If earlier reports are to be believed, Oregon has a plan in place.
Therefore, after an "official" search is completed, we should get the announcement that current Ducks offensive coordinator Mark Helfrich has been elevated to the position of Oregon head coach.
|Mark Helfrich could move up at Oregon. (US Presswire)|
The Ducks went 46-7 in four seasons under Kelly, with three 12-win seasons and two BCS bowl victories. Helfrich was an integral part of that run, serving as Kelly's eyes in the coaches box during games while also tutoring the quarterbacks.
Oregon doesn't want to mess with that success. It wants to maintain its spread offensive scheme, and there's probably no better person to run it than Helfrich, who would be the third consecutive Ducks offensive coordinator to be elevated to the head coaching position (Mike Bellotti was promoted to replace Rich Brooks in 1995 just as Kelly was promoted to replace Bellotti in 2009). And, if Helfrich is indeed the next in line, other key parts of Kelly's staff, such as defensive coordinator Nick Aliotti, will likely remain in place as well.
In other words, this is not a program that is about to be torn up from its roots. Continuity will be maintained.
But who is Helfrich, and what kind of head coach would he be for the Ducks?
The 39-year-old Helfrich was a quarterback at Southern Oregon in the early 1990s. He got his start as a graduate assistant at Oregon in 1997 under Bellotti before heading to Boise State as quarterbacks coach from 1998-2000. He then spent five seasons as quarterbacks coach at Arizona State (2001-05) and three seasons in the same role at Colorado (2006-08) before landing back at Oregon in 2009 when Kelly was promoted.
According to John Canzano of The Oregonian, he won't be much different than Kelly:
Helfrich told me once that if he took over he'd keep most of Kelly's offense, tweaking and stealing from others as coaches often do. He'd likely keep the 6:30 a.m. practices, and keep the uniform combinations coming, and aside from some of Kelly's quips and barbs, I wonder how much different the Ducks will look next season.
That's good news for Oregon fans. And, if one of Canzano's sources is to be believed, there's another upside to Helfrich:
"Whatever Mark changed would be something that was really meaningful to him. I can tell you this, no knock on Chip, but I think Mark would more user friendly to boosters and media. He's such a nice guy, the big question is whether Mark has the chops to be a field general and a discipline guy. You don't find that out until someone has the job, though."
So if all goes well for the Ducks under Helfrich, they'll still be confounding defenses with their fast-paced spread attack, they'll still be making fashion statements with their uniform choices and they'll still be challenging for conference and national titles.
It's just that the countenance roaming the sideline might be a bit warmer and friendlier.
No less an authority than Kelly agrees:
"I think Helf could succeed at anything he wanted to," Kelly said after Oregon's 35-17 victory over Kansas State in the Fiesta Bowl. "Intelligent, detail-oriented, great manager of people, great friend. One of the funniest guys I've met in my entire life. ...
"I think he's special. I love the guy."
Now, let's see if he can coach.