You would think we are in Seattle with all the Dog-Piling of Oregon fans on the stack of the #Fire Mark Helfrich movement around here. As you all know, I am not in that group, although this site will allow editorials...
We have read the pundits in the media along with the opinions from the ”experts” on the Oregon message boards; the quarterback recruiting in the past at Oregon has been a disaster after Marcus Mariota, and the present is a muddled...
In the tradition of
I read a column recently which made me wonder if the writer has ever heard of Oregon football. Upon further research, I discovered the author is a University of Arizona graduate, which explains a great deal. Still, if you are going...
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
Craig Loper, EDN Sports
With spring practice for the Ducks well under way, position battles are heating up; none more so than the battle for quarterback. With Bryan Bennet and Marcus Mariota sharing reps trying to impress head coach Chip Kelly and the other offensive coaches, one will undoubtedly emerge by fall camp as the clear starter.
However, it may have been the quarterback before them that helped to develop the competiveness and strive for excellence that Bennet and Mariota work for each practice.
This past off-season Darron Thomas surprised nearly all of us when he decided to forego his senior season and enter the NFL draft. His decision to do so was questioned and analyzed from nearly all angles. Critics said he was leaving too early “with no chance of playing in the NFL”, while some Oregon fans claimed “we didn’t need him”.
Regardless of where Thomas ends up after the NFL draft this April, or your opinion of him, his short time at Oregon created a legacy that is too great to go unnoticed.
On September 20, 2008 in Autzen Stadium, Duck fans first gained a glimpse of the true-freshman Thomas in a game versus Boise State. Forced to pull his redshirt due to quarterback injuries in the game, Thomas stepped in as a relative unknown, with the complex Oregon offense in his hands.
Thomas’ response? A nearly perfect second half in which he and the Ducks came close to erasing a 24-point fourth-quarter deficit. Thomas finished the game 13-of-25 passing with 210 yards through the air and three touchdowns, but the Ducks would ultimately lose 37-32.
However, Thomas’ performance would have Eugene buzzing with the possibility of another Dennis Dixon at quarterback. Thomas would finish the 2008 season making appearances in special situations for the Oregon offense and an impressive trick play in the Ducks’ 65-38 Civil War blowout.
After a redshirt season backing up Jeremiah Masoli and Nate Costa in 2009, Thomas battled Costa for the starting job in 2010 in fall camp following Masoli’s eventual release from the team. After being named the starter, Thomas never looked back.
The quarterback position may have been the biggest question mark going into 2010, but Thomas would quickly erase all doubt by leading the Ducks to a 12-0 regular season, including wins over No. 9 Stanford and No. 24 USC, and Oregon’s first ever appearance in the national championship.
While LaMichael James garnered most of the awards and attention, Thomas quietly and efficiently ran the Ducks’ offense, finishing the season completing 61.5 percent of his passes, 2,881 yards through the air, and 35 total touchdowns, including five rushing. Arguably the greatest season by an Oregon quarterback in school history, Thomas would return in 2011 unquestioned and determined to lead the Ducks to another BCS game.
And that he would.
After an off-season with a national championship loss on their mind, the Ducks entered 2011 season ranked No. 3 in the country, opening in tremendous fashion in a game versus No. 4 LSU at Cowboys stadium in Arlington, TX.
Hopes at another national championship run were jarred after losing the season opener, but Thomas and the Ducks wouldn’t dwell on it for long.
Thomas would ultimately lead the Ducks to a third-straight conference championship in the inaugural Pac-12 championship game versus UCLA. The win would give the Ducks another Rose bowl berth, and a shot to redeem themselves from the 2009 season (when they lost to Ohio State in the Rose Bowl).
Facing off against the Big Ten conference champion, Wisconsin, Thomas and the Ducks would answer the prayers of Oregon fans everywhere and finish the game with a victory, winning 45-38. It was Oregon’s first Rose bowl victory since 1917.
Thomas finished 2011 with 2,761 yards passing and 33 touchdowns, impressive numbers despite missing time due to injuries.
With only three loses in two years as a starter, 5,642 yards passing, and 66 passing touchdowns (Oregon’s all-time mark), Thomas undoubtedly deserves to be mentioned with other Oregon quarterback greats such as Joey Harrington, Dan Fouts and Akili Smith.
In just two years as a starter, Thomas was at the helm of two Oregon teams that would revolutionize the Oregon football program, forever. Although his production may be overshadowed by James and the Ducks’ elite rushing attack, Thomas methodically led an Oregon offense unlike any of us have ever seen.
Dubbed the “blur” by the national media, Thomas was a point guard leading a fast break for a team ranked dead last in time of possession. A quick strike here and a bolt of lightning there, Thomas led ten other players around him in, what seems to all of us, chaos.
Thomas not only efficiently operated Chip Kelly’s fast-paced offense, he flourished in it, throwing 30 or more touchdowns in each of his two seasons, and his reputation as a scrambler was often overhyped, as he played mostly from the pocket and dissected defenses.
Despite what you may think of Thomas’ legacy at Oregon (he was involved in three off-the-field incidents), the numbers don’t lie. And the most significant number of them all is 23. That’s the number of wins Thomas led the Ducks to in his two years as a starter, making him Oregon’s all-time winningest quarterback.
So when it comes to Oregon quarterback legacy, you may think of another name first, but don’t overlook two letters: DT.