Rallying around responsibility
The Oregon football team has a first-year head coach.
If the fan base hasn’t tired of hearing this fact as justification for a possible downturn in performance after last year’s 10-win season, last Thursday night brought that fact to the forefront, and then some. To call what happened on national television a game is to insult the Boise State defense (which pushed around Oregon’s offensive players with little resistance in the 19-8 rout) and exaggerate the overall quality of play (five total turnovers and numerous bad snaps, dropped passes and basic execution miscues).
Chip Kelly failed in his head coaching debut. Try to forget, if possible, everything that happened after the clock struck zero, which definitely will affect some people’s judgment of Kelly. That cannot mask an overly conservative game plan, tentative adjustments and a complete inability to convert first downs in basic situations (fourth and a yard, third and two).
You know it and I know it, but the entire country has just opened its eyes to it. The Ducks are no longer in the Associated Press Top 25 poll, instead awarded the fifth spot in ESPN’s informal “Bottom 10” poll. Some possibly biased circles see Oregon as the newest Thug U. The Titanic had a more encouraging debut performance.
In one respect, there is undue pressure foisted upon Chip Kelly. He remains the only “coach-in-waiting”-designee to have been successfully promoted to the head job. However, the players have to take responsibility.
In the Ducks’ case, it’s more than just going out and thrashing the Purdue Boilermakers before a still-supportive crowd. Thanks to the actions of one individual, every player will be scrutinized for every action made. The culmination of those actions will speak for Kelly’s coaching. Said Boise State defensive tackle Billy Winn after Oregon’s postgame fiasco, “Their actions speak for their team. Something like that shows you what they’re being coached. If they were coached better than that, he wouldn’t have thrown that punch.”
The Ducks should take this as a personal insult. Players knew the stakes when athletic director Mike Bellotti left his head coaching position to the young offensive coordinator who had previously worked for New Hampshire. They were given the opportunity to walk if they were unsatisfied with the direction of the program, and several did. Those who stayed assumed the responsibility of responding to their new coaches in addition to their efforts on the field.
Chip Kelly is certainly not Mike Bellotti, but I have never seen any ill will actively directed toward Kelly and his actions since he entered the program. If this season is to accomplish anything, the Ducks must rally around their coach and work with him to understand everything that happened against Boise State. Every player on Oregon’s roster chose to play football at Oregon. Kelly does not take his job for granted, and his players need to help him fill Bellotti’s shoes to the best of his ability.
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