Late last night, Oregon decided to pull the plug on the Mark Helfrich era after an exceptionally disappointing season and years of diminishing returns. Since the Ducks haven’t fired a coach in ages, and their geography, culture and historical offensive system are unique, building a list of possible candidates is a bit trickier than it might be for other openings.
Already, one name that you might not expect has been reported as a candidate, and that’s Ohio State defensive coordinator Greg Schiano. According to Bruce Feldman, Schiano is a real candidate for the job.
John Canzano of OregonLive also reported that Schiano is in the mix for the position. Nike CEO and Oregon megabooster Phil Knight was in the Ohio State locker room after their victory over Michigan, and Canzano couldn’t help but notice. From his report:
Knight looked joyful and engaged. He was in the presence of a winning program that made him proud. But it was who was in the room, particularly taking a knee to Knight's left, near the smiling Meyer, that caught my attention. That would be Buckeyes defensive coordinator Greg Schiano. Because regardless of how and why Knight ended up in that locker room, it's Schiano who has emerged as a strong candidate in this search.
Schiano would be a course correction for Oregon. His defense wouldn't be generous. He has experience coaching in the NFL and in major college football. He won 11 games once at Rutgers, and according to a source involved in the hiring process at Oregon, "According to his peer groups, he's one of the best.
Schiano has been outstanding for the Buckeyes this year, helping turn a young, but very talented secondary into a playmaking machine, strong enough to offset struggles with the offense. The play of Malik Hooker, Marcus Lattimore and Gareon Conley has been exceptional, and they’re a major reason why Ohio State is in strong position to grab a Playoff spot this season. Schiano deserves some credit for that.
But on many levels, Schiano would also be a curious fit at Oregon. A New Jersey native, he’s spent his entire coaching career along the East Coast and Midwest, far away from Oregon’s traditional recruiting territories along the West Coast and Texas. He has a defensive background, unlike the offense-first run of recent Oregon head coaches. And he has the reputation for being a strict disciplinarian, unlike the run of coaches with more “player-first” reputations that the Ducks have enjoyed in recent years.
Other potential names to watch for this job include P.J. Fleck of Western Michigan, Scott Frost of UCF, Dana Holgorsen of West Virginia, and Oklahoma offensive coordinator Lincoln Riley.
Schiano was a very successful head coach at Rutgers, a very tough job. He’s probably going to be a head coach again at the FBS level shortly. Will it be at Oregon? We’ll find out soon enough.