By Anthony Caruso III | Publisher
On November 27, 2016 at 12:26 pm EST
According to a USA Today report, the Oregon Ducks will be looking for a new head coach. Mark Helfrich is about to be fired.
The report says, “[the athletic department has] made preparations for a coaching search that will follow the eventual firing of Mark Helfrich.” Oregon lost 34-24 to arch rival Oregon State to end their campaign with a 4-8 record.
The Ducks haven’t been good since Marcus Mariota left following the 2014 season. Their defense under first-year defensive coordinator Brady Hoke — who returned to coaching this season after being fired by the Michigan Wolverines several years ago — was horrendous.
The Ducks gave up 54 points in their first two wins. They gave up 28 points to the UC Davis Aggies to begin the season, then 26 to the Virginia Cavaliers in Week 2. Since that time, they wouldn’t give up 28 points or less until they defeated the Utah Utes 30-28 on Nov. 19.
Oregon’s defense gave up 497 points. They gave up 70 points to the Washington Huskies, their most on the season. They also gave up 52 points twice — to the Stanford Cardinal and the Cal Bears — and 51 once to the Washington State Cougars.
After winning their first two games, they went 2-8 over the course of the rest of the season. The Ducks lost five straight after winning the first two games of the season. They didn’t win again until Oct. 29 when they beat the Arizona State Sun Devils 54-35.
Helfrich has an $11.6 million buyout. That’s nothing to Oregon, as they’re backed by Phil Knight, who founded Nike. It was interesting on Saturday that Knight wasn’t at Oregon and Oregon State but at the Michigan and Ohio State game instead.
Charlie Strong had a $10 million buyout when he was fired by the Texas Longhorns on Saturday. In 2009, Charlie Weis had an $18 million buyout when he was let go by the Notre Dame Fighting Irish.
USA Today is reporting that Boise State’s Bryan Harsin and Western Michigan’s P.J. Fleck as potential candidates. They also list Brian Kelly — the Notre Dame Fighting Irish coach, who had a report come out on Saturday night that said he was exploring other options. Mississippi State’s Dan Mullen was also mentioned.
Another coach that wasn’t mentioned but would likely be brought up if they do fire Helfrich is Chip Kelly. He once roamed the Ducks sidelines but is 1-9 with the San Francisco 49ers this season.
With the decline in the team, it wouldn’t be surprising if Jed York, the CEO of the 49ers, makes another coaching move. The 49ers have lost nine straight games after beating the Los Angeles Rams to begin the season at Levi’s Stadium.
Helfrich — who was Kelly’s offensive coordinator — took over for Kelly when he left to become the Philadelphia Eagles head coach in 2013. Since that time, he’s 37-16 as a college head coach and is 2-2 in bowl games.
With the Ducks, Kelly was 46-7. After losing three games in his first season, his teams would lose just four games over the next three seasons.
Kelly was also 2-2 in bowl games. He guided the team to the BCS National Championship game in Jan. 2011, but lost 22-19 to the Auburn Tigers, who were led by Cam Newton and Michael Dyer.
According to Grant Cohn of The Press Democrat, Kelly could resign on Sunday night or even Monday morning. Cohn documented his reasons in a Nov. 25, 2016 story.
“My feeling is Kelly wants to leave the 49ers and they would be happy to let him go,” Cohn wrote. “But they won’t fire him. Won’t pay him $18 million the next three years not to coach their team, considering they’re already paying Jim Tomsula $7 million the next two years also not to coach the team. But that doesn’t mean Kelly won’t leave.
“Someone probably will have to buy out Kelly’s contract with the 49ers and sign him to a new one. And the only person who seems willing to do that is Phil Knight, co-founder of Nike, top donor to the University of Oregon athletic department and the 15th-richest man in the world. Knight is worth $28.1 billion, according to Forbes, and he’s a rabid fan of Oregon football and close friends with Kelly. About a month ago — Oct. 23 — Kelly invited Knight to a 49ers home game against the Tampa Buccaneers. Knight watched the game from the 49ers’ sideline. Kelly’s guest of honor.”
Earlier this month, ESPN’s Darren Rovell tweeted that Oregon is willing to pay as much as $10 million a season to a head coach. Michigan’s Jim Harbaugh is making $9 million as the highest-paid coach.
Rovell wrote on Nov. 5, “there’s talk heating up in Oregon that Knight is ready to throw insane $10M+ a year money at a football coach. He’s 78, wants a title.”
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