Willie Taggart

SOURCES: DL coach Joe Salave'a has told players he will remain at Oregon

SOURCES: DL coach Joe Salave'a has told players he will remain at Oregon

UPDATE: Oregon officially extended the contracts of Joe Salave'a, Jim Leavitt and Marcus Arroyo on Tuesday, Dec. 19.


Oregon defensive line coach Joe Salave'a has told Ducks players that he will remain with the team next season, according to sources.

Oregon's defensive turnaround in 2017 can largely be attributed to Salave'a's work with the defensive line.

This good news for Oregon comes on the heels of defensive coordinator Jim Leavitt reportedly signing a new contract to remain with the Ducks

Retaining Salave'a means that the Ducks will retain their top four assistant coaches from this season. 


Mario Cristobal: Athletic director Rob Mullens hired Cristobal as the head coach eight days prior to Saturday's 38-28 loss to Boise State in the Las Vegas Bowl. Cristobal, formerly the Ducks' co-offensive coordinator, will continue to coach the offensive line.

Jim Leavitt: He is reportedly signing a contract extension to remain at Oregon. 

Marcus Arroyo: He has been retained as offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach, and he will be the primary play caller. Arroyo was a co-offensive coordinator this season. 

Joe Salave'a: He remains on as the defensive line coach and associated head coach. 


Donte Pimpleton: He will leave UO to coach running backs at Florida State


Wide receivers coach Michael Johnson.

Special teams coordinator and outside linebackers coach Raymond Woodie

Safeties coach Keith Heyward

Cornerbacks coach Charles Clark.

SOURCES: Oregon RB coach Donte Pimpleton joining Florida State's staff

Courtesy of Oregon

SOURCES: Oregon RB coach Donte Pimpleton joining Florida State's staff

Oregon running backs coach Donte Pimpleton will coach the same position at Florida State under former Ducks coach Willie Taggart, according to sources,. 

Pimpleton becomes the first Oregon assistant coach that Taggart has hired away from the Ducks since he left UO on Dec. 4 after one season but he likely won't be the last. 

Pimpleton joined the Ducks' staff last winter after spending two seasons coaching running backs under Taggart at South Florida. Pimpleton first coached under Taggart at Western Kentucky where he worked with the wide receivers. 

The pair were teammates at Western Kentucky where Taggart played quarterback and Pimpleton played wide receiver. 

Taggart's hiring of Pimpleton kicks off the assistant coach watch at Oregon.

The Ducks elevated Mario Cristobal from co-offensive coordinator to head coach. Cristobal has named Marcus Arroyo as offensive coordinator.  Also, Oregon has reportedly retained defensive coordinator Jim Leavitt.

However, the status of defensive line coach Joe Salave'a, cornerbacks coach Charles Clark, safeties coach Keith Heyward, wide receivers coach Michael Johnson and outside linebackers coach and special teams coordinator Raymond Woodie remain uncertain. 

According to a source there is a good chance that at least one more current Oregon assistant will join Taggart at Florida State. Woodie appears to be a logical choice given that he was Taggart's defensive coordinator in 2016 at South Florida. 

Last week, Taggart also added former Oregon State running backs coach Telly Lockette to his FSU staff as the tight ends coach. 

REPORT: Defensive coordinator Jim Leavitt to remain at Oregon

USA Today

REPORT: Defensive coordinator Jim Leavitt to remain at Oregon

Oregon defensive coordinator Jim Leavitt will remain with the Ducks after signing a new contract, a source has confirmed. 

The story was first reported by Bruce Feldman of FOX Sports. 

According to Feldman's report, Leavitt signed an extension that will pay him an average of $1.7 million per year through 2021. That's a hefty raise over the $1.125 million Leavitt made this season after leaving Colorado. 

Leavitt remaining at Oregon appeared to be in doubt after the Ducks named Mario Cristobal head coach following the departure of Willie Taggart for Florida State.  Leavitt, who was the head coach at South Florida from 1997 through 2012, lobbied for Oregon's head coaching position but was passed over for Cristobal, who was the co-offensive coordinator and offensive line coach under Taggart.

Oregon's defense ranks 46th in the nation in total defense after finishing at 128th in 2016.


Cristobal: He's a recruiter and isn't that the most important thing at Oregon?

Cristobal: He's a recruiter and isn't that the most important thing at Oregon?

Aaron Fentress scooped the college football world this morning with the first report that assistant coach Mario Cristobal will be named Oregon's next head coach.

The one thing that sticks out for me about this hire is that the Ducks are getting a big-time recruiter as their head coach -- which may well be the biggest part of Cristobal's resume. To win big in college football -- and Oregon is firmly in that group of schools that thinks winning a national championship is possible -- you need players. Big-time, blue-chip, NFL-first-three-rounds-of-the-draft players. And Willie Taggart aside -- because he cast himself aside so quickly -- the Ducks haven't really had a recruiting dynamo as the leader of the program. Ever.

Again, excluding Taggart, who departed prior to actually landing his first highly regarded class.

Cristobal has long been considered one of the top recruiters in the country and while at Alabama was instrumental in the Crimson Tide hauling in prized recruits year after year.

It's about time the Ducks brought in a premier recruiter, isn't it? For years, all I've heard is how difficult it is to bring top players to Oregon, which is so far from where all the top high school players live. So why not seek out one of the best recruiters in the country? Once you realize a top-flight sales job is needed, why not hire a very good salesman?

The Ducks have come close to a national championship a couple of times in recent years and I don't think they lost title games because of on-field coaching mistakes. I'm not saying the strategy and hands-on work with players isn't important. But I do think there are plenty of coaches capable of getting a team through a season without messing up the weight-room requirements, who to start at safety, defensive sets and third-down play calls.

Where the Ducks have usually fallen short is in the talent area. Frankly, they just haven't quite been good enough. Chip Kelly's schemes were great and I think his teams were disciplined, played hard and were well-coached. But they were always just a few big-time players shy -- especially up front on both sides of the ball -- from climbing all the way to the top of the college football world.

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Cristobal may be able to rescue a majority of the recruiting class that Taggart put together this year. But if he doesn't, that's not the end of the world. The Ducks need big-time recruits EVERY season. And ie appears to me Cristobal is someone with the credentials to make that happen. At least it's worth a try. My only real concern about the hire is that he's another guy from the opposite corner of the country who may be, like Taggart, another candidate for an early exit.

Oh, his record as a head coach leaves something to be desired at first glance. But if you dive deeper into his situation at Florida International, you will find extenuating circumstances.

And recruiting to Nike U. will surely be easier than it was at FIU.

BREAKING: Oregon to name Mario Cristobal new head coach

BREAKING: Oregon to name Mario Cristobal new head coach

Developing story


Mario Cristobal will become the new head coach of the Oregon Ducks football team, according to a source. 

Cristobal will will replace Willie Taggart, who after one season left Oregon on Tuesday to replace Jimbo Fisher as the next coach at Florida State. 

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Cristobal came to Oregon last year to become the Ducks co-offensive coordinator and offensive line coach. He previously coached the offensive line at Alabama from 2013 through 2016. 

Cristobal has head coaching experience. He guided Florida International from 2007 through 2012, compiling a record of 27-47. He took over a struggling program and went 1-11 his first season. He seemingly rebuilt the program and reached 8-5 in 2011 before backsliding to 3-9 the following year. 

About 70 Oregon players signed a petition lobbying for Cristobal to take over the program. He was named interim coach for the team's Dec. 16 meeting with Boise State in the Las Vegas Bowl. 

The push now is to keep defensive coordinator Jim Leavitt on as defensive coordinator. He wanted to replace Taggart as head coach, so it will be interesting to see if he is willing to remain at Oregon given that he was passed over for another assistant. 

However, the Ducks, with the help of some powerful boosters, could be in a position to make a financial offer that could ease Leavitt's disappointment. He made $1.125 million this season. 

According to those with knowledge of the search, former Texas A&M coach Kevin Sumlin and current California coach Justin Wilcox were very much in the mix. However, Wilcox, according to a source, never interviewed with Oregon.

Keeping Cristobal is a strong move. He, along with whatever assistant coaches remain, could help salvage what was a top five recruiting class before Taggart departed. 

Since he moved on, the class has fallen to in the rankings due to decommits but remains top 10. Cristobal's presence could very well help keep the class in the top 10. 


Karma bit Oregon in the backside, but the Ducks will recover

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Karma bit Oregon in the backside, but the Ducks will recover

In the end, Oregon got what it deserved. 

Karma bit the Ducks in the backside when former coach Willie Taggart, after one Swag Surfin' season, hopped on his boogie board and glided out of town to become Florida State's new coach, leaving behind a lot of angry UO fans and jilted players (see Troy Dye).

For the first time ever (or at least based on what I can tell), an Oregon football coach has flat out left the program for another college job. It's no coincidence that this occurred a year after Oregon fired a coach for the first time in 40 years. 

Yes, I'm back on the Mark Helfrich kick once again. But only because I warned this time last year last year that firing Helfrich after one losing season and just two years removed from guiding Oregon to the nation title game could set into motion a vicious cycle of coaches coming in and out of the program for a variety of reasons. 

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Here we are a year later and the Ducks are already searching for their second coach post Helfrich. 

What's most amusing is all of the whining about "loyalty." Really? Loyalty is not sending a group of coaches that had accomplished so much at Oregon out to recruit when the writing was on the wall that they would be fired, then firing them while they literally were in the process of meeting with recruits. That was a messed up and totally disrespectful move by athletic director Rob Mullens on every level.

One recruit's family member, who wished to remain anonymous, recalled an awkward home visit with Helfrich, who clearly believed he was on thin ice. Helfrich told the family that he didn't know if he would remain Oregon's coach while also trying to recruit the player to UO.

That's just wrong. Let's go ahead and set aside Helfrich for a moment, how does one place in the same situation former long-time assistants like Steve Greatwood, Don Pellum, Gary Campbell, Tom Osborne and John Neal? 

Those guys only helped anchor the greatest era in Oregon football and what will likely remain the greatest era into the near future unless the Ducks magically win a national title, which remains only remotely possible. 

How Taggart dealt with Oregon's players is another story. But in terms of the business side of things. spare me the talk about how disloyal Taggart was to a program he worked for only one year. Especially considering that he didn't leave the Ducks for, say, Arkansas or Louisville. He left Oregon for Florida State, an all-time marquee program that Oregon can't measure up to, and it just so happens to be the team he grew up rooting for while growing up in Palmetto, Fla., where his widowed mother still resides. 

That, right there, is loyalty. Loyalty to family. Loyalty to roots. Loyalty to that childhood connection many of you have with Oregon. And, yes, loyalty to the almighty dollar, because Florida State offered more money (six years and $30 million) than Oregon did. 

And don't think that Taggart hadn't noticed how Helfrich and company were treated when fired.

During a candid conversation with Taggart last February, he said that he believed that the previous staff were unfairly fired given all that they had accomplished. But, that's the business, he added. On Tuesday, he played that business to his advantage. 

Oregon had avoided that side of the business for decades because the program didn't panic when things went south, as they did last year when the Ducks went 4-8 under Helfrich during the program's first losing season in 12 years. Oregon had a legacy coaching tree in place that went from Rich Brooks to Mike Bellotti to Chip Kelly to Helfrich. The latter three were promoted from within after serving as offensive coordinators to their predecessor. Bellotti retired from coaching in 2009 order to promote Kelly. Kelly left for the NFL in 2013 opening the door for Helfrich. All three came within a game, or two, of winning the national title. 

Then, well, Oregon got too big for its britches. The Ducks fans and hierarchy decided that the program was far too big to ever have a down season, which of course is absurd. So, UO blew out the former coaching staff and set out to find someone that would return the program to glory. 

That someone was expected to be Taggart. Oops. 

What Mullens should have done last year was sat Helfrich down and given him the "win or else" talk. Mullens should have made it clear that he must at least reach a bowl game in 2017 and reestablish discipline in the locker room.

One former assistant coach who didn't believe that the staff would be fired up until they were, stated late last season that had the staff returned in 2017 and had another losing season, he would fire himself.  

Instead, Mullens pulled the trigger last year. Clearly, he believed that Oregon could do better than a staff that had won four Pac-12 titles, two Rose Bowls and a Fiesta Bowl in six years. Yet, he ended up striking out with all of the so-called "big named" candidates before hiring a young coach in Taggart on the speculation that he was ready to thrive. 

Truth be told, I liked the hire. It was a bold roll of the dice on a young coach. Oh, and he is African-American, which for me (also African-American and long annoyed by the clear racism involved when it comes to the hiring of football coaches of color) earned Mullens triple bonus points.  

But the right move still remains to have given Helfrich and company one year to turn things around. With quarterback Justin Herbert in place, that turnaround would have happened and Oregon wouldn't be in the mess that it is now. 

The good news is that Oregon should still be able to find a good coach to lead what will be a potentially really good team in 2018. The trick, though, is finding someone that cares as much about Oregon as Oregon cares about winning. 

For all of its bells and whistles, Oregon is not a marquee job. The stadium is small, it's tough to get to Eugene, the region is short on recruits, the fan base is fickle and not nearly as rooted as they are in places such as Michigan, Nebraska, Texas and Florida State. Oregon has accomplished a lot with many disadvantages thanks to what was an innovative offense, Nike's support and brilliant marketing that elevated the Ducks brand, making UO a desirable place to play for high-end recruits. But not many proven coaches out there are going to view Oregon as a destination job. Helfrich did. But UO wasn't even on Taggart's radar until he interviewed for the job. 

So where does UO go from here. 

Kevin Sumlin and Mario Cristobal are good options. Sumlin, fired this year by Texas A&M, is looking to rebuild his career. Cristobal, once fired by Florida International and from Miami, Fla., longs to return to being a head coach. 

But would either consider Oregon a place to set up roots? At this point, Mullens will have to build a contract for UO's next coach that makes it very painful to leave for another collegiate program.  He failed to do that with Taggart. However, I'll bet that Taggart and his agent, Jimmy Sexton, would not have allowed such language to get in the way of the coach taking off for FSU. 

All of this is why I want to see Oregon go after California coach Justin Wilcox. He is an up-and-coming talent that has deep connections to Oregon. He played there. His brother, father and uncle also played there. He likely wouldn't leave Oregon down the road unless it were to jump to the NFL. 

Hiring Wilcox would return the Ducks to a place that values connections and roots, a formula tha worked so well for 40 years, save for a few bumps in the road such as the 2016 season. 

Whatever Oregon does, the Ducks will have a chance to return to greatness but will never avoid having bumps in the road here and there. Few programs ever do.  

But maybe returning to the past in terms of how the program hires and fire people should be more important than the unrealistic quest to become something the program will never be, a place strong enough to keep a Taggart from jetting off to a Florida State.  

At the end of the day, the entire Helfrich debate comes down to one more year. Had he succeeded, everyone would be happy. Had he failed, then he would be gone. The former staff deserved that one year more so than a Florida State fan with ambitions beyond Oregon. 

Coaches: cut out those silly slogans and catch phrases -- if you want to

Coaches: cut out those silly slogans and catch phrases -- if you want to

My favorite part of the news conference introducing Jonathan Smith as the head football coach at Oregon State probably went unnoticed by a lot of people.

Someone asked Smith what, as the new coach, his slogan is. It's become a thing lately. You know, You "Win The Day" or you "Do Something" or you "Row The Boat." I guess I'd even include "Have a good day -- if you want" in that category, which may be the silliest of them all.

My favorite part of this was Smith's answer -- or non-answer to the question. He seemed taken aback by it, almost bewildered. He then admitted he didn't have one.


That made me happy. I'm getting tired of these trite, worn-out little sayings that make coaches seem as if they're trying to sell me something on an infomercial. And I must admit I've always had some mistrust of people who toss them out at first opportunity. So often they seem like a substitute for something a little more valuable. Tell me something I can use. Give me something of value, in your own words, but don't throw out something that sounds like the title of a cheap self-help book.

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And then, for sure, don't try to sell that slogan to me a couple of weeks later on a T-shirt.

Willie Taggart got to Florida State and threw out much of the same jargon he used at Oregon. He reminded me of a vacuum-cleaner salesman going from town-to-town and using the same script on the local rubes everywhere.

To an extent, I could take Chip Kelly's "Win The Day." That works, I guess. But come on -- "Do Something"? That's meaningless. Might as well tell me "Stupid is as stupid does."

And I do think it's possible to win games without having to hang your hat on some sort of catch phrase. Just keep it real, please. Say what you mean and mean what you say.

See what I did there?

Oregon linebacker Troy Dye calls out Willie Taggart on Twitter

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Oregon linebacker Troy Dye calls out Willie Taggart on Twitter

Oregon linebacker Troy Dye called out former coach Willie Taggart on Twitter today. 

The sophomore retweeted and responded to my tweet regarding Taggart, introduded today as Florida State's head coach, admitting that FSU contacted him on Thursday despite having told the media that he had not heard from FSU through the weekend. 


Dye's brother, three-star running back Travis Dye, committed to Oregon's 2018 recruiting class. 

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Oregon athletic director Rob Mullens revealed Tuesday that Taggart informed him about FSU reaching out to him on Thursday. 

Taggart left Oregon yesterday after one season with the Ducks. 

Some players and recruits are claiming that Taggart was not truthful with them through the process. 

Freshman safety Nick Pickett also made a comment on Twitter about Taggart. 

Editor's note: The tweet has since been taken down

It must be pointed out that one freshman player told me that he told Taggart after the team meeting on Tuesday that he was proud of him and gave him a hug. 

So, not everyone at UO is down on Taggart. But clearly, some are regarding the way he handled his exit. 


Oregon should make a run at Cal coach Justin Wilcox to replace Taggart

Oregon should make a run at Cal coach Justin Wilcox to replace Taggart

Florida State introduced Willie Taggart as its new head coach today in Tallahassee, Fla.

Taggart has returned to his home state to coach his favorite team growing up as a child in Palmetto, Fla. 

I know. It hurts. But all is not lost for the Oregon Ducks. 

A good team will return next season along with a recruiting class that ultimately will remain strong despite a handful of decommits. And, most importantly, a superstar quarterback is already in place. 

A 10-win season next year is a possibility regardless of who coaches the team. Remember that the team we saw on the field this year was not built by Taggart. Every starter on offense, including freshman receiver Johnny Johnson III, and every starter on defense other than defensive tackle Jordon Scott and cornerback Thomas Graham, but including freshman safety Nick Pickett, were recruited by Mark Helfrich and the previous staff.  That team, when quarterback Justin Herbert was healthy, looked like a potential 10-win team. Most of the starters will return in 2018. So, there's no reason to believe that another good coach couldn't lead this team to glory. 

My early vote for the man to be that coach is California's Justin Wilcox. 

First off, the former Oregon defensive back grew up in Oregon. His father, pro football hall of fame linebacker Dave Wilcox, brother Josh Wilcox and uncle John Wilcox, also played for the Ducks. He has stronger ties to Oregon than Taggart has to Florida State, where Taggart didn't play. 

Is Oregon Wilcox's dream job? I have no idea. But I imagine he likes money and I believe that he could be had quite easily by the Ducks. The contract he signed at Cal is worth just under $10 million over five years. That's chump change to Oregon, which offered Taggart at least $4 million per year before he took a six-year, $30 million deal from FSU.

Oregon could offer Wilcox $3 million to $3.5 million per year and he'd probably jump at the chance to coach the Ducks. Plus, if he were to have success at UO, Wilcox likely wouldn't look for the first escape route toward a bigger program as Taggart just did.

Wilcox is an inexperienced head coach, to be sure. But the former defensive coordinator at USC, Washington, Tennessee and Wisconsin appears to be on the rise. 

The Golden Bears went just 5-7. That's hardly sexy. But why wait for him to win big elsewhere? Have the vision to get him now, before he blows up.  

Cal lost three games by a field goal or less this season. The offense was the problem, but not from a coaching standpoint. The team lacked explosive talent on offense and had a young quarterback while averaging just 27.8 points per game, 10th in the Pac-12 Conference. Offensive coordinator Beau Baldwin, who could accompany Wilcox to Oregon unless Cal were to name him head coach, would do wonders with Oregon's offensive talent. Remember that it was Baldwin who developed Vernon Adams Jr. before he transferred to Oregon in 2015.

Defensively, Wilcox did for Cal what Oregon defensive coordinator Jim Leavitt did for the Ducks. Cal this season allowed 28.4 points per game compared to 28.2 for Oregon. Both allowed just over 40 points per game in 2016. 

Wilcox would make sure Oregon's defense continued to improve while the Ducks' offense is already ready to roll.  Give Wilcox 40 points per game to work with and he could easily win 10 games next season. 

Other viable options also exist that would keep Oregon on track toward greater success. Here are four other coaches that could very well already be on Oregon's radar listed in order of preference with the knowledge that Wilcox is No. 1:

2. Mario Cristobal: Oregon's co-offensive coordinator, who will serve as the team's interim coach during the Dec. 16 Las Vegas Bowl, would be a logical candidate in order to maintain continuity following Taggart's departure. Reports say that Leavitt will accompany Taggart to FSU, which leaves Cristobal as the best option already in house. Cristobal has head coaching experience, is considered to be a great recruiter and could help to keep the Ducks' promising 2018 recruiting class largely intact. Maybe Cristobal could convince co-offensive coordinator Marcus Arroyo to remain on as the offensive coordinator if he isn't planning on joining Taggart to FSU. 

3. Kevin Sumlin: Sumlin was fired recently by Texas A&M where he went 51-26 over six seasons in the rugged SEC. He is an offensive guru that would likely get the most out of Herbert. Former Aggies quarterback Johnny Manziel won the Heisman Trophy in 2012 while playing for Sumlin. He has the kind of big name that Oregon was after in 2016 before hiring Taggart. The problem with Sumlin is that if he had success at Oregon he could be the type of coach that immediately starts looking elsewhere for a better situation. 

4. Les Miles: There is not an unemployed coach out there with a better resume. The former LSU coach almost always had great defenses with the Tigers in the SEC. Yes, his offenses struggled late during his tenure at LSU. But they were once good enough to get him a national title during the 2007 season and could be very good with Herbert running the show on the field. Miles went 114-34 over 12 seasons at LSU. That's a dynamic record given the competition he faced. Miles never won fewer than eight games and won 10 or more seven times. 

5. Bryan Harsin: The Boise State coach was on Oregon's radar last year and should be considered a viable candidate this time around. He is 41-12 over four seasons at Boise State and just won his second Mountain West Conference championship. 

Hey Duck fans, just about every school is a stepping stone to somewhere


Hey Duck fans, just about every school is a stepping stone to somewhere

The bad news for the Oregon Ducks Tuesday afternoon was that they were jilted by football coach Willie Taggart. They were dumped. And just when it appeared he was about to bring in the best recruiting class in school history.

The good news for the Oregon Ducks is that this happens everywhere. And just because it happened to you doesn't mean you aren't the big-time football school you think you are.

You think it happens only to you?

Guess what? The only reason Willie Taggart got his dreamy Florida State job is that Jimbo Fisher fled it for Texas A&M. One man's dream job is another man's stepping stone. It happens all the time. Coaches, just like salesmen, day laborers, journalists and just about everyone else, leave for greener pastures. The day I heard Mike Riley was leaving Oregon State for Nebraska my first thought was "What? He left his dream job in his hometown?"

But I don't care what job you have, there's always a better one out there. And usually, you go for it.

Duck fans are more upset with losing that recruiting class than the coach. But that was still just a bit of a mirage with Taggart -- a slight-of-hand trick to take people's minds off the season his team was having. Look -- those players had committed verbally and were not yet signed. Until they sign, it means little. And they were coming from a warm climate a long way away, which means you can't ever be sure they'll stay once they find out what the weather is like here. Or what it's like to be so far from home.

Best thing to do is forget that recruiting class. Don't get so worried about it that you make a hasty coaching hire that's going to set you back for years.

I have no problem with Taggart chasing his dream job but I thought he could have handled his departure better. I'm still not sure what sort of game coach he was but there were signs he wasn't the best. The most laudable thing he did in Eugene was assemble a terrific coaching staff.

Naming a head coach as soon as possible should have a high priority. A new staff may be able to salvage some of those recruits.

The takeaway from this is simple. Just because you get dumped doesn't mean you aren't worthy. And even if you are worthy, you can get dumped. Sometimes you are the step and sometimes you are the stone.

Shake it off and move forward.