Mailbag: Patience with Oregon coach Mark Helfrich?

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To the questions!

Brian writes: With two new coordinators and no internally developed QBs, how patient SHOULD Oregon's fan base be with Helfrich compared to his reputation among coaching peers?

Ted Miller: Well, of course, you should fire him RIGHT NOW.

Just look at his record. In three years at Oregon, he's 33-8 overall and 22-5 in Pac-12 play. Some might obnoxiously dwell on that being THE BEST RECORD AMONG PAC-12 COACHES OVER THE PAST THREE SEASONS. But those folks are losers. We need to make Oregon great again! Heck, Helfrich only played for a national title after the 2014 season. He didn't win one. We all know that's the barometer for success in Eugene, where coaches find winning a national title as easy as producing a bag of microwave popcorn that isn't burned (the secret being taking it out of the microwave at least 30 seconds before the instructions tell you to).

Sigh. So we are back here, eh? Last July, we touched on this very topic from an obviously different angle because the Ducks were coming off a different short of season. Not to quote myself, but I wrote:

Yet a college football coach doesn't ever truly arrive this day and age. There is no tenure or lifetime appointments. Urban Meyer and Nick Saban? See what happens if they go 8-4 and 7-5 in consecutive years with a few off-field issues. The pressure is always there and just about every coach must deal with the "what have you done for me lately?" response from boosters. Helfrich vindicated himself this season. That's a consensus opinion. But the Ducks at 8-4 this December would provoke the handwringing again.

Or, in this case, 9-4 at season's end.

As for the coordinators, offensive coordinator Scott Frost was hired away to be the head coach at Central Florida. That reflects well on Helfrich, not poorly. He's already developing a coaching tree. The demotion of Don Pellum -- subsequently replaced by former Michigan coach Brady Hoke -- after two seasons as defensive coordinator at the very least shows that Helfrich isn't afraid to bracket off his emotions and make tough decisions.

Was it a bad decision to promote Pellum instead of hiring, say, Clancy Pendergast, who interviewed for the job? Maybe. Pendergast, who is now back at USC, was pretty much a sure thing. But giving Pellum an opportunity also demonstrated admirable loyalty, which has been a highly successful preference for past Ducks coaches, including Mike Bellotti and Chip Kelly.

As for the QB issue, Helfrich would have seemed like a genius if Vernon Adams had remained healthy. Of course, he didn't, and the obvious lack of a capable backup plan was glaring. In fact, I'm not sure we've had too many seasons swing so wildly in terms of results based on a single player.

That falls on Helfrich and his staff, and he knows that as well as anyone. As much as spring practices might prove to be a coronation of touted FCS transfer Dakota Prukop, know that Helfrich is as intent at building depth behind center, starting with a quality backup who can win Pac-12 games.

So what if the Ducks go 9-4 again and this time -- yikes! -- they find themselves looking up in the North Division standings at Washington after the Huskies end 12 years of futility in the bitter rivalry? More than a few Oregon fans would look at the Huskies with their sophomore quarterback and their "genius" coach Chris Petersen and would experience pangs of desperation, wondering if their Northwest dynasty was coming to an end.

The pressure on Helfrich then would be pretty hot. Suggesting patience then would be met with many wise-quacks!

Still, Oregon folks should fight the urge to overreact. If there are several clear problems within the program, that's one thing, but if a nine-win season becomes a fireable offense in Eugene, well, that smacks of a hubris that could end up biting the program on its figurative rear end.

Tom from San Diego writes: Will WSU be able to match its win total from last year?

Ted Miller: Yes.

I look at the Cougars' schedule and see nine wins. I also see the season-finale vs. Washington -- Nov. 25 in Pullman is going to be lovely! -- as having significant stakes. Perhaps the North title. Perhaps a 10-win regular season for one or the other.

Mike Leach has his quarterback in Luke Falk, which was always the measure of whether the Cougars would become Texas Tech Take Two. Falk has pretty much his entire stable of skill-position support coming back. And I think the defense will, at the very least, be as good as it was in 2015.

October is going to be a heck of a month, though: Oregon, Stanford, UCLA and Arizona State. But going 2-2 there would be good enough to get back to nine wins, me thinks.

Mark writes: What are the odds, in your estimation, that the new ASU QB will, by the end of the season, have better numbers than [Mike] Bercovici? Reminder that Bercovici didn't actually have a particularly bad season and there were three games (four if you count the bowl game) where ASU lost after having the lead at halftime last year. Bonus question: Does the new ASU QB need to have better numbers than Bercovici to be successful?

Double Bonus: How much more time does The Chuckbox have at its current prime location?

Ted Miller: Wait. ... Is The Chuckbox moving? Is that a rumor? How am I supposed to concentrate on your question now?

I rate it as remote that the Sun Devils' starting QB averages just under 300 yards passing per game, as Bercovici did this past season. In fact, if the Arizona State QB is needing 300 yards passing per game, that's a negative for the season.

The Sun Devils would be much better off if they average more than 200 yards rushing per game -- plus-22 from last year -- and drastically reduce the big plays their defensive surrenders. As previously noted, Arizona State surrendered 88 plays of 20 yards or longer in 2015, which ranked 127th in the nation. Their 30 plays of 40-plus yards ranked 128th, or last in all of FBS.

The next Arizona State QB needs to protect the football, play efficiently and hand the ball to Demario Richard and a strong crew of backups.

As far as questions on offense, QB rates No. 2. The Sun Devils veteran offensive line underachieved last year, yielding 39 sacks and leading a rushing attack that averaged a middling 4.3 yards per carry, and just one starter is back in 2016.