Since November, Oregon offensive coordinator Mark Helfrich has been expected to be named Oregon's head coach in the event of a Chip Kelly exit. Wednesday, it was announced Kelly has decided to move onto the NFL as the new coach of the Philadelphia Eagles. Helfrich's promotion could be made official during Oregon's 5 p.m. ET Wednesday press conference.
Helfrich has coached at Oregon since 2009, replacing Kelly as offensive coordinator when Kelly replaced Mike Bellotti as head coach. Helfrich also took on the additional responsibilities as quarterbacks coach. Since Helfrich took over, the Ducks have finished near the top of every offensive category the past four years, particularly scoring and rushing yards.
Despite being the offensive coordinator at Oregon, Helfrich was not the playcaller for the Ducks (that role belonged to Kelly). He mostly spent his time in the box relaying defensive alignments and formations to Kelly, who would then call plays based off this information. Helfrich would almost certainly take over Kelly's role and thus hire a new offensive coordinator to handle duties in the box.
As quarterbacks coach, Helfrich helped lead Jeremiah Masoli, Darron Thomas and Marcus Mariota to excellent performances within Kelly's offense and tailor the attack to their strengths. Masoli was a better runner than passer, and Oregon went all out on the run in Helfrich's first season. Things became more balanced under Thomas, who was a much stronger passer and helped give Oregon's offense ability to crush teams through the air and the ground. Mariota represents the best of Masoli (athletic runner) and Thomas (able passer), and Oregon's offense was only challenged once in 2012.
With Helfrich and Kelly running things offensively, the Ducks won three Pac-10/Pac-12 titles and went to four BCS bowl games, including two Rose Bowls and a national championship appearance. Kelly and Helfrich would go 46-7 during their remarkable four year stretch of excellence at Eugene, and lose only three conference games.
Before his time at Oregon, Helfrich served as the offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach for Dan Hawkins at Colorado from 2006-2008, and the Buffs offense had occasional moments of excellence, including a few upsets of some top teams. Helfrich enjoyed more success in the same capacity at Arizona State in his previous stint, from 2001 to 2005. At Tempe, he helped Andrew Walter break a few ASU passing records. Helfrich was in Boise from 1998 to 2000, where he coached quarterbacks under Dirk Koetter before following him to the desert. His first gig was at Oregon as a graduate assistant in 1997. He played football at Southern Oregon from 1992-95.
He'll now take control of an offense that returns Mariota and playmaker De'Anthony Thomas and should feature two new primary ball carriers to replace Kenjon Barner in Byron Marshall and Thomas Tyner. As the Ducks will lose only three starters from their offense next season, it's unlikely that Kelly's departure will end their chances of contending for a national championship.
The biggest question comes not on the field for Helfrich, but off of it. Oregon will probably be meeting with the NCAA committee of infractions regarding the Willie Lyles case, and it remains to be seen what the severity of the punishment will be.