Simplicity would benefit Ducks
Let me begin this little treatise with something I want to make absolutely clear: Mike Bellotti is a great football coach. The University of Oregon is lucky to have him. I think he's a pretty good person, too, and that makes the school double lucky.
But I must add that I think something's not quite right with the Duck program. Something's missing. That doesn't mean I'm talking about firing a great coach. It merely means finding the problem and solving it. It means doing what's necessary to get things back on track.
So what's going on?
I was appalled to hear Bellotti - and even some Duck players - raving about how hard the team played against the Beavers last weekend. Hey, this is the Civil Freaking War here … you think it's something special to show up and play hard?
There was the feeling that somehow the Ducks had earned a moral victory, even while losing.
My goodness - a moral victory? This is a program set up - financially and every other way - with the goal of competing for a BCS berth. And they're going to get all excited just because they played hard in the biggest rivalry game on their schedule?
Especially against a team that, quite frankly, doesn't have as much talent as the Ducks. I just don't see a lot of NFL draft picks running around in Oregon State uniforms. But I see several Ducks who definitely will be playing on Sundays.
What has gotten Oregon into this fix? There are a couple of prevailing theories:
• This team, this program, is too soft.
Look, there's always been a hint of a country club down there, and so many of the amenities the program offers can come across as pampering.
I think there may be something to this, too. I'm not sure the Ducks have played the game with the kind of ferocity that a top 10 program would display. I'm not sure they're feared by opponents.
A lot of weeks, they've seemed heavy on finesse and light on knocking people on their backsides. This is a rough, hard, physical game and some days, the Ducks just don't quite match their opponents' physicality.
And just as a side note, junk the all-yellow uniform combination. There is no way a team can march onto the field and look fearsome in a costume that makes it look like a flock of overfed canaries.
• Their offense is trying to do too much. I know, I know, when they get it all cranked up, it's a beautiful thing to see. But trying to run a sophisticated passing attack with all those receivers - and all the resulting reading of defenses - while attempting to run an option attack may be too much for all but a few very experienced quarterbacks.
In terms of practice time, this offense must be very, very expensive. And in an era when the NCAA is regulating how much time you can work out with your players, I think it's a lot to ask any young quarterback to run this show.
And when you have all the offensive talent the Ducks have, you might be better served to keep things simple. Don't be afraid to hand the ball off 25 or 30 times a game to a great running back. Don't be afraid to use simple pass patterns if you have a terrific wide receiver.
In summary - make it as simple as possible for your great athletes to be dominant. In fact, try to stay out of their way.
And one last thing: Good luck finding an athletic director as talented as Bill Moos.