Dan Lanning vs His Predecessors: The Second Year
Considered a success for Oregon football, despite being a few points short, this was the second year for head coach Dan Lanning, anywhere. After a 22-5 record first year with a Fiesta Bowl victory and getting Bo Nix to be a Heisman finalist, it’s a good time to look at where his predecessors were after their second year.
Kelly’s Coaching Seasons
Chip Kelly was 22-4 in his first two years but had no major bowl victories. He did get the Ducks back to the Rose Bowl in 2009-10 and in his second year, Oregon was on the brink of a National Championship but came up just short. And LaMichael James was a Heisman finalist for Oregon in 2010.
Looking at his performance in 2024 for his new team, UCLA, Kelly has not been able to replicate what he accomplished in 2010 for Oregon.
Helfriech At The Helm
Successful in his first two years as the head coach at Oregon, going 24-4 Marl Helfriech’s 2014 season is still the best season in Oregon football history, with the Ducks winning a conference championship, plying off as semifinalist in the Rose Bowl, appearing at National Championships, and seeing Marcus Mariota win the Heisman. To beat this, the Ducks would have to win a National Championship.
But Helfriech failed to get the Ducks back into a New Year’s Six bowl game after 2014. He is no longer coaching but there’s always the thought of what could have been if Vernon Adams hadn’t broken his finger in 2015.
Taggart’s Second Year
It didn’t happen. Going 7-5 in his first year, Willie Taggart accumulated more losses in one season than Lanning has across his two-year stint. Enough said.
Cristobal As Coach
Arguably Oregon’s most controversial head coach in recent history, Mario Cristobal set a 21-6 record in his first two seasons at Oregon. If the 2017 Las Vegas Bowl he coached as the interim coach is factored in, he would be 21-7. His second year as Oregon’s head coach was his best, by far- the Ducks went 12-2, won the Pac-12 Conference Championship, and also won the Rose Bowl. But in his next seasons, the Ducks won a second conference championship, lost the Fiesta Bowl, and played in another conference championship. He then left for Miami.
Dan Lanning vs His Predecessors
Comparing each coach’s second year, Lanning achieved less than Kelly, Helfriech, and Cristobal. Looking at how much college football has changed in just a short time, with the transfer portal and NIL creating a completely different recruiting environment- even compared to the way recruiting was done in 2019, more perspective is needed.
The Oregon blur offense- used by both Kelly and Helfriech, is still effective but no longer as deadly, as defenses have found ways to mitigate its explosiveness. In his 2019 season, Cristobal was buoyed by Justin Herbert, and an offense stifled his ability. Were it not for some poor coaching against Auburn and Arizona State the 2019 Ducks could have seen a run at the playoffs. Duck fans though, are pretty gleeful about Miami’s current pain.
Lanning may be falling short of his predecessors right now, but there seems to be a lot of optimism around him than any other coach- except Kelly, heading into Year 3. With a replacement at quarterback, Lanning is stacking the roster with talent.
While everyone will have an opinion, it’s almost impossible to compare Lanning to those who came before him. The game simply isn’t the same. It may be better to look wider- at what is happening in the whole college football world, to see how Lanning is stacking up as the Ducks gear up for their next seasons.