Oregon's next football coach: Top candidates to replace Mario Cristobal

Five years ago, Mark Helfrich became the first Oregon football coach to be fired since 1976.

Oregon hasn't fired any coaches since, but for the third time in five years, the Ducks are searching for a new program leader. For the second time, a Ducks coach is leaving for a Power 5 job in Florida.

Coach Mario Cristobal is taking the same post at Miami, his alma mater, days after Oregon's loss in the Pac-12 championship game. Despite two Pac-12 titles and having built the best roster on the West Coast -- Oregon in 2022 likely will have its most talented team since the national runner-up squad of 2014 -- Cristobal is headed home to Miami after going 35-13 in four seasons.

His departure is a significant blow to Oregon, which promoted Cristobal to replace Willie Taggart after Taggart left for Florida State. Oregon provided strong support and resources to elevate the program. Like many other schools, Oregon did not expect to be searching for a coach this year.

While Oregon's search could go in several directions, there should be one deal breaker: No candidates from Florida or with strong ties to the state. Oregon needs to target those who view Eugene as a destination, and could prefer those with stronger Northwest roots/connections.

The job is very appealing for several reasons, especially with the recruiting momentum Cristobal generated. Oregon's connection to Nike and co-founder Phil Knight, an alum, provide perks and support few programs enjoy. Athletic director Rob Mullens, hired in July 2010, is well-respected around the country.

While some Oregon fans are buzzing about Chris Petersen, I can't see the former Washington coach -- who largely led UW's recent coaching search -- moving across the rivalry to Oregon.

Here's a look at who Oregon could pursue to replace Cristobal.