Drukarev: Assistant coach continuity key to future football success

Take a deep breath, Duck fans. Chip Kelly still resides in the 541 and, as far as we know, will be coaching Oregon’s football team next season. In fact, as I write this column, Mr. Kelly is probably in the living room of some talented recruit, explaining his dalliance with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and his reasons for ultimately staying in Oregon.

Since news of Kelly’s flirtation and then break up with Tampa became public last Sunday, scribes from Eugene to Florida have spent the better part of the week analyzing the ramifications of Kelly’s potential move. I, too, have considered the future of Oregon’s program without its visor-wearing leader and have to say: It looks bright.

I realize having an optimistic view of Oregon’s long-term football future isn’t exactly going out on a limb. In the hours when it appeared Kelly was headed for Florida, the consensus was that Oregon would be fine, whether it promoted Mark Helfrich or Scott Frost or hired a high-profile coach like Boise State’s Chris Petersen or TCU’s Gary Patterson. The prevailing view claimed Oregon’s football infrastructure — the multi-million dollar facilities, fan support, institutional support and overwhelming financial support — would keep the program trending in a positive direction. @@[email protected]@ @@[email protected]@ @@[email protected]@

I wholeheartedly agree with that claim. But while money, facilities and institutional support are key reasons for Oregon’s future success, Duck fans shouldn’t ignore yet another critical component: assistant coaching staff continuity.

When Chip Kelly leaves Oregon — something most agree will happen at some point — it’s hard to see him taking many current Duck assistants with him. This isn’t a situation like the departure of Jim Harbaugh from Stanford, when both the Cardinal’s offensive and defensive coordinator left for the NFL with him. @@[email protected]@

The difference? While Greg Roman and Vic Fangio spent a combined three seasons at Stanford before uprooting to the pros (and given the proximity between Palo Alto and San Francisco, “uprooting” may not be the proper term) Oregon’s assistant coaches have roots here in Eugene. Oregon lifers like Gary Campbell and Don Pellum have coached the Ducks for more years than I’ve been alive, and that’s not to mention longtime assistants like Nick Aliotti and Steve Greatwood. @@[email protected]@ @@[email protected]@ @@[email protected]@

So essentially, unless Kelly completely guts Oregon’s coaching staff — an unlikely move for the aforementioned reasons — Oregon will likely retain a number of experienced assistants.

When the time comes for Kelly to move to greener pastures, that continuity will be paramount for Oregon to maintain its current football success. The long-tenured assistant coaches know the ins and outs of Duck football better than anyone. They know what techniques to use to lure talented recruits to Eugene, and more importantly, what not to say. The assistants have coached at Oregon in a variety of offensive systems and know what works best.

Moreover, the assistants are the behind-the-scenes pieces to the style that distinguishes Oregon from its competitors. With bloated TV contracts and soaring ticket prices, other schools will be able to finance their football programs — the hiring of Rich Rodriguez at Arizona and Mike Leach at Washington State are evidence of that. But the patented Oregon speed and swag? That’s another matter entirely.

All that to say, while Chip Kelly is an unmistakably large part of Oregon’s recent football success, the past few decades of football growth and innovation play an equally large role. From top-notch facilities to innovative uniforms, Oregon football has perfected its patented formula. Continuity among its assistant coaches is a critical part of Oregon’s one-of-a-kind brand, and as long as that remains, Oregon football will be successful for the foreseeable future, no matter who the head coach is. The components of the Oregon football machine are simply too powerful.

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