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A pickup basketball game between the football coaches of the University of New Hampshire and Brown University in the 1990s was the first of many meetings between two future NFL head coaches. Then-New Hampshire running backs coach Chip Kelly and a Brown assistant coach named Bill O’Brien exchanged ideas about X’s and O’s on the first of many occasions. O’Brien was …
Entering what is now the second spring of the Mark Helfrich era at Oregon, Chip Kelly’s influence remains visible across all facets of the Oregon football program. From the up-tempo style of play Kelly initially installed as a coordinator to the commitment to unique and cutting-edge preparation with a focus on continuous daily improvement – as well as maintaining the invaluable coaching continuity — are all lasting hallmarks of his vision.
While Helfrich will inevitably put his own stamp on the program, he will be coaching a roster made up of many of Chip’s recruits for the next few years. Even so, Helfrich likely served a substantial role in landing these recruits as offensive coordinator – one of which, quarterback Marcus Mariota, might be the very best of that bunch.
With that in mind, let’s compare the most productive quarterbacks of the Chip Kelly era.
Career Passing Yards
475/722 6,342 yards – Marcus Mariota
449/733 5,910 yards – Darron Thomas
444/695 5,129 yards – Dennis Dixon
313/544 3,891 yards – Jeremiah Masoli
168/309 1,660 yards – Brady Leaf
80/152 952 yards – Justin Roper
45/83 580 yards – Bryan Bennett
45/66 483 yards – Nate Costa
Career Rushing Yards
202 carries 1,467 yards – Marcus Mariota
248 carries 1,386 yards – Jeremiah Masoli
258 carries 1,208 yards – Dennis Dixon
132 carries 635 yards – Darron Thomas
67 carries 42 yards – Brady Leaf
62 carries 365 yards – Bryan Bennett
36 carries 139 yards – Nate Costa
32 carries 86 yards – Justin Roper
77 – 63 pass/14 rush – Marcus Mariota
75 – 66 pass/9 rush – Darron Thomas
51 – 28 pass/23 rush – Jeremiah Masoli
50 – 38 pass/12 rush – Dennis Dixon
15 – 9 pass/6 rush – Bryan Bennett
11 – 9 pass/2 rush – Justin Roper
10 – 9 pass/1 rush – Brady Leaf
5 – 2 pass/3 rush – Nate Costa
21 – Dennis Dixon
17 – Darron Thomas
11 – Jeremiah Masoli
10 – Marcus Mariota
9 – Brady Leaf
6 – Justin Roper
3 – Bryan Bennett
1 – Nate Costa
24 (appeared in 31 games) – Darron Thomas
23 (appeared in 26 games) – Marcus Mariota
20 (appeared in 24 games) – Jeremiah Masoli
8* (appeared in 40 games) – Dennis Dixon
0** (appeared in 35 games) – Brady Leaf
3 (appeared in 16 games) – Bryan Bennett
2 (appeared in 16 games) – Nate Costa
1 (appeared in 10 games) – Justin Roper
*-Dixon was on the roster or played in parts of 32 total team wins.
**-Leaf often split time or finished games Dixon started. He was 0-2 during games against Oklahoma and at Washington State.
As you can see from the numbers, Mark Helfrich has been afforded the most productive quarterback of the Chip Kelly era by almost every measurable statistic. Should Mariota be able to continue along this trajectory during his upcoming junior (and likely final) season, his numbers across the board will be exponentially higher than any of his predecessors. His win total is on track to obliterate the career win numbers for the long line of greats who have played in Eugene.
When you add in his school records already achieved for most touchdowns, and also becoming the first Oregon QB to amass over 4,000 yards in a season at the end of last year, Duck fans in 2014 will suddenly find themselves watching simply the greatest quarterback in school history. And it won’t even be close.
Top photo by Kevin Cline
Former UO standout Darron Thomas is being brought back to the state of Oregon. The new Portland Arena Football team has signed Thomas to a free-agent contact, confirmed by head coach Matthew Sauk.
Thomas had an illustrious career for the Ducks. His collegiate debut came in a loss to Boise State at home when the Ducks’ pulled his redshirt mid-game. Then after a redshirt in 2009, Thomas beat out Nate Costa for the starting quarterback job in 2010 guiding the Ducks to a national championship appearance. As a junior, Thomas brought the Ducks’ their first Rose Bowl victory in close to a century but surprisingly declared for the NFL Draft rather than returning for his final year of eligibility.
Thomas bounced around from league to league, never in the NFL, and now appears to have a long-term home in Portland.