Mark Helfrich (American football)

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Mark Helfrich
Mark Helfrich 2014.jpg
Helfrich in 2014
Sport(s) Football
Current position
Title Head Coach
Team Oregon
Conference Pac-12
Record 33–8
Annual salary $3,800,000
Biographical details
Born (1973-10-28) October 28, 1973 (age 42)
Coos Bay, Oregon
Alma mater Southern Oregon
Playing career
1992–1995 Southern Oregon
1997 Vienna
Position(s) Quarterback
Coaching career (HC unless noted)
1996 Southern Oregon (RB)
1997 Oregon (GA)
1997 Vienna (OC)
1998–2000 Boise St. (QB)
2001-2002 Arizona St. (QB)
2003–2005 Arizona St. (PGC/QB)
2006–2008 Colorado (OC/QB)
2009–2012 Oregon (OC/QB)
2013–present Oregon
Head coaching record
Overall 33–8
Bowls 2–2
Accomplishments and honors
1 Pac-12 (2014)
2 Pac-12 North Division (2013, 2014)
2x National Quarterbacks Coach of the Year (2010, 2012)

Mark August Helfrich (born October 28, 1973) is the head football coach at the University of Oregon, a position he has held since the 2013 season. Helfrich previously served as the offensive coordinator at Oregon under Chip Kelly from 2009 to 2012. In his seven seasons with the Oregon program, the Ducks have played in six BCS bowl games, including the 2011 BCS National Championship Game and the 2015 College Football Playoff National Championship.[1]

Playing career[edit]

Recruited out of Marshfield High School in Coos Bay, Oregon, Helfrich was offered an opportunity to walk on at the University of Oregon, however he decided to attend Southern Oregon instead,[2] where he was the starting quarterback from 1992-1995 and was a NAIA All-American.[3] Helfrich saw his most successful season in 1993 as he set school records for passing yards, touchdowns, and total offense.[4] In the winter and spring of 1997, he played quarterback professionally, while also serving as assistant offensive coordinator in Europe for the Vienna Austria Vikings.[5]

Coaching career[edit]

Early coaching years[edit]

Initially starting graduate school with his sights set on becoming an orthopedic surgeon,[6] Helfrich's coaching career ignited at Oregon as a graduate assistant working closely under then offensive coordinator, Dirk Koetter.[7] When Koetter was hired as head coach at Boise State in 1998, the 24-year-old Helfrich went with him as the quarterbacks coach.[8]

At Boise State Helfrich coached Broncos quarterback Bart Hendricks. Under Helfrich's development, Hendricks won Big West Conference Player of the Year in 1999 and 2000 and guided the Broncos to the fourth best passing offense in the nation in 2000.[9]

Helfrich followed Koetter to Arizona State when Koetter became the head coach of the Sun Devils. Under the coaching of Helfrich, Andrew Walter broke nearly every Arizona State passing record and John Elway's Pac-10 touchdown record.[10] Walter would go on to be drafted in the third round of the 2005 NFL Draft.

Dirk Koetter would later praise Helfrich for his coaching abilities, "He 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."[8]

In 2006 Helfrich joined the Colorado staff to become the youngest offensive coordinator in college football on the BCS level at the age of 32.[11] His three seasons at Colorado were a challenge as he developed the Buffaloes dismal offense into a modest improvement.[10] Despite the offense struggling and being poorly ranked nationally, Helfrich was on Oregon's radar after the 2008 season.


Initially, after the 2006 season Mike Bellotti contacted Helfrich about possibly joining Oregon before Chip Kelly was hired in 2007, but Helfrich declined to leave Colorado after only one season.[12] Two years later, Helfrich was named Oregon's offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach on April 30, 2009, replacing Chip Kelly's position as he had been promoted to head coach.[5]

Offensive coordinator (2009–2012)[edit]

During Helfrich's four seasons as Oregon's offensive coordinator the offense produced tremendous success, ranked highly nationally in several offensive categories and became well known for their extremely fast-paced offense built around speed. Although Chip Kelly called the plays on offense, Helfrich still played an integral role in Oregon's system.[13] He had a large amount of involvement in the game planning, scripting, and coaching on a weekly basis while having a high amount of input in what plays are called and why they are called.[14]

Kelly spoke highly of his protégé, "He's really, really smart and has great people skills. Sometimes, smart people can't get their point across, but he's a great communicator. When I hire people, I want to hire very, very smart people. I wanted somebody who came from a different system. I didn't want a yes-man. I wanted someone who would bring new ideas to our system."[6]

With Helfrich coordinating under the philosophy of innovative spread offense guru Chip Kelly, the Ducks played in four straight BCS bowls from 2009 to 2012, won three straight Pac-12 Conference championships,[15] and continuously energized college football with one of the nation's best offenses in scoring, rushing, and total offense in each of those four seasons. As offensive coordinator during the Kelly era, the offense averaged 44.7 points per game with an average of 283.4 rushing yards and an average of 500.7 yards of total offense. In 2012 Oregon's offense was hailed as its best ever[16] as they averaged 49.6 points per game with an average of 537.4 yards of total offense with 315.2 of those yards per game from rushing.[17]

As quarterbacks coach, Helfrich was instrumental in the development of the quarterbacks that played under his tutelage at Oregon. In 2009, Jeremiah Masoli's leadership improved as he led Oregon to the 2010 Rose Bowl. The following season sophomore Darron Thomas guided an undefeated Oregon team to the 2011 BCS National Championship Game. Thomas finished his career 23-3 as a starter with a school-record 66 touchdown passes[18] and led the Ducks to a 45–38 victory over #10 Wisconsin in the 2012 Rose Bowl. The 2012 season showcased Marcus Mariota as the first freshman to start a season opener for the Ducks in 22 seasons.[19] He led the Ducks to a 12–1 record while being named All-Pac-12 Conference First Team,[20] Pac-12 Freshman Offensive Player of the Year,[20] and winning the 2013 Fiesta Bowl Offensive MVP Award as he guided the Ducks to a 35-17 victory over #5 Kansas State.[21]

Helfrich was recognized for his impact on the Ducks' offensive success as he was named by FootballScoop as its National Quarterbacks Coach of the Year in 2010[22] and 2012,[23] in addition to being one of three finalists as its national offensive coordinator of the year honor.[5]

Rumors of Chip Kelly departing college football for the NFL were constant during his tenure as Oregon's coach. Kelly refused to accept the Tampa Bay Buccaneers offer as head coach weeks after the 2012 Rose Bowl victory because he couldn't get a promise from Oregon athletic director Rob Mullens assuring him that Mark Helfrich would be his successor.[24] When Kelly began to interview for numerous NFL head coaching positions after Oregon's 2013 Fiesta Bowl victory, it was rumored that a succession plan was put into place for Helfrich to be the next head coach of the Ducks if Kelly were to ever leave.[25] On January 16, 2013, Chip Kelly left Oregon to become the head coach of the Philadelphia Eagles.[26] Due to an Oregon state law requiring public universities to interview at least one minority candidate for head-coaching positions, the succession plan became complicated.[27]

Head coach (2013–present)[edit]

On January 20, 2013, Helfrich, after speculation and anticipation, accepted the offer from the University of Oregon to become the head coach of the Ducks.[5] As the successor to Chip Kelly, Helfrich's promotion continued an Oregon tradition. He is the third consecutive Oregon offensive coordinator promoted to head coach. Before Kelly replaced Mike Bellotti in 2009, Bellotti succeeded Rich Brooks in 1995.[28] Since Brooks' hire in 1977, Helfrich is just the fourth head coach at Oregon.[29]

2013 season[edit]

In his first season as head coach, Helfrich had the difficult task of trying to emerge from the shadow of Chip Kelly.[30] He departed from his predecessors "blur" offense and implemented a more balanced attack that included a skilled passing game, resulting in a more efficient and less stubborn offense that continued to score points and break offensive records.[31]

Despite finishing the season with an 11–2 record and a top-ten final season ranking, Helfrich's first season leading the Ducks was considered by some to be a letdown.[32] Losses to #6 Stanford[33] and unranked Arizona[34] (Oregon's first loss to an unranked opponent since 2008) kept the Ducks from reaching a BCS Bowl berth for the first time in five seasons. Helfrich did however lead his team to a victory over Texas in the 2013 Alamo Bowl, dominating the Longhorns 30–7 in Mack Brown's final game as head coach.[35]

2014 season[edit]

In Helfrich’s second season, the Ducks won a school record 13 games and reached the inaugural College Football Playoff National Championship.[1] Quarterback Marcus Mariota also became the first Oregon player to win the Heisman Trophy.[36]

The season began with a statement win for Helfrich when the Ducks scored 28 unanswered points to defeat #7 Michigan State 46–27, ending the defending Big-Ten and Rose Bowl-champion Spartans 11-game winning streak.[37] After defeating #8 Arizona 51-13 in the 2014 Pac-12 Football Championship Game,[38] the Ducks played in the inaugural College Football Playoff, where they defeated the #3 Florida State Seminoles 59-20 in the Playoff Semifinal Rose Bowl Game and ended the defending national champions 29-game winning streak.[39] Oregon advanced to the College Football Championship Game against the Ohio State Buckeyes and lost 42-20.[40]

The Ducks finished the season with an overall 13-2 record and the #2 ranking in the final polls for the third time in program history. It was announced on February 9, 2015 that Helfrich had signed a 5 year contract extension worth $17.5 million.[41]

2015 season[edit]

Helfrich’s third season was a möbius strip that began and ended with historic losses. The Ducks early season 42-point loss to Utah came with a total of 62 points allowed, the most points ever given up by the Ducks at home in Autzen Stadium.[42] Oregon also lost two of its star offensive weapons against Utah in receiver Byron Marshall (broken leg)[43] and quarterback Vernon Adams, Jr. (broken index finger in throwing hand).[44] After a 3-3 start, Oregon fell out of the top 25 poll rankings for the first time since 2009.[45]

Despite the rough start, Helfrich’s team bounced back to win six straight games after a healthy Vernon Adams Jr. returned from injury.[46] Following back-to-back victories over #7 Stanford[47] and #22 USC,[48] the Ducks were selected to play #11 TCU in the Alamo Bowl.[49]

The Ducks dominated TCU in the first half of the Alamo Bowl by scoring at will on consecutive drives and led 31-0 at halftime.[50] However, Oregon’s offense and defense collapsed in the second half after losing starting quarterback Vernon Adams Jr. to a head injury.[51] TCU scored on every second half possession and rallied the biggest comeback in college football bowl game history to beat Oregon 47-41 in triple overtime.[52]

For the first time since 2007 the Ducks failed to win 10 games and finished with a 9-4 overall record.[50] Following the epic Alamo Bowl loss, Helfrich demoted defensive coordinator Don Pellum to linebackers coach after Oregon’s defense regressed to finish last in the Pac-12 in total defense and ranked 93rd or worse nationally in eight defensive categories.[53]

2016 season[edit]

Prior to the season, Helfrich made multiple adjustments to his coaching staff. After Scott Frost resigned as offensive coordinator in order to become the head coach at UCF in early December 2015,[54] Helfrich promoted wide receivers coach and passing game coordinator Matt Lubick to offensive coordinator in early January 2016.[55] Following the Alamo Bowl loss, Don Pellum was demoted to linebackers coach, replacing Erik Chinander who left to become the defensive coordinator for Scott Frost at UCF.[56] In mid-January 2016, David Yost was hired as Oregon's passing game coordinator and quarterbacks coach.[57] Replacing Pellum as defensive coordinator is former Michigan head football coach Brady Hoke, who was hired on January 16, 2016.[58]

Coaching tree[edit]

Helfrich has worked for the following head coaches as an assistant/positional coach:

Coaching tree:


  • 2010 National Quarterbacks Coach of the Year (FootballScoop)
  • 2012 National Quarterbacks Coach of the Year (FootballScoop)

Family and personal life[edit]

Helfrich was raised about two hours from Eugene in Coos Bay, Oregon. As a child he would toss the football in Autzen Stadium after games, dreaming of someday playing for the Ducks. While playing quarterback at Marshfield High School, he was recruited by Rich Brooks and Mike Bellotti to walk on at Oregon. Both his father and uncle played football for the Ducks and his brother and mother went to school at Oregon as well. The first Oregon native to become head coach of the Ducks since 1942,[59] Helfrich describes coaching at the University of Oregon as being the pinnacle of his career.[60] He and his wife Megan have two children.[61]

Head coaching record[edit]

Year Team Overall Conference Standing Bowl/playoffs Coaches# AP°
Oregon Ducks (Pacific-10 Conference) (2009–present)
2013 Oregon 11–2 7–2 T–1st (North) W Alamo 9 9
2014 Oregon 13–2 8–1 1st (North) W Rose, L CFP NCG 2 2
2015 Oregon 9–4 7–2 2nd (North) L Alamo 20 19
2016 Oregon 0–0 0–0 (North)
Oregon: 33–8 22–5
Total: 33–8
      National championship         Conference title         Conference division title
Indicates Bowl Coalition, Bowl Alliance, BCS, or CFP / New Years' Six bowl.
#Rankings from final Coaches Poll.


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  3. ^ Schnell, Lindsay (December 29, 2011). "A football junkie since he can remember, Mark Helfrich finds his niche with college coaching". The Oregonian. Retrieved January 28, 2013. 
  4. ^ "Former SOU star Helfrich eyes Oregon position". April 23, 2009. Retrieved January 28, 2013. 
  5. ^ a b c d "Mark Helfrich Named Oregon's 32nd Football Head Coach". January 20, 2013. Retrieved January 28, 2013. 
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  9. ^ "Mark Helfrich Bio". Retrieved January 28, 2013. 
  10. ^ a b "Mark Helfrich Biography - - Official Athletics Web site of the University of Colorado". Retrieved January 28, 2013. 
  11. ^ Jude, Adam (January 13, 2013). "Chip Kelly's potential replacement Mark Helfrich is ready to take charge at Oregon Ducks football". Retrieved January 28, 2013. 
  12. ^ Moseley, Rob (May 1, 2009). "Ducks stay close to home to fill coaching holes". The Register-Guard. Retrieved January 28, 2013. 
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  14. ^ Lowery, Nathan (January 18, 2013). "Oregon Football: Why Mark Helfrich Is the Best Replacement for Chip Kelly". Bleacher Report. Retrieved January 28, 2013. 
  15. ^ "The Oregon Ducks have built a Pac-12 dynasty under coach Chip Kelly". November 14, 2012. Retrieved January 28, 2013. 
  16. ^ Miller, Ted. "Best Ducks ever? Future tests may hold key". Retrieved January 28, 2013. 
  17. ^ "2012 Oregon Ducks Rushing". Retrieved January 28, 2013. 
  18. ^ "2012 NFL draft - Darron Thomas of Oregon Ducks to leave early, enter draft". January 16, 2013. Retrieved January 28, 2013. 
  19. ^ Ely, Bruce (December 29, 2012). "Ten moments that shaped the Ducks' season: A dazzling debut for Marcus Mariota and the Ducks". The Oregonian. Retrieved January 28, 2013. 
  20. ^ a b "Pac-12 football awards and all-conference team announced". Retrieved January 28, 2013. 
  21. ^ "Mariota Leads Oregon to Fiesta Bowl Win". Hawaii News Now. January 4, 2013. Retrieved January 28, 2013. 
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  24. ^ "Canzano: Chip Kelly feels like a coach about to run beyond this rivalry". The Oregonian. November 24, 2012. 
  25. ^ Schroeder, George (January 3, 2013). "Oregon will hire assistant Mark Helfrich if Chip Kelly leaves". USA Today. 
  26. ^ "Eagles get their man, hire Oregon's Kelly". CNN. January 16, 2013. 
  27. ^ "Goe: If Oregon Ducks have Chip Kelly-Mark Helfrich succession plan, state law could complicate process". The Oregonian. December 10, 2012. 
  28. ^ Schroeder, George (January 16, 2013). "Oregon to promote Mark Helfrich to replace Chip Kelly". Retrieved January 28, 2013. 
  29. ^ Miller, Ted (January 20, 2013). "Rich Brooks". Retrieved January 28, 2013. 
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  59. ^ "Mark Helfrich: 'Coaching Oregon is the pinnacle for me'". The Oregonian. January 20, 2013. 
  60. ^ "Mark Helfrich Announcement Quotes". January 20, 2013. Retrieved January 28, 2013. 
  61. ^

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