelly, on Wednesday, shocked the sports world and bolted the comfy confines of his Eugene campus to take on the vacant head coaching position with the Philadelphia Eagles.
It is already incredibly late in the coaching game. Most, if not all, of the head coaching vacancies across college and professional football have been filled — and they have been filled by men seen as competent, driven, and primed to succeed in their new digs. No one hires a coach expecting to fire him three years later.
Thus, the Ducks may not have too many options in terms of where to turn now that Kelly has flown the coup. However, we reported prior to the Fiesta Bowl that Helfrich, only 39 years old and already the team’s offensive coordinator for four years, may end up being the perfect candidate. Obviously the school’s search committee will not have to fly across the country to interview him.
Helfrich understands the ins and outs of the Ducks’ offense, and it has been the program’s high-flying, track meet of an offense that has carried it to national prominence in recent years. Further, he is very familiar with the players already on board and with the current recruiting efforts of the staff. He will be able to instill confidence in the high school kids currently committed to the school but shaken by Kelly’s departure.
There was also a little buzz regarding ousted San Diego Chargers coach Norv Turner, himself a brilliant offensive mind. However, reports have indicated that Turner will remain in the NFL as an assistant with the Cleveland Browns.
Beyond Helfrich and even Turner we will hear the requisite rumors regarding Boise State’s Chris Peterson and former Oakland Raiders and Tampa Bay Bucs coach Jon Gruden.
However, as advice for mourning Ducks fans, now would be the time to embrace Helfrich, a young man with confidence and the know-how to keep the program up there amongst the nation’s elite — and not to hold your breath for a Peterson or a Gruden.
Who would you like to see Oregon hire, Ducks Nation? Sound off below!