This was it. This was the last straw.
Mediocrity is one thing– Ducks fans are used to that, and it doesn’t bother us as much as it would at a school that actually takes pride in its athletic programs– but Mike Bellotti has allowed this team to regress to the point where they’re just plain bad. The Ducks were beat by a Mountain West team by 30 points. And it wasn’t even that close. Oregon was out-coached and out-played in just about every aspect of the game, despite having two high-priced coordinators and one of the most talented rosters in the Pac-10.
The players looked unprepared and unmotivated. The coaches appeared confused. Maybe they thought the Ducks were playing Portland State again. Maybe the paint on the new helmets released some sort of intoxicant upon contact. Or maybe it was a late Wednesday night at Sheri’s Ranch. Whatever the case, they seemed only mildly aware that there was a football game taking place in which they were supposed to participate.
The offensive playcalling was particularly awful– I wouldn’t trust Gary Crowton to teach a newborn how to cry. This is the second year in a row where his high school junior varsity gimmick offensive schemes have been routinely exposed by teams with real, live coaches. Here’s a goddamn pro-tip, Crowton: When your Wide Receivers and Running Backs are far superior athletically than the other team’s defensive backs, you throw the fucking ball deep. You don’t call quick screens, you don’t call quick outs, and you don’t run the option with a quarterback who’s been sitting on the sidelines. You throw the ball deep like your quarterback is Sexy Rexy. Or hell, you have two very good Running Backs. Line up in the I and pound the ball down their throats.
Gimmick offenses are often used by teams with glaring positional weaknesses like slow Wide Receivers, a porous offensive line, or a low-quality Running Back. Teams with superior talent like the Ducks shouldn’t ever have to resort to permanent gimmicks– they should be able to outrun or outbruise teams like BYU. Gimmick offenses wouldn’t be gimmicks if they actually worked on a regular basis against competent teams.
And speaking of superior talent, the immense talents of both Dennis Dixon and (gasp) Brady Leaf has been utterly wasted by Bellotti and Crowton. Both of these quarterbacks would have been good enough to start for all but two Pac-10 teams this year. But Bellotti never committed to just one of them as he should (and any competent coach would) have. In the two bowl games of their era he has played roulette with the position, virtually guaranteeing that every drive would be helmed by a quarterback deprived of rhythm and confidence. It’s as if he’s been coaching to not hurt either Quarterback’s feelings.
Basically, it’s time for a change when your team hasn’t won a bowl game in four years and has been outscored 56-140 in the last four games of the season. Mike Bellotti appears to have lost the ability to prepare, motivate, and make adjustments to his team. At the very least, Crowton should be fired and the Defensive Coordinator position evaluated. Losing isn’t good, but it is tolerable if your team plays superior opponents or remains competitive throughout games. Losing because your coaching staff is unprepared and befuddled is absolutely unacceptable for any self-respecting collegiate program. This is why coaches like Larry Coker and Walt Harris are fired, not patted on the back and asked to try a lil’ bit harder next year. The administration must take action during the offseason if they want Oregon to be known as something more than “that team with the horrible day-glow uniforms,” because getting blown out by religious teams from garbage conferences isn’t exactly going to help bring in donors or recruits.