A Tweet stating that Phil Knight is willing to pay $10 million per year for a football coach to lead Oregon to a national title should be dismissed on arrival with a chuckle because it couldn't possibly be true.
Or could it?
A question regarding ESPN sports business reporter Darren Rovell's tweet was posed to UO coach Mark Helfrich on Sunday, a day after the Ducks lost 45-20 at USC to fall to 3-6 on the season.
His response: "That's the nature of the profession. It would be cool if it was that easy."
After a pause, Helfrich added: "I take it, it wasn't me that's getting the $10 million?"
In actuality, Helfrich would be receiving $11 million in the deal. More on that later.
What's more pressing is how such a report, if it's true, defines how perspective levels around Oregon's poor season have reached such gutter levels that one must consider that everyone remotely associated with the program - fans, boosters, media - have all lost their damn minds.
There is not a coach alive that's going to magically bring a national title to Oregon no matter how much Knight, or anyone, pays that person. In fact, I don't think there is a coach alive who believes he could guarantee Oregon a national title, but there are plenty who would take the ridiculous paycheck and give it the ol' college try.
The idea of throwing that type of money around sounds like an act of desperation rather than one born from deep thought. It's an overreaction to problem that will naturally correct itself.
Maybe I'm not as alarmed by the current state of UO's program because I saw the eventual demise coming years ago, stated as such and wrote about it while at The Oregonian in 2012. I reiterated that point in 2014 when writing that the national championship window would close after Marcus Mariota moved on to the NFL, and prior to this season called it a year of transition for a young and inexperienced team.
I certainly didn't predict 3-6 at this point, but I did predict that the rest of the conference would catch up with the "blur" offense and the Ducks' talent level would not be able to sustain a string of dominant seasons without the benefit of a fantastical, yet gimmicky offense leading the way.
However, I also believe that the program will recover when a new influx of talent, led by a transcendent star, were allowed to develop. That star is freshman quarterback Justin Herbert, who will at least become the second greatest quarterback ever to play at Oregon when his career is over (baring injury, of course).
Allowing this all to play out requires minimal patience, something sorely missing in this day and age.
What's happened is that fans and boosters have so attached their own egos and emotions to the success of UO's football program that they almost believe they created that success. So, now that things have gone south the first reaction is to punish someone.
That someone is Helfrich, who had the misfortune of following Chip Kelly, propped up as a football God because he had four great years primarily because from 2009 through 2012, most of the conference had no clue how to handle the Ducks' dizzyingly fast-paced offense.
That has changed and here we are. Those with an open mind recognize that the downfall could have happened to Kelly, as well, and in fact partly did because the final two recruiting classes he oversaw had players all over the 2015 team, and some remain this season on a team virtually void of quality senior leadership.
Those who believe in the Kelly mythology - and haven't been watching him getting crushed in the NFL - want to believe that Helfrich ruined a good thing, and that Kelly would have kept the gravy train going into eternity.
Every program in the conference has the same amount of scholarships and is also free to hire good coaches. Simple math and probability dictate that some of those teams were going to eventually become really good and that Oregon would eventually have a rebuilding season.
What's being ignored at an alarming fashion is that this team on paper had no chance to contend this season. It's far too young and inexperienced, and the Ducks have suffered a crazy amount of injuries.
The answer to how Oregon returns to glory is not found in simply firing a staff that consists of most of the men who played a huge part in the Ducks' greatest successes. At least don't do so after one bad season.
Allow me to repeat that: One. Bad. Season.
Not two. Not three. Not five. One.
Firing everyone two years after arguably the greatest season in program history would be the lazy thing to do. It requires no imagination. Requires no foresight. No thought. Place blame. Feel superior. Prop up someone else as the savior. Feel better about yourself.
But there's just one little problem: Who ya gonna get?
I keep waiting for someone, anyone, to name this magical coach that for $10 million will bring the Ducks a national title and never, ever have a bad season. Ever.
Is Alabama's Nick Saban coming to Oregon? Not a chance.
Ohio State's Urban Meyer? Ha!
Even if either one did take Knight's money and head to Eugene, there is no guarantee that they bring UO a national title. Recruiting to Eugene is far more difficult than recruiting to Alabama or Ohio State, or their former stops, LSU and Florida.
Saban, who makes $6.9 million per year, quit on the Miami Dolphins because he didn't have the talent-gathering advantages he enjoyed at LSU. I don't think he would relish trying to win it all at Oregon.
And if either Saban or Meyer ($6 milllion per year) have trouble winning it all for the Ducks, then who else could possibly do it?
I would assume that this God of a coach already has a national title, correct? Helfrich and company have been to two national title games, one with him as head coach. So an upgrade would have to be someone with a national title already on his resume.
So are we talking about former championship coaches who have fallen from grace such as Mack Brown, Jim Tressel, Gene Chizik? They could be had.
Maybe Oregon tries to steal Jimbo Fisher ($5.25 million) from Florida State, or Bob Stoops ($5.25 million) from Oklahoma.
Money talks. Anything is possible.
But why would any of those men guarantee a national title for Oregon? All won big at programs with greater advantages than UO provides.
Don't get started on the notion that Oregon should ride its facilities to uninterrupted successes. They get Oregon into the recruiting game on a national level, but they don't win that game.
But let's say the Ducks do land a "big name," that would lead to the irony of ironies. Should that coach returns the Ducks to to prominence in 2017 or 2018, he would be doing so with Helfrich's recruits.
Oops. That would then destroy the narrative that Helfirch can't build a winning team. He already destroyed the idea that he couldn't coach a championship-level team by going 11-2 and 13-2 in his first two seasons. But his haters always seek to point out that Helfrich won with Kelly's recruits. So, to be fair, if a new coach wins early, Helfrich would have to be credited for putting the players together, starting with Herbert.
If there is room for extreme blame to be placed at the feet of Helfrich and the coaching staff - that includes Kelly, former defensive line coach Jerry Azzinaro and former offensive coordinator Scott Frost - its for the lack of an adequate amount of impact players on this team. Oregon is young and inexperienced at quarterback, offensive line, defensive line and linebacker because the current starters beat out older players who didn't pan out.
For example: Herbert is starting as a freshman only because Morgan Mahalak (2014 four-star recruit) and Travis Jonsen (2015 four-star recruit) didn't reach expectations. Similar scenarios have played out at other positions.
That has led to a young team simply not ready to win. The staff certainly is to blame for this predicament. However, what those aching to release their venom are too blind to see is that the benefit of losing with a young team is that the players will gain experience and improve.
We've seen this play out at Oregon before.
The 2004 Ducks (5-6) and the 2006 Ducks (7-6) struggled with maturity and consistency, but the 2005 team (10-2) and the 2007 team (9-4) were top five teams before injuries at the quarterback position. The 2005-2006 Oregon basketball team missed the NCAA Tournament while losing many close games with four prominent sophomores and a junior leading the way. The following season the Ducks reached the Elite Eight.
There is every reason imaginable to believe that these current Ducks will also rise, and do so under Helfrich. Herbert is a superstar in the making. The offense line is loaded with four potential NFL players who need time to grow. The defense will return 10 starters next season, and there are a host of freshman and redshirt freshmen, other than linebacker Troy Dye and safety Brendan Schooler, that should be very good in the near future.
But recognizing all of that requires effort. Vision. A willingness to think rather than react. To project, rather than punish.
Let's forget about Helfrich for a second, because it's not all about him. A new $10 million coach would likely bring his own staff. Are those associated with the program ready to tell Don Pellum, Gary Campbell, John Neal, Jim Radcliffe and Steve Greatwood that it's time for them to go after one bad season in 10 years?
"Thanks for helping Oregon become a national power but, you had one losing season every 10 years for the past 20 so it's time for you to go."
That doesn't seem right.
The Oregon Ducks will rise again with the current coaching staff. No doubt. Then, it will have a down season at some point.
A new coach could win big at Oregon. No doubt. Then he too would eventually have a down season.
At the very least allow this staff the chance to grow this young roster. See if they can turn things around. Helfrich, an Oregonian from Coos Bay, cares about the program more than anyone else UO could hire. He will work his tail off to fix things. If he fails and the Ducks don't show improvement in 2017, by all means, make a change.
But firing him after one bad season, eating $11 million of buyout money, also buying out the assistants while firing such long-time fixtures, and then throwing crazy money at a big name out of desperation would be unseemly for the Oregon program.
It would make the Ducks look desperate and common. Not special. Not unique.
From Rich Brooks to Mike Bellotti to Kelly to Helfrich, Oregon has done things the right way in the head coaching department, and it has paid off.
Change directions now and UO would veer down an uncertain path that could lead to disaster, a revolving door of overpaid coaches in it just for the money who could ultimately leave the program in ruins.