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Insider

Despite outside doubts, Helfrich builds on Kelly's success with Ducks

PASADENA, California -- Following a legend is an unenviable task for a first-time head coach, but some caution should be used when throwing around that word.

Did Oregon’s dizzying tempo and creative play billboards, the zany Duck and the ever-changing uniforms, lead us to overstate Chip Kelly’s four seasons? In terms of legacy, could we have turned Kelly into a fish story for the Ducks?

He was 46-7 in those four years, going 33-3 in conference play. Those are remarkable, ridiculous records. But he never won a national title. Kelly’s teams were typically close, especially in 2010, but they never reached the top floor.

Enter Mark Helfrich. He was put under a microscope two years ago from the day he was promoted to the head job after Kelly went off to the NFL. Coaches were always skeptical of him, as if he’d come from a Pop Warner field. Peers sometimes hinted he had lucked into the job -- and they wondered whether Oregon would sink back into mediocrity.