Despite Chip Kelly’s initial decision to stay at Oregon rather than leave for the NFL, the program had to know there was a possibility the allure of a pro coaching job would sway him from returning for another year.
Kelly visited with multiple NFL teams before making the announcement that he would stay at Oregon (via USA Today), but he had a change of heart, instead choosing to accept an offer from the Philadelphia Eagles to be their next head coach.
Enter Mark Helfrich.
Helfrich has served as Kelly’s offensive coordinator since 2009 and is expected to be named Oregon’s new head coach on Sunday, according to Bruce Feldman of CBS Sports.
Helfrich was instrumental in implementing Kelly’s fast-paced offense that has become one of the most dominant and explosive units in college football. As quoted by Feldman from a CBSSports.com interview with former Oregon quarterback Nate Costa, Costa believes Helfrich hasn’t gotten the credit he deserves for the Ducks’ high-powered offense:
This is (Kelly's) system, people know this, so they automatically think Helfrich has little input on what happens on Saturdays. This is simply not true. Helfrich doesn't get half the credit he deserves. He is one of the smartest people in the college football world and has a great football mind. He has a large amount of involvement in the game-planning, scripting and coaching on a weekly basis. He may not call all the plays on gameday but he has a high amount of input in what plays are called and why they are called.
Helfrich is the perfect fit to replace Kelly at Oregon. His offensive prowess and experience with Oregon’s offense will maintain continuity in the program and ensure a bright future for the Ducks and their brightest stars, as noted by Adam Jude of The Oregonian.
Point is: Mark Helfrich is and always has been attached to the Oregon Ducks. Dream job for him and a great fit.— Adam Jude (@A_Jude) January 16, 2013
According to his official bio on the university’s website, Helfrich was named FootballScoop’s 2010 quarterbacks coach of the year. In 2012, Helfrich was instrumental in the development of freshman quarterback Marcus Mariota, who threw for 2,677 yards and 32 touchdowns and added another 752 yards on the ground in Oregon’s fast-tempo offense.
Oregon has been one of the nation’s most successful programs in recent years, due in large part to its signature offensive attack. Helfrich deserves a large portion of the credit for that offensive success, and he presents an opportunity for the team to continue its success going forward.
While Helfrich may not be the most high-profile candidate for the job, he is the best.
Head coaching changes can often derail the progress a program has made prior to the change. Promoting Helfrich to head coach ensures a seamless transition and the ongoing development of some of the nation’s top talent tailored for one of the country’s best offenses.