Oregon's defense needed fixing after 2013. The stats look better than they are after some dominating performances against Nichols, Virginia and Tennessee at the beginning and Texas at the end, but this was a defense that struggled to stop the run and got downright embarrassed against Stanford, Arizona and Oregon State.
They were dead last in the conference in tackles for loss last season, 10th in opponent's third down conversions, 7th in sacks and 6th in rushing defense. Tyler Gaffney, Ka'Deem Carey, and Terron Ward all shredded them for big rushing days in what became a disappointing second half of the season given a 8-0 start.
It was a profile of a defense that wasn't very aggressive or effective, particularly in key games. Nick Aliotti stated he had planned to retire about last year's Fiesta bowl win but agreed to stay on to help the team in Mark Helfrich's first year. With a full season to conduct a quiet search, the Ducks stuck to promoting from within and rewarding the lifelong Oregon guy.
This isn't an indictment of Don Pellum personally. His interviews, public statements and conduct over 32 years as an Oregon player and coach suggest that he is a good man, an exceptional recruiter and a capable coach.
People say, "I trust the coaches" and "you don't know what went on behind the scenes." Increasingly, Oregon football has become less fun to write about because of counter arguments like these. Because in front of the scenes, Oregon's offense ranked 10th in the conference in red zone conversions this season, and those unassailably trustworthy coaches produced flat, uninspiring performances with a chance to play for a national championship or the Rose Bowl.
The decision to promote from within feels like a fall-back hire and an uninspired choice. Oregon's defense needed drastic improvements after a lackluster season, and it's hard to think the same staff minus Nick Aliotti will produce them.
Writing this blog has been a rewarding experience. In 2013 we had over a half million pageviews, which was phenomenal growth after starting from nothing in August of 2010. In the beginning we averaged 15 to 20 visitors a day. It was exhilarating to build an audience and take on the challenge of writing from one fan's point of view and making it interesting.
It's become less exhilarating over time. Increasingly the Ducks are a powerful organization that limits access and controls information, a monolith that operates behind a black facade. They diffuse and deflect legitimate questions and squelch criticism, express smugness whenever speculation veers from the official story. Maybe Clancy Pendergast, Randy Shannon, Todd Orlando and John Neal weren't legitimate candidates for the Oregon defensive coordinator position. Based on their track record, they should have been. Because the guy they chose has no track record in the position at all, and mixed results in his current job. How many times over the last 20 years have the Oregon linebackers been truly elite?
Yesterday afternoon after an exhausting series of exchanges with fans, twitter snarks and the Oregon Athletic Department office, I went to the movies. I saw a soulless film about a man who made millions on Wall Street, a man who cared for no one, abused his mind and body and betrayed his closest friends. The movie was crass, pointless and depressing, a confusing montage of riotous excess and f-bombs, emptiness, loveless sex and unbridled drug consumption. The hero punched his wife in the stomach and abducted his own child, backed his expensive car into a brick wall. The lead investigator went home on a drab, dreary subway train.
Somehow the whole thing reminded me of writing about Oregon football, and it made me realize I don't want to do it anymore.
When was the last time Oregon had a flashy football job hiring? Chip was an unknown when hired. MB was just the OC. MH was just the OC. Nothing new here. SOS. Will the new DC hire workout? History says yes.
Dale, We all enjoy your writings or we wouldn't be here. The fact that not everyone agrees with you, me included, is no reason to give up. I'm assuming you were letting your emotions get the best of you. You are a Duck and writing or now will not change that. You add more value expressing yourself on this blog than by getting lost in the maze.
Dale…………..Come home. This is the only Oregon Duck football blog where adults can have a conversation. I personally am three times more knowledgeable about the Ducks than I was three years ago plus it is so refreshing to have a friendly forum. Wishing you the best.
This calls for some prescription medication: minimum therapeutic dose is 5 days of fun in the sun with your main squeeze, lots of sex, adventure, good food and drink BUT NO DUCK FOOTBALL! After minimum 5 day dosage may return slowly to Duck Football, subject to pain threshold. Trust me. I'm a doctor (JD '89).
Your work is excellent. You deserve this.
I hope you stay the course. I just discovered this site, and I really appreciate the way you go about covering the team. Doesn't seem like you worship at the altar of the the team officials.
love the team
appreciate the coaches
see the program with clear eyes
hope for the best
Well I enjoy this blog. You have a gift at looking deeper into the program to shed light on personnel or situations that would otherwise get ignored. Oregon does not give out a lot of material to the media to work with. I appreciate all the time you have taken to compile these stories with the resources you do have available to you which must require quite a bit of digging. I get burned out just thinking about how much work you put into this, so I can only imagine multiplying that by 1 million to get a sense of what you must experience.
What happened with the Oregon Athletic Department office? What % of your frustration has to with that exchange? Is it their lack of transparency? or the fact that they might learn a few things by reading this blog but aren't taking their jobs seriously enough to make the best decisions for the program?
Dale, my friend, the story goes on. It doesn't really matter if you write it or not. However, it's much better when you do.
There is a cruelness to blogging about something you love. After you've done it for a while, it's kind of like being in a relationship. You know it intimately, what buttons to push and when, when to speak up and when to just smile like a kid who got caught with his hand in the cookie jar... It pleases you when things go well and makes you mad when they don't. Sometimes you even feel betrayed.
I get that you feel betrayed. Take a deep breath and let it go, brother. It isn't time to retreat, it's time to stand in the breach and hold the line, for whatever happens with our Ducks next, it will surely be an interesting tale to tell.
Dale...appreciate your blog. It is the first place I go for Ducknews. Keep it up. And BTW...love all the new voices coming out of the woodwork. Kudos...you're making an impact.
Dale....too bad. You do a nice job. But now is a good time to back off as the Ducks are going to go on a slow slide into mediocrity. Our current head coach was a down grade from the previous two head coaches. Our new DC will maintain the status quo .... our defense just won't be as good as it has been for the past decade, which, of course, was not as good as it needed to be. Dreams of a National Championship......RIP.
I too am totally discouraged by this promotion. I had high hopes that the Ducks would have a shutdown Defense that would force more 3 and outs, turnovers, stop the run, and put pressure on QBs. Thus, allowing our Offense more possessions to score. Ducks as a Defensive powerhouse is what I drea of. Unstoppable Offensively and unscorable against on Defense. This hire hurts as I forsee more porous, bend-don't-break defense for our future. This hire is huge as it will shape the Ducks future for years to come. I doubt that Chip would have done the same. I shall hope for the best. I still love my Ducks. Thank you for your great work and hope you continue your writings on the Ducks.
Chin up Dale.
DP's ideas may have been being thwarted for years, and next year will be a smashing success.
Next year at this time we may be saying things like:
"Man I wish Aliotti had left sooner!"
I love my Ducks.
And I REALLY appreciate this blog, your commentary and analysis.
Please stick around and continue to be a great contributor to all things Duck Football.
It's way more important than life or death. You said it, and I believe it.
I too am totally discouraged by this hire. I doubt Chip would have made the same choice. I will hope for the best.
An 11-2 record is very good, BUT the fact is if the Ducks play like we did the last five games we will return to mediocrity. The defense was horrible against Stanford beginning with T. Mitchell getting toasted and no adjustments to stop Stanford's overloaded run game. Arizona and OSU torched our defense us, and Texas receivers fortunately couldn't hang on to the football or it would have been close. Our red zone offense sucked. Changes need to be made or it will be more of the same next year.
This is depressing! Usually I feel good when a legitimate pundit thinks like I do. In this case, I'm justified in feeling this was a bad hire?
And by the way, the movie was excellent. Are you a hipster who doesn't like things everyone else does?? hehe.
"The movie was crass, pointless and depressing, a confusing montage of
riotous excess and f-bombs, emptiness, loveless sex and unbridled drug
consumption." .......THAT WAS THE POINT OF THE MOVIE...and he certainly wasn't the "hero"..he was the star, who ends up peddling infomercials..
Sounds like the rantings of a spoiled fan to me. Oh, woe is me, the program likes to promote from inside and keep it secretive (like any well run organization). I used to wine and moan about Nick Aliotti, year after year, and then I got older and grew up.
The problem with people like you, and most of the commenters, is the same problem we face in all aspects of media right now. Everyone has a voice, however small, so everyone has an answer to cure everything. In no way does our defense need a complete overhaul.
The difference between two losses and zero losses is the beauty of sports. It can't be fixed with a tweak, which I can't emphasize enough, is the main problem with almost everybody's "analysis." People think, okay we went 11-2, now what can we do to get better and be 13-0. SPORTS DOESN'T WORK LIKE THAT. Everything you see on ESPN and everywhere else is a complete farse so people can wear suits and ties, and be 'experts'. Teams have ranges, and luck is involved, as well as other variables. That is why they play the games. If the ducks played this season ten times, we would have gone undefeated some of those times. Our range was probably between 10 and 13 wins.
We had a very, very, good defense. After the Stanford game, they obviously had their souls ripped out. Can you blame them? So did we as fans. In a perfect world we have robots out there without emotions, but that is unrealistic, look at Alabama in the Sugar bowl. Is their defense in need of huge upgrades? After time to regroup, they played dominant against Texas. Even the Stanford game, most of the time wouldn't have gone that way..that's why they play the games. If Mariota doesn't underthrow a wide open Josh Huff for an easy TD on the first drive, the whole game is different...that's the beauty of sports. I don't have the numbers in front of me, but I believe Stanford averaged less than four yards per rush that game. Almost every time they need 3 yards, they 3 and a half. That was soul crushing, and just frankly sucked. There is also luck involved in that. We were unlucky to get no breaks, and just short, and especially when we had three guys miss a tackle on Hogan on third and five. If we play that game ten times, we win most of them. That's why they play the games.
I don't know if Pellum is the right hire, nobody does. I do know this though. Being who we are, the most continuity driven program in the country, is key to our steady growth to now elite status as a program. Family. We have great talent now, but we will still never have across the board talent like the blue bloods. It's the coaching that has made us elite. Sure we messed up the Arizona game royally, but sometimes that just happens. Hasn't to us in a long time, was very hard to handle, but it happens. No coaching staff is perfect, especially the offensive play calling this year, but we are still on track.
If you disagree with everything I've said, that's fine. Just please realize this. It is human nature to want to fix things we care about as much as ducks football, I do it, we all do. But it is almost all bull shit. The idea of "fixing" things so we go 13-0 instead of 11-2 is total bullshit. It's all we see, hear, and read, but it's total bullshit. This team could have gone 13-0, that was the ceiling, 10-3 was probably the floor. According ESPN's metric based ranking sysytem, the best attempt at scientifically deciding how good a team is, Oregon was #2, right behind Florida State. RELAX EVERYBODY, we are right there, we don't need to fix anything. It is stressful being a contender every year, and it is AWESOME. Enjoy the games. Don't fall into the media traps always thinking we need to fix something. We are going to be contenders next year for the fifth straight year. That is fricking awesome. GO DUCKS!
The House Isn't On Fire
Dale, the insatiable
appetite for Ducks news, analysis, and entertaining reading has been greatly
helped by the amount of time and effort you put into your site. I want to thank
you for doing so much, and I really hope you continue to write for as long as
you enjoy it. I generally only write responses where my feelings diverge from
the narrative, which is very uncommon, and I think that's a testament to how
convincing and thorough your analysis is. And I've always been a fan of your
playful language and picture framing.
A few years ago, during the Belotti era, we complained about quarterbacks and wins. Today we issue hard criticism for defensive tackle recruiting and whether a 32 year veteran of coaching big time football is qualified as defensive coordinator. In parallel to asking what has the athletic department become, I think it's a fair and moral question to ask "What have we become? What should be our level of criticism? Where DOES IT END?"
The house surely isn't on fire. We all want what's best for the program because we pour in our time, energy, money, and so forth, but we shouldn't be kidding ourselves into thinking we aren't getting what we put in. We have honorable colors to wear and a heck of a football team and school to be proud of. Unless your last name is Knight or Pape', you probably haven't put in enough to warrant any more than what I've mentioned.
I wonder how Don Pellum must feel after the outcry of fans saying they think he would be a horrible hire, with the amount of furor that has been exhibited. Why would a guy like that want to be on staff any more? Why would he want to put in so much for any longer for a fanbase that wants his head? Do you think he believes he can do an exceptional job?
On the flip side of
things, do I think there is a smugness to certain members of the athletic
department? Sure as hell I do. I once engaged in a conversation with a member
over their dangling of the home sellout streak as a marketing ploy to sell
tickets for games when the real issue wasn't fan dedication but sad opponents
and $95 tickets (read "price elasticity" and get back to me). I don't
like the way they approach certain things. But why does that mean I should hold
the players and coaches hostage? What gives any of us the right to criticize SO
DAMN HARSHLY the decisions that others make?
The reason that coaches disallow contact isn't to inhibit the fun of following a team. It's to limit fans' abilities to comment, criticize, and question every single little detail about how the organization is run. We went 11-2 and listen to the narrative.
Does anyone want to know what kills programs? Perception. It's what got bottom feeder programs in the SEC to stack up talent, because it's perceived that they are in the big leagues. It's what makes it doubly hard for Oregon defensive coaches to get quality recruits on that side of the ball. Fans going crazy is what is killing the team. If we all go off the deep end what the team loses a game the perception is the team is on a downward slope. But if we all focus on what is working, have some faith, and take a step back and RELAX, we can wait and let things play out, possibly for the better. I sure as heck hope so because fans creating a negative perception can only make it worse.
Darn Dale, I didn't think I'd come here and be "spoiled" about a movie....But seriously, of course I share your frustration. Talk about a predictably boring end to te tale of the Ducks searching for a new DC. A search that extended to the corner of the locker room.
Helfrich's hire, holding on to the keep it in the family mode was a sign of the aggressiveness of the SD. But at least in that case, there was a real time concern, and Helfrich came through with a big recruiting push. But here, certainly the Ducks didn't have to hire Pellum now, to keep things in order. Rather, for the school that has i made its name by being innovative, pushing the envelope, it was barely 3 yards and a cloud of dust, to promote Pellum.
Thanks for this blog Dale, this is where I learn what is going on. Rob Mosely, no thanks. The message from Rob is not reporting, it is boosting. Who knows what is going on inside the Oregon athletic department? I understood the Helfrich choice given the timing but I do not understand the DC choice. I hope you stick around but understand if you are burned out.
Could not a agree more with your analysis. But hopefully people and fans like you can eventually change the cold, impersonal "black facade" into an entity full of green vitality.
I hope this new day will give you a new outlook as we need you to keep writing on Oregon football/sports with a "thinker's" perspective often missing.
Spring practice and the intrasquad game will obviously give us more evidence of what the future holds. Han in there man!
After watching that Orlando video, the Pellum hire was like a wet towel on a crackling fire. But tomorrow is another day, and we shall see how this plays out.
I share your frustration. It seems, since Chip left, like the Duck program is a ship with a broken rudder that has no clear compass bearings. Your points are all right on and it seems like no one wants to move the program forward anymore. They all seem to want the status quo. I have news for them. You don't stay where you are, you either get better or you get worse, and recent occurrences (losing to Arizona 42-16) make me wonder if things are going to get worse. I'm curious what "exchanges" you had with the OAD? Were they leaning on you because of your writing didn't always portray them in a rosy light? We need your voice to get the unvarnished facts.
The lesson here is - don't go to movies and continue to give 'em hell. Frustration is an integral part of blogging. Take 2 fingers of bourbon and call me in the morning.
I agree with a lot of what you said, but not the growing up part. Dale is just passionate and sincere, to a fault, and wants the best for the team. I feel his frustration. It didn't deserve a lecture. Beyond that, you were spot on in your commentary OT. Well said.
Agree...all of it!
The OAD doesn't look to blogs for advice. They are professionals responsible for the results of their decisions as opposed to just being responsible to make sure they have some comment to make about others decisions. It actually is their lives and responsibilities as opposed to us who just like to pretend like we know what is going on. We're just fans, or just complainers, depending on wether this teams meets our lofty and untethered expectations. If Todd Orlando is really as incredible as some Duck fans have grown to believe in the last couple of days, he'll be running an nfl defense in a year anyway.
Let's not pretend that we are anything more than passionate observers hoping for the best
@ecdawg Dale, go see the movie American Hustle. Sort of about the same period of time but is hilarious if you like dark comedy and truly great acting. I'm sorry you feel as you do about the Ducks but being life long (decades) Duck fan I can understand being burned out by the activities of the last year. Frankly, the UofO's AD has been frustrating. I still love watching the kids thank goodness. Maybe you can focus on that and forget about the machinations of the AD. That is where my frustrations lie along with concern this is the start of a downward spiral. Too many rookies running a $100 million dollar business and it ain't pretty. Mix in whatever outside influence exists from NIKE and whew!
I know I'm only a passionate observer. I want the Ducks to do as well as they possible can. I have eyes and ears and I know the Ducks under performed in 2013. Everyone knew we had the talent to get to the Rose Bowl or the NC, but because of a horrific loss to an unranked Arizona and our usual loss to Stanford, we wound up in a no-win Alamo Bowl against an unranked team. Before Chip, this staff was mediocre. After Chip, this staff has returned to mediocrity. Other teams in the PAC-12 are moving away from mediocrity, we're promoting it. You may be happy with the "who gives a s**t bowl", but I'm not.