Mark Helfrich appeared on the ESPNU College Football Podcast with Ivan Maisel and Ted Miller on Thursday, and the two took his temperature after half a week of moving from the Ducks’ offensive coordinator to head coach.
“The first thing that I was asked in this role was something about wall paint,” Helfrich said. “Certainly something I’ve never thought about before.”
Helfrich’s situation is unique to just about all of his colleagues that took their first head coaching jobs this winter. For one, Helfrich is one of the most junior members of what is now his own staff. Oregon has retained eight of its 10 coaches from 2012, and six of those coaches have deposited more than a decade in Eugene.
“I think that says a lot about our staff. It’s a tribute to them that they’ve instilled their faith in me and us,” he explained. “I look at that as nothing but a huge positive. We all get along really well. I was a graduate assistant here in ’97 when Gary Campbell, Tom Osborne and Don Pellum were on the staff then. Is that a little bit different? Sure. But at the same time, those guys are pros. They’re great at what they do. Are we going to try to hone our operation? Absolutely. We’re going to finely tune what we do like we would after a ‘normal season’.”
But what about those jobs that have come open with Kelly’s departure?
“There has just been a tremendous number of highly-qualified guys seeking these jobs out. It’s humbling,” Helfrich explained. “We want a great man first, and we want a great coach.”
Though Helfrich was Oregon’s offensive coordinator for four years, Kelly called the plays. Now that Kelly is gone, Helfrich has yet to decide whether he will inherit play-calling duties or delegate to offensive coordinator Scott Frost.
“We have a couple plans that we’ve already talked about in place. Our guys believe in our process… We have a couple plans for how we’re going to do that in spring, and that will obviously carry over into the fall. Our process leading to the play call is way more important than the play call,” said Helfrich.
As an Oregon native who grew up playing pick-up games on the Autzen Stadium turf as the son and nephew of former Oregon players, becoming the top Duck has to be a dream come true , right? Actually, Helfrich never aspired to be a head coach at Oregon or anywhere else.
“I’ve never in my life sat down and said ‘I have to be a head coach’. In this business, it’s always been about the people that I’ve been around,” he said. “The highest competitive level is something that’s intriguing to me. To me, that’s Division I college football. Every week is the Super Bowl. I never wrote that down as a goal. Coaching to me is about the relationships you have with the players and the relationships you have with the staff. Those things don’t exist in normal businesses.”
But now that he is Oregon’s head coach, Helfrich is smart enough to know the fabled honeymoon period won’t last forever.
“Of course right now every joke I say is funny and I’m good looking. That will I’m sure, at some point, come to a screeching halt.”