Oregon’s Joe Moorhead: fresh schemes, stale scandals, short video

Remember all of the times this past season when the Oregon Duck offense exploded for 90-second touchdowns that reminded fans of those good ol’ days with Marcus and D’Anthony?

Yeah.  Me neither.

But, things are about to change.

As Oregon’s new offensive coordinator, Joe Moorhead brings back that adrenaline gush of quick-strike euphoria. Duck plumage will only need the Spring game to preen and show the difference from seasons of hammerheads-up-the-middle.

Of course, there are those who say that Moorhead is the wrong guy for the job.  They’ll remind us that he was fired as head coach at Mississippi State amid a program sullied by scandal.

We’ll discuss that in a minute.  First, let’s talk about what his approach does that will finally bridge the gap between Oregon and the college football playoff.

The Moorhead scheme is one of tempo, leverage, and creativity.  It steps up the frequency of run-pass-option with quarterbacks reading multiple defenders at a time. And, he attacks everywhere, all the time—in the gaps, on the edges, at the flags, in the seams, etc. Defenses will pay the price for loading the box because Joe is already blowing smoke from his gun when he sees a lone safety.

Do you like surprise plays?  Deceptive movement?  Offbeat shifts? Get your tickets early because the Joe Show is coming to Autzen Stadium.

But, does it work?

Yes. It does. It works because it’s clever, not fluky. It’s also proven itself everywhere that Joe has been as offensive coordinator.

He succeeded at Connecticut.  That in itself is a big deal.  But, he did it so well that the Huskies actually went to the Fiesta Bowl.  Yeah—Connecticut—in the Fiesta Bowl—for a football team that right now doesn’t even have a conference.

He elevated the UConn attack so much that running back Jordan Todman rushed for over 1600 yards, averaged over five yards per carry, and was named to the All America team. Again—we’re talking about Connecticut.

Then, he went to Penn State for two years, increased the Nittany Lions’ points per game from 23.2 to 41.2, increased passing by 1000 yards, and helped Saquon Barkley become an All American and a Heisman Trophy candidate.

Wanna see it in action?  Check out this video.

In addition to offensive schemes, Moorhead is an elite recruiter.  He’s also an ardent family man.

Without hesitation, it’s easy to state that hiring Joe Moorhead as offensive coordinator at Oregon is a masterful choice by head coach Mario Cristobal.

Now, about those cynics . . .

Yes, Moorhead was fired after two years at MSU but, not because he didn’t win enough games, although admins want you to believe that.  His win percentage was greater than the program average, within a few percentage points of his bally-hood predecessor Dan Mullen, and he led both of his teams to bowl games.

Two primary scandals, recruiting violations and tutors taking tests, erupted during his tenure but both originated before Moorhead ever arrived in Starkville. It wasn’t the first time the program’s bad behavior made the news. In 2013, MSU was put on probation by the NCAA for—what else?—recruiting violations.  It’s a cultural issue, not a Joe issue.

Even Steve Roberts, the fearless Mississippi sports vigilante headhunter proclaimed Moorhead’s innocence.

If you skulk around eastern Mississippi for awhile, you’ll hear boosters and fans chawing the notion that, as much as anything, Joe Moorhead just didn’t fit. He’s a northeastern guy, accustomed to metropolitan life.  Starkville is a town with fewer than 26,000 people.

They also resented Joe luring three-star quarterback Tommy Stevens from Penn State to replace four-star southern-son Keytaon Thompson. That just didn’t sit well because Starkvillians viewed Thompson as a high-character guy, one of their own, a prized recruit, and the supposed face of their program.

It’s not a bad thing that Joe didn’t fit at Mississippi State because Starkville’s loss is Eugene’s gain. It has all the makings of a great fit—the big-history coordinator again engaged with a big-time program. Like a match that, depending on your point of view, was either made in heaven or unmade in Starkville.

In either case, get there early because tickets for the Joe Show won’t stick around long.

And, if  history tells us anything, neither will Joe.

If you’re looking for more PAC-12 or sports in the Northwest, be sure to visit our friends at Oregon Sports News.