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FishDuck Article

Head Coaching Conundrum: To Hire Within or Without?

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Another year, another coaching hire at Oregon. This is starting to become an unwelcome trend. Every single year of Mario Cristobal’s tenure has come with new coaching hires and is unlikely to stop any time soon. Hiring assistant coaches and coordinators can have a massive impact on a program, and Cristobal has done a fine job in hiring coaches that ...

 

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It is a good subject to ponder David, and boy can we make a case both directions.  If you do not promote from within--you will lose good coaches such as Heyward.  Yet the DC hired was superior, and that is what we want.  Mario is just trying to pick the best guy available, but a big difference is the sales ability of Cristobal himself. 

 

Mario could sell Avalos and DeRuyter on coming here to be a DC, while Helfrich could not sell anyone and simply took who would accept the job in Hoke.  This recruiting ability in the end could be what is MC's most valuable skill, because if you have great Xs and Os coaches in addition to being great recruiters?  You cannot help but do well...

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Mr. FishDuck

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It's an interesting question, and made more difficult by looking at it as either/or rather than the best. So far Cristobal has upgraded with his hires from outside, Arroyo and Avalos were both hired from outside to become head coaches. 

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As 30Duck stated, interesting question, and one that has no exact answer. I do think it comes down to your goal, and your ability to meet that goal. Cristobal's goal is to win it all, and he has the ability to recruit to that end. Helfrich, on the other hand, was just trying to continue something, and he had little ability to meet that objective.

 

Cristobal is the master at recruiting. This is true with student athletes and with coaches. He can identify and sell both groups at an elite level. Helfrich couldn't recruit either group. Cristobal has the connections within the coaching world too. He was at Alabama which gave him exposure to a level of coaches Helfrich could only dream about. Helfrich was left with hiring from within and then looking for somebody who was willing to take a risk. With the recruiting of student athletes like Cristobal has done  coaches are lining up to help out. Who wouldn't want to coach Thibs, Sewell, Flowe and others?

 

It does come down to who do you know, who can you sell and how aggressive are you? Cristobal checks all the boxes at the 10-11 level, Helfrich checked those boxes at the 4 level.

 

Cristobal is also under the gun to win now, and grow the program. He didn't take over a program that was elite. Hiring from within when your program is still developing isn't the best option. I find it interesting that Cristobal seems to be interviewing by playing against coordinators and experiencing their ability. He lost to BSU and hired their DC, same with Cal. Not a bad way to go about the job of hiring.

 

What I hope for is Cristobal to stay for a good long time, win it all and then pass the baton to a hotshot assistant who can expand the program. This is tricky, but when you have a system in place that works it is much more viable to hire from within. You almost need too because you don't want somebody to come in, and change a winning system.  Bellotti kept a winning system going and allowed it to develop further. The problem was when we extended this to the next internal hire. The guy has to be head coach material, or coordinator material and have an ability to grow a program, not just hold on.

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Hiring experienced coordinators from without risks a short tenure as success means they may be hired as HCs elsewhere. Does 2 to 3 year tenure breed stability? Is stability important to long-term success? History indicates the answers are “no” and “yes.” Stability simply is not a guarantee of success, and therein lays a double edged sword.
 

Also, external hires for coordinators inherently paints existing assistant coaches as constrained, and while they may never say that, they are smart enough to recognize the implication of a ceiling to their advancement. So it is important to occasionally take the risk and hire from within. Since when Mark was let go, the assistants have mostly been very good to great. At least one of them certainly would be a great coordinator given the chance. Mario’s challenge is to ID those and commit.

 

If Mario continues to hire outside over inside for the coordinators, that establishes a precedent, a hiring culture. Future potential assistants will see that and someday it will be harder to find the best assistant coaches. This to me is the crux of the biscuit...assistant hires.
 

These decisions are tough calls. I hope Mario is self-reflective enough to recognize the long-term impacts of his coordinator choices (and offensive play calling puts that into question).

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11 minutes ago, Haywarduck said:

What I hope for is Cristobal to stay for a good long time, win it all and then pass the baton to a hotshot assistant who can expand the program

This is definitely what we want to happen, but it's tricky. After Paul "Bear" Bryant left in 1982, Alabama went  through nine coaches in twenty seven years with one championship, Gene Stallings in 1992, and years of NCAA sanctions and vacated wins,  until Saban started his era of domination in 2009.

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16 minutes ago, 30Duck said:

This is definitely what we want to happen, but it's tricky. After Paul "Bear" Bryant left in 1982, Alabama went  through nine coaches in twenty seven years with one championship, Gene Stallings in 1992, and years of NCAA sanctions and vacated wins,  until Saban started his era of domination in 2009.

I would be satisfied with the Alabama legacy, without the violations, but that seems like the SEC way. When Bryant left they stayed pretty strong for over a decade. It was the violations, and getting caught, which really killed that program.

What is truly amazing is how quickly we have recovered from the CK days. It seems like, Cristobal is building another extremely strong program that may be resilient again. We do need to grow some strong assistants, internally, and have them ready to grow the program. We also need to keep the program clean of any violations, and it seems like Cristobal is all above board.

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33 minutes ago, Jay Mac said:

Hiring experienced coordinators from without risks a short tenure as success means they may be hired as HCs elsewhere. Does 2 to 3 year tenure breed stability? Is stability important to long-term success? History indicates the answers are “no” and “yes.” Stability simply is not a guarantee of success, and therein lays a double edged sword.

Alabama tends to go through coaches pretty regularly and that hasn't slowed them down. Though they do have their ups and downs and the past few years with Sark at OC has been an offensive explosion for them that has produced more than when Kiffin was the OC, and Kiffin did a pretty good job at Alabama.

 

Clemson is a bit odd as they have really held onto their coaching staff with relatively little turnover.

 

The Oregon of old focused almost exclusively on internal hires and that really did help build Oregon into a national brand. I would say Helfrich failed in his defensive hires more than his offensive hires. Promoting from within was the Oregon way so I really can't fault Helfrich for promoting Frost, Lubick and Pellum which all came with mixed results. It was the external hires that were even worse for Helfrich than the Pellum internal promotion.

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I think it's simple, you can't foresee the future, so you hire the best coach available whether from within or without. I mean, do we really want Mario to hire an "ok" coach or promote from within because he thinks the guy will stick around for a long-time? Nah.  Saban is on, what, his 7th or 8th OC? Success breeds your coordinators getting raided on a continual basis as most of them have head coaching aspirations. 

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17 minutes ago, Darren Perkins said:

I think it's simple, you can't foresee the future, so you hire the best coach available whether from within or without.

DING, DING, DING! We have a winner.

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48 minutes ago, Haywarduck said:

What is truly amazing is how quickly we have recovered from the CK days. It seems like, Cristobal is building another extremely strong program that may be resilient again. We do need to grow some strong assistants, internally, and have them ready to grow the program.

 

I would say some long term assistant coaches will be Mirabal and Salave'a at this time. Both received three year contract extensions and seem happy in their roles.

 

I would also say that DeRuyter has the possibility of hanging around for quite a while. He's been a head coach but that was a while ago now and he hasn't gone out to pursue another head coaching job. He could certainly get a head coaching job at a group of five school if he wanted it, though he does seem content at Defensive Coordinator. I think I read somewhere that his wife has connections to Eugene as well which could play a role at keeping him at Oregon for a longer time.

 

I doubt Moorhead will be at Oregon longer than another couple of years.. unless his family really likes Eugene in which case anything is possible. To date his family has only experienced Eugene during a pandemic. Though Moorhead does strike me as someone who would like another shot as a head coach at some point in the near future.

 

Cristobal has done some internal title promotions over the past few years. Most recently Mirabal has the title of assistant head coach (a title that Salave'a has had in the past) and Wilson just received the title of co-defensive coordinator as well (this was a title that Heyward held for a season or two in the past).

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One component to the "retention" question, and how long the OC and DC stay here is what they see of Cristobal's schedule and workload.  If they realize, "I gotta recruit against that later as a HC somewhere," and begin to wonder if they can possibly recreate the magic that MC has generated?  It might actually make them happier to remain as a Coordinator?

 

That is my fantasy and I'm sticking to it!

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Mr. FishDuck

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When it comes to your coaching hires(Specifically coordinator) you have to trains of action, You can replicate what Alabama has done or you have the Clemson route. I don't know if one is arguable better than the other but at Clemson they have paid outlandish amounts of money to keep both Elliot and venables as their coordinators. It obviously is working for them but It is hard to argue that it is a sustainable route. Honestly the same can probably be said for Bama though, I'd argue a system in which you cycle a new(likely elite) coordinator almost every season is probably not ideal either. 

 

Oregon needs to find a balance where we can keep coordinators long enough that they can maintain and develop because unless oregon gets to that next level of recruiting(Bama, OSU, Clemson, Maybe georgia level) I just don't know if Oregon has coaching to succeed in the current playoff system.

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Some of the inspiration for this article came from the divergent hiring plans of Oregon and Washington. 

 

Right now Oregon is making some if the biggest moves and splashiest hires. Over the past two years they have brought in names with significant weight: Moorhead, McClendon, DeRuyter, and Yates all have coached at positions higher than the jobs they have at Oregon. We also expect them to have a significant impact on the program and bring something to Oregon that Oregon didn't previously have. 

 

Meanwhile our hated neighbor to the North, Washington lost their venerated defensive coordinator. Their response was to promote from within, in this case it was someone who had some expirence with the defensive coordinator job. Then to fill their open position coaching job they hired an analyst. Two jobs two internal hires, no new blood and ideas. 

 

Obviously at some point every program is going to have to make a hire from without. Washington hired a new analyst. 

 

I do think Cristobal wants and values new ideas flowing into the program. His reluctance to promote from within is a sign that he wants expirence filling the voids. Though there is also a sense that Cristobal believes that coaches should move on and expirence and learn from other programs. Staying in one place will limit their growth as coaches. 

 

Though keeping coaches around longer than two years is a must going forward. The turnover at Oregon has been a bit too much. Players need the consistency more than anything else. 

 

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