By REED NELSON
EUGENE, OR — Chip Kelly is now the head coach of the Philadelphia Eagles, but like Bobby Bowden (most recently) before him, he had the opportunity to hand-pick his successor.
Kelly’s Jimbo Fisher, however, is named Mark Helfrich, and Mark Helfrich plans on changing nothing within the fast and furious Oregon offense. Well, almost nothing.
“I won’t wear a visor. I’ll eat more vegetables,” the coach said during his meet-the-press tour.
No visors, more vegetables. Check.
But regardless of insistence, Kelly and Helfrich are different.
First and foremost, Helfrich hails from Oregon, meaning the crusty New England attitude that had championed the fleet flock has been supplanted by a guy hailing from Marshfield High School.
And unlike Kelly, Oregon wasn’t Helfrich’s first rodeo under the bright lights — after his days as an Oregon grad assistant, he served as quarterbacks coach at Boise State (coaching up Bart Hendricks), Arizona State (Andrew Walter) and Colorado.
Kelly, by contrast, had come from the fertile assistant coaching grounds of the University of New Hampshire.
None of this is an indication of success, by the way, and if pedigree mattered in the slightest when it came to coaching success (and it doesn’t) then the Brother’s Ryan might have won an important game by now, Lane Kiffin would be able to figure out how to find a guy to coach a defense and Joe Lombardi would have been ushered into the presumably mahogany-clad offices in the bowels of Lambeau Field.
What will remain the same is the players trust in the system. They wanted Helfrich, and that’s because Oregon’s system doesn’t require a mastermind to operate it. The system simply requires assertive cogs and minimal hesitation. QB Marcus Mariota makes as many decisions within a zone-read scheme as a coach on the sidelines. Same goes for the ridiculously intelligent offensive lineman.
On the defensive side of the ball, Nick Aliotti ignored the low-hanging fruit in Los Angeles to stay on at Oregon. And considering his unit is fairly autonomous from the offense, Ifo Ekpre-Olomu, Avery Patterson and Co. should be as effective as last year.
Chip may be gone, but football at Autzen will carry on.