Oregon Football: Why Mark Helfrich Is the Best Replacement for Chip Kelly

Nathan LoweryCorrespondent IJanuary 18, 2013

Oregon Football: Why Mark Helfrich Is the Best Replacement for Chip Kelly

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    All of the speculation was true.

    After turning down three NFL teams following a Fiesta Bowl win, Chip Kelly decided that his heart was still in Eugene and that he would remain as the Oregon Ducks head football coach.

    Unfortunately, that lasted a mere two weeks.

    In Tommy Tuberville fashion, Chip Kelly decided the NFL was too much to pass on and announced that he would be taking the Philadelphia Eagles' head coaching vacancy.

    First off: A thank you to Chip Kelly for all the hard work he put into the Oregon football program. If not for his efforts, Oregon would not be the program that it is today. While Kelly's communication regarding the NFL, and to the media in general, could have been better, I would like to wish him good luck on his future endeavors.

    With Kelly leaving, Oregon will need to fill their vacancy at head coach, and they will need to fill it quickly before the team's recruiting class goes down the tubes.

    You can talk all you want about Jon Gruden, or Chris Petersen, or any other high-profile coach that has been mentioned, but I can tell you right now that Mark Helfrich is the best fit to take over the program.

    Helfrich is currently the Ducks' offensive coordinator, and according to a report from USA Today before the Fiesta Bowl, the head coach-in-waiting.


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    Oregon has not hired an outsider as head coach since 1977 when Rich Brooks was hired away from UCLA.

    Brooks remained the head coach until he left for the NFL (coincidence I think not!), making way for then offensive coordinator Mike Bellotti to become head coach.

    In 2009 when Bellotti decided to become the Ducks' athletic director, Kelly, Oregon's offensive coordinator at the time, was promoted to head coach.

    That succession process has worked out pretty well for the Ducks so far, so why mess with it now?

    With Kelly leaving so late in the recruiting season, Oregon will have to move quickly to try and keep their class together, while also improving upon it.

    Nevertheless, how big a role position coaches play in the recruiting process remains a huge misconception among fans.  For the most part, recruits will be spending most of their time with their position coach, not the head coach.

    The Ducks have been very fortunate to keep their coaching staff intact throughout the years, with three different coaches combining for over 60 years of experience with the Oregon program.

    Oregon was dealt a blow when defensive line coach, Jerry Azzinaro, left to join Kelly in Philadelphia. It is currently unknown how many coaches will leave to join the Eagles staff, but I can only see wide receivers coach Scott Frost joining Kelly in Philadelphia.

    Frost already interviewed for the LA Tech job when it was open earlier this year, and he, along with Azzinaro, are the only assistants that Kelly hired when he took over the program.

    Another plus to elevating Helfrich to head coach would be a smooth transition in the program. The Oregon players are familiar with—and love—coach Helfrich, and the program would remain largely unchanged despite Kelly's departure.

Offensive Genius

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    While Oregon football is generally regarded as the Chip Kelly Show, Helfrich is easily one of the unsung stage hands the show cannot go on without.

    Yes Kelly is the play caller, but Helfrich's role in the offensive game plan has always been undervalued. Just ask former Duck quarterback Nate Costa:

    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 game day, but he has a high amount of input in what plays are called and why they are called.

    Helfrich has already proved that he's a good coach by developing both Darron Thomas and Marcus Mariota into the best quarterbacks the program has ever seen.

    Swapping Kelly for Helfrich would not be a major step down, offensively speaking.


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    Everyone should understand that Chip Kelly was never an Oregon guy.

    Mark Helfrich, on the other hand, is.

    Helfrich is from Oregon. He grew up in Coos Bay, OR and went on to be a star quarterback at Southern Oregon University before joining the Ducks as a graduate assistant.

    Stints in Boise State and Arizona State, following his former boss at Oregon, Dirk Koetter, led Helfrich to become the youngest offensive coordinator on the BCS level when he was hired by Colorado in 2006.

    After three years in Boulder, Helfrich jumped at the chance to return to Oregon to become the school's offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach.

    Helfrich loves the Ducks. No one will be able to sell the program better than Helfrich because of his loyalty. 

    Chip Kelly was always just looking to climb that next step; Oregon was just merely one of those steps to get to the NFL.