The Oregon Ducks football team enters the 2021 season looking to bounce back from an average 4-3 2020 campaign. Although the season was condensed, they were on track to finish worse than their 12-2 2019 season.
As the team enters a new era without Justin Herbert, who’s now in the NFL with the Chargers, the team will have to look for an identity.
Pac-12 analyst Yogi Roth joined Talkin’ Ducks to discuss searching for an identity and how it differs from the NFL.
“I think when you look at the NFL, every team is known primarily for their quarterback,” Roth said. “When you look at college football, most teams are known for their head coach. When you look at Oregon, to me, it is the anomaly. They’re known for their brand. It’s because of the beautiful swoosh that’s all over that stadium. Then they have an identity within that brand. When Chip Kelly was there, it was that blur offense, it was ‘win the day,’ it was moving fast.”
A team's identity is a reflection of their coach. Whether it’s being aggressive, passing the ball, or running. Coaches and their philosophies dictate how a team is operated, especially at the college level. Under Mario Cristobal, who is entering his fifth season with the team, an identity needs to be found.
“Now, Mario Cristobal, still under the beautiful swoosh, has a brand that is physical,” Roth said. “That is not afraid to face adversity in the face. Not afraid to tackle tough issues. Not afraid to say game on the line ‘hey, you know we’re running, we know we’re running, we’re going to run it right over you.’ That to me is his identity and it’s dramatically reflected in his team.
“Not only in the offensive line, that happened when he got there just as the offensive line coach. Now it’s everywhere. When you see that permeate within a team that’s when teams can find the opportunity to be the best version of themselves. I just think that team are a reflection of their head coach.”
Leadership starts at the top and trickles down to the others. That’s the position Cristobal and his staff are in. Along with pushing their student-athletes, they’re also trusted by the higher-ups to elevate the Oregon brand, as they’re Nike partners.
College sports is a business and that’s what’s understood from the day all the athletes and coaches put on their uniforms.