Mark Helfrich was Oregon’s offensive coordinator for years under offensive mastermind Chip Kelly. When Kelly skipped out on the Ducks to coach the Philadelphia Eagles in the NFL, Helfrich was named the man’s successor to continue the program’s high-flying ways.
Well, the man has hardly been on the job for more than a minute and already he is ruffling some feathers. In an interview with the Sporting News, Helfrich was asked about his quarterback, the elite dual-threat star, Marcus Mariota. In 2012, Mariota threw for 2,677 yards, 32 touchdowns and only six interceptions. He added another 752 yards and five scores on the ground as he led Oregon to a Fiesta Bowl victory over Kansas State and Heisman finalist Colin Klein.
However, while all of that is spectacular for a redshirt freshman, it all only made Mariota the second-best at his position for his class — Texas A&M’s Johnny Manziel took the nation by storm in becoming the first frosh to win the coveted Heisman Trophy.
Helfrich was asked about the fact that, at one point, the Ducks had both Manziel and Mariota committed to play in Eugene. Despite the fact that Manziel took home the hardware and set records, he was blunt in his support of his guy.
“We had Johnny and Marcus both committed,” Helfrich says, “and we ended up with the taller, faster, better-looking guy.”
Before Gig ‘Em Nation heads out to the streets and starts burning Oregon jerseys, Sporting News went on to mention that Helfrich was joking. But let’s be honest, none of us would be surprised if he really meant it.
Mariota did not exactly shy away from the comparison, either. Nor did he exactly pay Manziel’s game the type of respect a Heisman might garner.
“Backyard football,” is the term Mariota used to describe the style of play that beat Alabama and went on to break Cam Newton’s SEC single-season yardage record.
“For a lot of us, it’s how we were introduced to the game—just going out and making plays. I’d like to do that. It would be fun. But it would be outside of my calling here.”
Mariota’s words smack of a backhanded compliment. He says that he would like to play Johnny Football’s style. However, it sounds like he feels his game is so practiced and precise that he has no hope of ever doing anything except playing beautifully perfect football.
As great as both young men are, and as high as the expectations are for both of their teams, the likelihood of their meeting in a bowl game (or playoff or, fingers crossed, title game) are high.
At that point, Manziel may revisit Mariota’s words.
And he may just dodge, duck, dip, dive and dodge his way to a big victory.