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.
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.