clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Oregon’s first coaching search since 1976 begins. Here are 12 names to know

Good morning! This is the Read Option, your daily college football newsletter. Sign up for this in your inbox!

New England Patriots v San Francisco 49ers Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images

The Oregon Ducks have fired a head coach. That hasn't happened in 40 years, since former Oregon athletic director John Caine fired head football coach Don Read with these words:

"We want a different personality with a different background and a different approach," Caine said. [He] said he made his decision to fire [Don Read] after listening "to the newspaper people, television commentators, alumni, campus people, custodians, the milk-man, and my druggist. I don't mind. It shows people are concerned."

Tuesday, Mark Helfrich was the end of the coaching dynasty that'd stretched from Rich Brooks to Mike Bellotti to Chip Kelly and included several decades-long assistants.

Now the internet's first-ever, actual Oregon head coaching search begins.

The obvious consideration

P.J. Fleck, Western Michigan HC

Fleck’s built WMU from 1-11 in 2013 to 12-0, with a shot at 14-0, in 2016. He’s recruited octagons around the rest of the MAC and much of mid-majordom. He’s young, he’s got catchphrases, and his teams score points. With Tom Herman off the board, Fleck’s probably the hottest coach in the country now, but getting him out of the Midwest could be a hurdle.

According to Football Scoop, Oregon’s reps have already spoken to Fleck’s reps. Oregon columnist John Canzano, "A college source familiar with Fleck told me Tuesday, ‘I think if PJ gets in front of [Nike founder and Oregon megabooster Phil Knight], he will get this job.’"

The names popping up on every list

Bryan Harsin, Boise State HC

A Boise lifer, he’s gone 31-8 with the Broncos and beaten Arizona in a Fiesta Bowl. My worry with this hire would be looking like you’re following in the footsteps of archrival Washington, which is already in year three under Harsin’s mentor, Chris Petersen. Then again, don’t you want to play more like Washington right now?

Beau Baldwin, Eastern Washington HC

Probably the most experienced head coach on Oregon’s list. He’s gone 93-34 in FCS, won the 2010 FCS playoffs, and provided Oregon perhaps its second-best QB of the last decade (Vernon Adams via transfer, which led to a dustup with the Ducks). And his teams have beaten Oregon State and Washington State and challenged Oregon and Washington despite having fewer scholarships.

Lane Kiffin, Alabama OC

The day after Helfrich's firing, Football Scoop added Kiffin. The new-and-improved, former USC and Tennessee head coach has spent a lot of time in the Pac-12 before! Some of it was good! Now he's all grown up under Nick Saban, he still knows how to assemble a top offense, and he can recruit!

Kiffin is probably leaving Bama after this season, with Ed Orgeron hoping to hire him at LSU, but the Ducks could offer him something much bigger, if they decide his upside is worth the obvious risk.

Scott Frost, UCF HC

You just fired a former Oregon OC who had a little head coaching experience, so here’s an idea: hire a former Oregon OC who has a little head coaching experience! Frost has steered UCF from 0-12 back to bowl eligibility in year one, but if the Ducks are looking for a fresh start, he wouldn’t be the solution.

Dan Mullen, Mississippi State HC

He’s always on every list for every job. His teams overachieve, and he knows modern offense.

Better think about him

Willie Taggart, USF HC

He’s not appearing on many Oregon job-watch lists yet, but he should. He’s young, has won more than expected at both WKU and USF, can recruit, has a solid reputation, comes from the Jim Harbaugh tree, and has proved he’s willing to adapt.

On a bye three years ago, Taggart set aside his strict observance of smash-mouth, West Coast, power football.

He embraced what he saw in his Floridian roster: raw athleticism, as fast as possible.

"That’s so important to us. That’s why we have the respect. Because you don’t normally see coaches do that," senior running back Marlon Mack said after the win vs. UCF. "I don’t know of coaches at this level that would listen to players asking to change things. We said, ‘Please, let’s go fast, let us go and we’ll show you,’ and he did."

"At first it was, well, let’s just run West Coast, but see how it looks in the ’gun," Taggart said. "And then it got intriguing, because we started seeing all the options available that we didn’t have under center. And then we started running all the practice reps, Quinton in the ’gun, spread out, but with the shifts and motions. And it was like … wow."

There's also a good chance he gets a foot in the door, and if he does, he'll have a real shot.

Surprising, but let us ponder

Lincoln Riley, Oklahoma OC

I dunno, do you think running the country’s best offense might appeal to Oregon people, who tend to like offense? OU ranks No. 3 in yards per play against FBS teams and No. 1 in Offensive S&P+, with either QB Baker Mayfield or WR Dede Westbrook likely to be a Heisman finalist.

He comes from the Mike Leach tree and is only 33, but has seven years of OC experience.

Oregon’s checked with Riley’s people, per Football Scoop.

Greg Schiano, Ohio State DC

Wait, what?

Canzano, from the scene of Ohio State’s locker room on Saturday, where Knight told Ohio State he’s as proud of them as he is of any ranked program:

Knight looked joyful and engaged. He was in the presence of a winning program that made him proud. But it was who was in the room, particularly taking a knee to Knight's left, near the smiling Meyer, that caught my attention. That would be Buckeyes defensive coordinator Greg Schiano. Because regardless of how and why Knight ended up in that locker room, it's Schiano who has emerged as a strong candidate in this search.

Schiano’s time in the NFL made his name a punchline, but look at what Rutgers was for all of the last 40 years that didn’t involve him or his recruits. If Knight wants Oregon to be more like Ohio State and wants Oregon to be more hard-nosed, there are worse ideas.

Dana Holgorsen, West Virginia HC

If you can win at WVU, you can win anywhere in the Power 5. (Rich Rodriguez evidence aside.) The Eers could hit 10-2 this season, his fifth winning season in six years there.

His teams score a lot and, lately, play more defense than they get credit for. This year, WVU ranks behind only Gary Patterson’s TCU among Big 12 teams in yards allowed per play.

Jim McElwain, Florida HC

The two-time SEC East champ is a Montana native who’s coached in California, Colorado, and Washington. He’s also already got one of the sport’s five or 10 best jobs. However, 247Sports’ Travis Haney reported before Helfrich’s firing:

The name that suddenly everyone — industry sources and media members, alike — seems to be talking about is Florida coach Jim McElwain.

A general rule this time of year: If everyone’s talking about the same person, it’s either imminent - or it’s B.S., likely an attempt to leverage an extension and raise.

Lean toward the latter, but the possibility remains that McElwain and UF are not a snug fit.

We miss you, Chip

Chip Kelly, San Francisco 49ers HC

Dearest Chiptholomew,

Just come home to college football. We’ll forget any of this ever happened.

You’re currently 27-31 as an NFL head coach and slogging through a 1-10 2016. Wouldn’t you rather win 10 games a year, as you did all four years as Oregon’s head coach, than lose them? You make $6 million a year right now, which I’m pretty sure Nike has sitting around somewhere, if need be.

I know you don’t like to recruit all that much. Well, at least you'd get to see "Puddles" again.

We love you, Chip. Thank you for listening.

(Yes, Kelly's appearing on a few candidate lists. No one knows if he'd come back. Buuuuuut this might be Kelly's last chance for a while to get his old gig back, if he were to want a way out of a long rebuild in the pros.)