Andrew Greif posted a terrific article yesterday evening at oregonlive.com, talking about the ways new defensive coordinator Don Pellum already has brought new accountability and discipline to the team, insisting that players make a full effort in workouts and be on time. On time means early, Pellum says. Veterans are expected to set the pace in conditioning, and there's a greater sense of competition for starting roles.
Pushing buttons, pulling levers: finding the right mix of discipline and accountability is a constant challenge for a head coach. The game is supposed to be fun, but to succeed, training and practice have to be rigorous and the standards high (Soobum Images, USA Today Sports).
Greif quotes Tony Washington, who says things were allowed to slip last year. Little stuff, Washington says. “Guys missing workouts and guys coming up late, falling asleep in meetings,” Washington said on a recent misty morning after running with teammates inside Autzen Stadium. “If you let it slide it just builds up into just, ‘Oh maybe I can get away with this. Maybe I don’t have to play as hard on this play, maybe I can just show up and win,' and that hurt us in the end.”
That doesn't sound like little stuff. That sounds like a team with a serious discipline issue and an entitled attitude, and suggests that last year's November slide was more than just injuries, bad luck and a momentary lapse in focus.
If Pellum's commitment to organization, with backpacks in a row and everyone making their bed, rubs off on this team as a whole and produces a measurable change in the way the Ducks go about their business, that could be a good thing, but teams like Stanford and Michigan State regard this kind of discipline as a normal part of the work day. The Spartans conduct winter workouts at 5:30 in the morning. The Cardinal attend one of the most prestigious schools in the country, and they have a 100% graduation rate.
I like what the new DC has had to say so far and have come around to the conclusion that he could do a great job, but the team Washington describes doesn't sound like a Chip Kelly organization.
It's the kind of quote that makes you ask, who is in charge here, and what else is going on?
It could be that Oregon's turnovers, poor tackling, struggles in scoring territory and inopportune penalties in key games last year were symptoms of a team that lacked fundamental discipline in preparation.
After the loss to Arizona that dropped the Ducks out of national title and Rose Bowl contention. costing them a fourth straight trip to a BCS bowl and a chance at a fourth straight 12-win season, Helfrich had to suspend two players for a violation of team rules. Washington's comments make you wonder if the team had any rules.
If you put a group of 18-22-year-olds in a 68 million dollar building with Italian leather seats and a floor-to-ceiling Xbox screen, you had better make sure the adults are setting expectations for effort, commitment and devotion to achieving your potential. The Ducks recruit good kids and give them every tool to succeed, but football is a game that rewards consistency. Organization and discipline have to be woven into the fabric of everything you do.
The Italian marble showers and Brazilian hardwood floors are impressive, but they won't block and tackle anybody.
It's a more complicated time with Social Media and the increasingly intricate web of NCAA regulations, but when Pete Carroll was at USC, he always favored open practices. He felt it got the players competing, and ramped up the energy in drills and scrimmages. While having media and fans on hand could be a distraction and even a potential security risk with cell phone cameras and text messaging, it might improve the effort level also. Athletes live to be noticed and love to compete. Behind the high walls and black facade, it's easier to get too comfortable. Maybe some added transparency would benefit the team and connect it more securely to the Eugene community, help to weed out the laxity that Washington alluded to.
Off Topic: Here is an article I pulled from the San Francisco Chronicle "Pac-12 Networks wealth not shared with technicians". The author has an obvious bias but it is interesting none the less.
@DSH_Newton I see what you did there...
I agree that Washington's comments are a cause for concern, but I'm not sure how it results in this being a piece leading to the conclusion that Oregon should "open practices to the public." That smells more like a journalistic bias dressed up as a solution to a perceived problem.
I think that people are crazy not to expect growing pangs from a first year head coach taking over for probably one of the most influential football minds of all time, who had an otherwise unprecedented 4 year run of winning (i.e., statistical outlier for Oregon). When regular people get promoted to a new job with bigger responsibilities, it usually takes time to grow into the position. Frost had to grow into the OC job and still does as well.
Did we lose a little discipline and focus last year, seemingly yes, but we also lost a NFL all-pro lineman, the #2 all time leading rusher, and 3 NFL linebackers, including the NFL defensive rookie of the year. On top of that, the Pac 12 is better, top to bottom, than it ever was during Chip's tenure. Bottom line: our line play on both sides wasn't as good, and it cost us 2 games. Couldn't run between the tackles, couldn't stop the run. It happens. Part of football.
No team, even Alabama, comes out perfectly fired up and in sync for every game. It's impossible to be perfect, and news flash, the Ducks weren't perfect under Chip either. We lost 3 games his first year, only 2 in Helfrich's first year, in a much tougher Pac 12.
This article and a lot of the comments this offseason (to every article) implicate the players and coaches as being entitled. I'm glad you all know this to be a true since you've likely never met any of the coaches or players in person, and never attended a single practice. Way to know exactly what's going on inside closed doors.
As a life long Duck who came from the losing ways of the 1980's, I'd suggest the fans look in the mirror and ask who is being entitled. As fans, we don't put in ANY of the work that it takes to be great, to be champions, and to be a top 10 program year in and year out. It's so easy to demand and expect perfection from others, but it's a whole different thing to have to put in the daily work to live up to the unreasonable expectations of a bunch of entitled hypocrites who say they support you.
How about we all just love your Ducks and quit being so negative. Ever think that the fan base general negativity could be affecting these young, impressionable college students as well? Heads up Duck Fans, we might be part of the problem. Why don't we change that first and see how next year's team does with a little more support and less beavtrash finger pointing.
The US military deals with new 18-19 year olds every day. They know they need to mold them into a cohesive force and it starts with boot camp. Uniforms, haircuts, on time for a meeting means five minutes early, don't like the program then get or we will wash you out. Oregon is dealing with the same age group, the same attitudes and the same discipline issues. Colt Lyerla would not have lasted one week in any service boot camp. That is what I noticed last year right from the start. It seems that the Head Coach let Lyerla get away with a lot of slacking when he should have been booted early for the benefit of the team. There are other examples.
I have to wonder if too many of the staff just took too long to get up to speed in their new positions last year.
As the Chipper said: "You don't necessarily rise to the occasion, you sink to the level of your preparation." It is up to the coaches to expect/demand that preparation, and to push for it daily.
Of all the questions I had about last year's team, the discipline questioned loomed the largest. And this article validates that. The dropped passes and missed assignments all pointed to a less disciplined approach in practice, expectations, etc.
I am glad Pellum has stepped up, and has implemented the attitude and expectation(s) and guidelines to bring back the discipline and preparation demands we had under Chip (and Azz).
Now we'll see if it spills over to the offense, the balance of the coaching staff, and the rest of the team.
I thought the football palace was a bad idea from the start. The atmosphere just wreaks "I'm entitled and I can get by on my good looks". A Marine barracks motif would have been more conducive to developing a winning football team. Doing as little as possible whenever possible is a human frailty and if the coaches let them have their own way, some will give as little as possible to get by. Coaches have to be hard nosed strict disciplinarians to get the players to continually strive for excellence. That's what I'm not sure yet that MH can do. I think DP gets it and I hope his dedication to discipline and organization will rub off on MH.
Citing Chip Kelly is a false memory. The Chip Kelly organization had guys stealing laptops, punching guys after the game, speeding on I-5, and "smoking it all." On the field it was one of the tops in penalties in the league and country. It wasn't the image of discipline.
They lost Dion, Clay, York, and Long... A lot of leadership that they tried to get guys like Lokombo and Huff to replace when it wasn't natural. But it sounds like they're getting that leadership back, and I think we should all be excited.
Yep, one thing for sure about Helfrich, he isn't a phoney. The first thing he said after the got the HC job was that he wasn't Chip, and he sure proved that. One of the truest adages in sports is that, "you play like you practice". That was true under Kelly, unfortunately, it seems to have also been true under Helfrich.
Hiring Helfrich, keeping the continuity at Oregon might work out , but it was hard for Helfrich to slide into the big chair and be in charge like he needed to be. He was learning the X's & O's of being the head coach, and let the authority & discipline side slide, and the players took advantage of it. Kelly instilled the work ethic into them, they relaxed when the load was lifted from their shoulders, and coasted.
Pellum looks like he is on the right track with the defense, but Helfrich has to pick it up big time next season. He has to be the front man, not a copy of Kelly, but in his own way has to instill the pride and responsibility, the Oregon Way, into the players.
@Greenbaaron The comments about a loss of discipline and focus came from one of the players, which suggest it's serious. This is a blog about Duck football, so just loving the Ducks and ignoring an issue like this really isn't an option.
On one hand you ridicule me for not knowing the players and not attending practice, and in the first paragraph you accuse me of bias because the story concludes with the suggestion that having practices open to the media and the public (not to me, but to the media and the public) might improve the effort and accountability at practice.
There's a measurable link between preparation and results. If the results show signs of deterioration, and one of the players is quoted as saying the preparation suffered, it's right to address it. We right a lot of positive stories about the Ducks and their prospects, but no one ever rises to low expectations.
@Greenbaaron Yeah OK and If I think like you too which I've been a fan since 1979, but that stops there of any relationship, This Team needs to seal the deal with a Championship or why are they doing it. The Mutt's did it with Don James, So there's no reason the Ducks cannot do the same, and here's one reason why Fans have that right, because they pay Money too for their favorite Team the Ducks, and last year there were no clear Leaders on this Team, but there were some players that felt they were entitled to what I have no idea, But when you have players speaking out before your biggest Game of the year giving the other Team BB material, not like they needed it, but when 1 of your so called leaders say's their going to put 40+ on their Defense and this same person Fumble's in the RED ZONE, that is a lack of Humility, and this same person who's from the LA area said afterwards and said and put certain thoughts into other players heads that the Rose Bowl wasn't worth it because we can't play in the NATTY, and thats one of the main reasons they lost too a Team they beat 49 to 0 last year and had no Business losing too them even if it was in Arizona, and you could tell half the Team gave up, and you could ask any fan on here that under Chip his Teams always played till the end and never gave up. So I'm also pretty sure Phil Knight would like for this Team to finally get over the Hump and win 1, a NATTY that is or I'm sure he wouldn't of put all those Millions intop this program to get just where they are. So if everyone has your attitude about what you say then the Ducks will stay just where they are, and everyone's JOKE, too which I'm getting tired of being 1 of the schools for the past 5 years that the so called EXPERT's keep picking the Ducks as one of the favorites too win it all. That prediction is this year also, So myself as a fan for a long time now with the bar raised as high as it is, EXPECT them to get it done or why do you call yourself a fan? So are you a Cleveland Brown fan or what? Get a life!
@SonomaDuck SD, I respect your service and your perspective, but one thing I'd point out is, these kids aren't soldiers. They are talented athletes from a different generation, who've been told since the time they are 12 how special they are. Discipline-wise, it's a much more challenging setting.
@Raygun383 It sounds like both coaches and players are taking steps to address the effort and discipline, and it should improve their consistency next year.
@duckified Being a former Marine......I absolutely disagree with your point. I believe I understand what you are trying to get at, however; it is not the building that causes a let down in discipline. You can have both if your coaching staff is strong. I personally thank Uncle Phil for his immeasurable generosity through the years. I also do not believe the building was intended to be a recruiting tool. Kids come to Oregon for different reasons but mostly the highly touted athlete is looking for the best way to get to the NFL. Coaches do not need to be "hard nosed", they need to be involved and highly visible at all times. Ask any of CK's former player and you will hear nothing but love and good things regarding his style of coaching. Above all, you need to be consistent in all you do. I am one of the few that disagreed with the sit down for a snowball attack. Don't need to rehash it here but it was a might severe. Just to prove I'm the disciplinarian all expected. Hogwash. And lastly, a Marine barracks motif is a stone throw away from county jail motif. It actually teaches you nothing. We also enjoyed months in a tent located conveniently in the mud. Anyway, Go Ducks WTD
@duckified Pellum's consistency, infusing discipline and organization in everything he and his players and coaches do, should pay dividends on the field and help them prepare better. The Hatfield-Dowlin Football Operations Center was built as a recruiting tool in a competitive environment. Given the lavish facilities that are in place around college football, it's hard to think many kids would choose a barracks-type environment, although some would probably benefit from one.
@atvinton In the incidents you describe, Kelly kicked two of those players off the team, and the third was suspended for eight games.
That is exactly what I think of whenever I hear people remembering Chip's time here through RoseBowl colored glasses. That and that there was always one or two games a year where the team looked out of sink and not ready to compete. There were games against not great teams like Cal and Washington State where we did not look like the hungrier more focused team, even when we did comeback and win late.
@Ducko30 Looking forward to spring ball and the opportunity to see this new group and new attitude in action.
@DougMai @Greenbaaron Reading your comments to GB has exhausted me. I am speechless. Do you realize our Beloved Ducks could be a top 10 team year after year after year and never......I mean never when a Natty. Winning the big one to me is less of a measuring tool than being there year after year. There is so much involved and much of it is luck. The ball, if you recall, has been shaped and ill deigned for perfect play. So, have we failed as a team if we NEVER win the big one? I think NOT> Go Ducks WTD
@Dale Newton @duckified A lot of kids join the Marines, knowing what the barracks are going to be like. My main point is that the HD doesn't bring to mind hard work, sweat and discipline. If it's a recruiting tool, it doesn't seem to be working as this year was not the best recruiting year in a while and defensive linemen don't seem to be impressed.
@Dale Newton I could continue :) But aren't we saying that the idea is to nip things in the bud so they don't turn into bigger issues? My point is that Chip didn't nip any of those things in the bud, and that's why we remember them years later. Proactive versus reactive.
@duckified @Dale NewtonThe kids who join the Marines, however admirable their service, don't have the range of options elite athletes do, but I do recognize your point, that the HD's lavishness is something the Ducks have to mindful of overcoming in terms of discipline and hard work. They can't let it become an invitation to complacency, and I don't think they will this year.
@Dale Newton Accepted discipline, and had immense talent. Alonso and Blount's talent is far greater than that of Masoli (arm punt), Thomas (slower throwing motion than Tebow), and Harris (average speed).
But like I said, those were all reactionary thing Chip did. Mark has shown he's not afraid of yank guys, either, and even has creative ways of making sure there's a lesson learned, like sitting down with the professor in the snow incident.
@atvinton @Dale Newton He also suspended Kiko Alonso, who is now a star in the NFL, for an entire season. It's interesting that the two players who accepted discipline and kept working, Blount and Alonso, have gone on to have great pro careers, while the two that chafed at it, Masoli and Harris, are now on the fringes.