It didn’t surprise anybody that when Oregon coach Mark Helfrich was asked who the biggest influences were in his career, the first name he mentioned was former Ducks coach Chip Kelly.
The second coach he named shouldn’t surprise anybody either, even if some armchair experts among Falcons’ fandom would disagree: Dirk Koetter.
Helfrich has overseen Oregon’s prolific offense since 2009, four years as the offensive coordinator under Kelly and the last two as head coach, leading his team to this year's Rose Bowl and college football playoff semifinal against Florida State.
Helfrich started his career as a grad assistant at Oregon in 1997, when Koetter was the Ducks’ offensive coordinator. When Koetter got the Boise State head coaching job in 1998, he took Helfrich with him as his quarterbacks coach. When Koetter moved on to Arizona State in 2001, Helfrich went with him again. The two were together for nine straight seasons.
So it follows that when asked about the two biggest coaching influences in his career, Helfrich mentioned Kelly, then Koetter, whose future is up in the air after the firing of head coach Mike Smith. He also referenced former Falcons head coach Dan Henning, whom Koetter worked for at Boston College in 1994-95.
“Dirk was the head coach at Arizona State, Boise State. He was the offensive coordinator at Oregon when I was a graduate assistant,” Helfrich said. “And then a combination of a lot of other people. Dan Henning, indirectly. I've never met Dan Henning, but studying a bunch of stuff when Dirk was his offensive coordinator at Boston College, going back to all those Washington Redskins days and kind of combining that with spread principles, option principles, all the passing game stuff that we've done. Just an amalgamation of all that stuff.”
Earlier this season, Koetter told Ray Glier of Bleacher Report that Helfrich “can do it all in his head. He doesn't have to draw the pictures on the board. Not many people can do that. … He sees the game through the quarterback's eyes. We all have ideas, but if your quarterback can't execute those ideas, they are lines on a paper. Mark is as smart a football guy as I know.”
For more on the Rose Bowl match-up, see the links below: