frost

The Scott Frost Issue, what it is and what it isn’t

 
 
"Schemes and play calls don't win games, Execution wins games." –Chip Kelly
 
Fans are fickle, and when things don't go perfect, they look for somebody to blame, usually the coaches.

In Scott Frost's first year as offensive coordinator, the Ducks set a school record for total offense and averaged 45.5 points a game, 4th in the country. They won 11 games, the sixth year in a row winning 10 games or more, and won their bowl game for the third year in a row.

The Ducks are now 46-7 in this decade, the winningest team in college football in that four-year span. Alabama, though, has two Crystal Footballs, and Stanford has the last two PAC-12 titles, which mutes the accomplishment.

Yesterday the Oregonian asked readers to grade Mark Helfrich's first season as head coach. Despite being the winningest team in the PAC-12 this season, most fans rated it a B.

Criticism centered on the offense, play-calling and execution. People forget that after 8 games, the Ducks were 8-0 and ranked second in the country, pushing toward #1. They controlled their destiny for the BCS title game, and as late as mid-November, still had the inside track to the Rose Bowl. 

At 8-0, fans were praising Frost for mixing things up, finding new wrinkles, and opening up the downfield passing game. Josh Huff and Bralon Addison exploded for 2030 yards and 19 touchdowns.  Byron Marshall blossomed into a thousand-yard runner. Marcus Mariota turned in the best statistical quarterback season in school history. The team averaged 7.5 yards per play and scored an astounding 81 touchdowns.

To a large degree, Frost's biggest blunder was allowing Marcus Mariota to get injured. He looked like a genius until his quarterback had to wear an unwieldy contraption on his knee.

But there were other issues. The Ducks managed just 20 points against a tough Stanford defense, none until the fourth quarter, and 6 of those came on a blocked field goal return. They scored a paltry 16 in the debacle in the desert. The offense was held to a single touchdown in the Bowl game, held to field goal tries four times, netting just 16 points on a night Mariota accounted for 386 yards.

Whenever the Quack Attack stagnated, Twitter and the message boards lit up. Frost was too predictable, people said. He passes too much. He runs too much. He needs to put in Tyner. He doesn't use De'Anthony right. He's too conservative. He takes too many chances, especially that stupid fade pattern at the goal line.

Concern centered in the following areas:

1. Red zone inefficiency.

The Ducks went through a stretch where they had 25 points in 13 trips to the red zone.

2. Self-inflicted wounds

How many fumbles did they have inside the ten? How many drives where killed by nagging penalties and missed blocks, particularly in the last five games when the offense bogged down.

3. Play-calling

4. Failure to use DAT in a creative and effective way.

He became a forgotten man after his injury, often wasted in a minor role despite his dynamic open-field ability. Kelly had a knack for dialing up big plays that utilized Thomas's speed and open-field ability. This year, the junior running back/slot receiver/ returner seemed to be a forgotten man sometimes, asked to do impossible things for a player his size on others. The image of him being tossed like a rag doll repeatedly against UCLA burns in everyone's consciousness.

5. Too much reliance on Mariota, and a failure to adjust completely when it became apparent he wasn't healthy and couldn't play his best game. 

6. Lack of imagination and inventiveness that characterized the Chip Kelly era.

7. A schematic disadvantage in big games

8. Failure to meet outsized expectations

–It's the nature of big-time coaching that Frost gets maligned for the failures and misfortunes of the whole unit, the entire staff, even the whole team. Some of the criticism goes way out of bounds. There's way more to coaching than dialing up plays, but a generation raised on Madden and Tecmo doesn't understand this. There's this notion that a super-coaching brain can just draw up a play on a greaseboard or in the dirt and baffle opponents and make them beg for mercy, but so much of football comes down to execution, emotion, talent, injuries, and the bounce of a pointy ball.

Frost is a leader of men, a man of great integrity who cares about his players as sons. His personal decency and integrity is legendary, a deeply real, grounded guy from a small town in Nebraska who played for Bill Walsh, Tom Osborne, Bill Parcells, Bill Belichick, Jon Gruden, Dennis Erickson and Mike Tomlin.

The quarterback of an undefeated national champion team at Nebraska who played 5 seasons in the NFL, Frost is a dynamic recruiter and in some ways the anti-Lupoi: he connects with kids because he cares about them in an unassailably authentic way, and he understands deeply the road they want to travel and the demands and allure of the game.
 
Frost works 14 hours a day and studies the game as intently as anyone in the business. People want to blame him for the struggles of this team, but they forget, it was Frost who dialed up the play that Josh Huff scored on on 4th and 12 in the Civil War; it was Frost who called the inside run to Tyner on 3rd and 13 on the same drive. He crafted the game plan that saw Marcus Mariota explode for 386 yards against Texas, and the explosion would have been even bigger if the super-talented Hawaiian hadn't been hampered by cramps in the second half.
 
In Scott Frost's first year as offensive coordinator the team set a school record for offense and had a 1,000 yard rusher and a 1,000-yard receiver. When Mariota was healthy they destroyed Washington 45-24, demolished UCLA 42-14, hung 59 on Virginia and Tennessee, 55 on Cal, 57 on Colorado, and 62 on Washington State, all while going into safe mode for long stretches of the second half. His team extended winning streaks over the Huskies, Cougars and Beavers. They won a nail-biting Civil War with a clutch drive, 9 plays, 83 yards in a minute and nine seconds, down 35-30.
 
Frost got some criticism not just for this year. Some even reached back and said he hadn't done much with the Oregon receivers while he was here, turning them into blocking backs. People forget Jeff Maehl had one of the best seasons in Webfoot history when Frost coached his group, and that Maehl, Drew Davis, Rahsaan Vaughn and Will Murphy all made it to the NFL. The "no block, no rock" philosophy wasn't glamorous, but it sprung a lot of big plays and won a lot of games.
 
Fans expect perfection and instant results. Fans want the ego boost of rooting for a winner, and often don't understand how hard the game is or the sacrifices players and coaches make. It's easy to rip someone behind an anonymous internet handle. It's important to remember how Frost has stood up to the criticism and defended his players, and the tremendous way he's represented the university and himself. Imagine an unmarried college football coach who took in a 16-year old foster child and gave him a home. Think about a coach who becomes a second father to players like Mariota and Huff. That's Scott Frost. Whatever he hasn't learned about running the offense, he'll figure out.

 

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