Oregon Strategy Session: The Under-Appreciated Coordinator

Fletcher JohnsonCorrespondent IApril 28, 2009

BERKELEY, CA - NOVEMBER 01:  Jahvid Best #4 of the California Golden Bears runs with the ball against T.J. Ward #2 of the Oregon Ducks during an NCAA football game on November 1, 2008 at Memorial Stadium in Berkeley, California.  (Photo by Jed Jacobsohn/Getty Images)

Oregon scores loads of points, sets numerous offensive records, and runs a flashy offense that all fans love to watch when it is clicking.  There is one member of the Oregon staff that gets forgotten amidst those ludicrous offensive numbers. 

Nick Aliotti has been Oregon’s defensive coordinator for over 15 years and if anything ever goes wrong or the Ducks have a bad season, Aliotti is usually on top of the chopping block.

Many fans forget to recognize that Aliotti has done as much behind the scenes for the Ducks as Mike Bellotti and Chip Kelly have for the program in the spotlight.

Since Mike Bellotti took over after the 1994 season, the Ducks focused much more on offense then defense.  If extra scholarships are available, they will trend toward offensive players.  At practices and in games, if the Ducks win their offense gets the most credit. 

Most coaches are alpha males, which makes it difficult for them to take a backseat to anyone else.  Aliotti has accepted this role without making a public affair out of it.  He could have tried to make his voice the most prominent but he realized that what was best for the Ducks, and in some ways himself, and let the offense take over.

Let's first point out that Oregon’s offense the last two years has been a no-huddle quick strike offense that scoring drives are very rarely longer than three minutes.  This puts much more pressure on the defense as the Ducks defense was on the field for an average of 35 minutes a game with a high of 42 minutes against Arizona.  Put any defense on the field that long during a game and they are going to get tired and struggle.

Over the past five years, fans have grown more and more tired of Oregon’s defensive struggles.  The Ducks focus on stopping the run by putting eight or nine men in the box, leaving their corners on an island against the talented receivers of the Pac-10.  At times the Ducks defense gives up a ton of yards but when it comes down to it, the Ducks really don’t give up an abhorrent amount of yards considering the number of plays they are on the field. 

Going into the Civil War last year, the Oregonian had this article, stating that Oregon’s 2008 defense had given up roughly the same amount of yards per play as the Beavers had, even though the Ducks had many more defensive snaps then the Beavers did. 

Aliotti’s defense always seems to get a stop when it is needed.  In 2007, Oregon’s defense had two crucial interceptions, one on USC’s final drive, that sealed the deal against the Trojans. 

Against Oklahoma State in the Holiday Bowl last year, the Ducks pretty well shut down the high-powered Cowboy’s attack after they struggled to do so in the first half.

On January 2, 2002 the Ducks shut down a Colorado run gain that average 229 yards per game holding them to 42 yards. 

Bottom line, Aliotti has been put under the guillotine by Oregon fans for the past half-decade In football there has to be a balance between the offense and the defense.  His defense performs at the level it needs to for the Ducks to have success. Without Aliotti, there is no guarantee that the Ducks would have had as much success as they have over the past 15 years. 

So Duck fans, whenever you think about firing Aliotti, take a step back and think about the situation he is in and realize that he has done pretty well as a defensive coach on an offensive team.