On Wednesday night, the Oregon Ducks lost a game in which they scored 32 points and racked up 497 total yards. Anthony Brown threw for one yard short of his career-high (306) and had three touchdown passes.
Oregon’s offense wasn’t the problem, but their proficiency in moving the ball certainly ruffled some feathers in the Ducks’ fanbase, specifically in the way in which they did so. Now that the season is over, it might be time to air some grievances.
If you are a fan of the Oregon Ducks and you watched that second-half offensive performance without a hint of frustration in your heart, then I commend you. You certainly have full trust in the coaching staff and must be a joy to watch games with.
It couldn’t be me, though. I sat back and watched AB drop back and heave the ball on multiple occasions, routinely hooking up with receivers for completions of 30, or 40, or even 60-yards down the field, often ending in touchdowns. I loved the outcome but had to ask myself one question…
Where the hell has that been all season?!?!?
When Brown was named the starting QB at the beginning of the year, we were told that he had a cannon for an arm and would be able to air it out and give his WRs a chance to make plays. As the season went on, time and again we saw check downs, short crossing patterns, and screens. Rarely did Brown throw a pass that went more than 15 yards downfield, and eventually down the stretch, there were rumors that the receivers were unhappy with how they were being used. Mycah Pittman ended up entering the transfer portal before the end of the season because he wanted a team that would value his ability more.
After months of enduring this hand-cuffed style of offense, we’re led to believe that it’s the quarterback who is the problem. Then we see the ease with which he was able to complete the long ball on Wednesday and are left to wonder why we didn’t see more of that all year. Was it Mario Cristobal holding the offense back? You could absolutely argue that this was the case, using the emergence of Justin Herbert in the NFL as evidence. In Herbert’s four years with the Ducks, he threw for over 3,000 yards only twice, in his junior and senior seasons. Now with the Los Angeles Chargers, he is being heralded as one of the best passers in the game, going well over 4,000 yards in each of his first two seasons and looking like a lock to be the NFL MVP at some point in the near future.
There has long been a belief that Herbert was held back during his time at Oregon because of Cristobal and former offensive coordinator Marcus Arroyo. Is it now safe to say that Cristobal held back Anthony Brown as well?
With Cristobal out of the picture, and OC Joe Moorhead calling the plays, we saw AB fling the ball downfield with ease, often placing it in a spot where the receiver was able to run under it and get into the endzone. There were times earlier this season where Brown would attempt a couple of these throws, and the accuracy was off. I wonder, however, if he were allowed to take more of these shots each game, would the results have been better?
You have to think…right?
Regardless of the reasoning for why the Ducks were unable to unlock the deep ball until the final game of the season, it’s incredibly frustrating to see what could have been, and what eventually was in the Alamo Bowl. The Ducks had a very high ceiling in 2021, and it’s really starting to seem like it might have been the coaching staff that didn’t allow them to fully realize it.