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Early Oregon Football Head Coach Candidates Following Mario Cristobal's Departure

With Mario Cristobal gone, where do the Oregon Ducks go from here?

Mario Cristobal’s four-year tenure at Oregon is over after being hired as the next head coach at the University of Miami Monday. There's lots to unpack for the Ducks now as they need to prepare for their next matchup, the Valero Alamo Bowl against Oklahoma on Dec. 29 and try to hire a coach quickly with hopes of holding on to the Pac-12's top 2022 recruiting class.

How do you keep your recruits? Where will the staff go? And of course who will be the next head coach? Well here are eight candidates that should be at the top of the list for Rob Mullens and the Oregon Ducks.

Chip Kelly-UCLA Head Coach

Chip’s name has already been thrown around as a potential replacement, as the Oregonian's John Canzano reported on Saturday. Chip could be interested in a return to Eugene, as there are some in Westwood who aren’t satisfied with his four years there. Throw in that he now has to compete with USC's new head coach Lincoln Riley in the same city. That sounds like a nightmare he might want to avoid. Meanwhile in Eugene, he still has relationships with the people here and knows he’ll be treated well.

Joe Brady-Former Carolina Panthers Offensive Coordinator

Freshly back on the market, Brady was fired by the Panthers on Sunday with nearly all of the team's offensive weapons injured riding on the success of veteran quarterback Cam Newton. 

Brady was the offensive coordinator at LSU in their national championship season and led what may go down as the best offense college football has ever seen. He's never been a head coach, but he's obviously one of the most innovative and brightest offensive minds in football. The timing of this coaching search will likely limit who the Ducks can approach, but Brady is a guy that has a ton of upside and will surely generate some buzz and be an attractive name recruits could want to work with.

Matt Campbell-Iowa State Head Coach

Matt Campbell has been linked to many different coaching jobs throughout this coaching carousel including USC, Oklahoma, Washington and Notre Dame. He either was passed up or declined those opportunities and is still at Iowa State. 

The Ducks saw first-hand what his program looks like last year when the Cyclones beat Oregon soundly in the Fiesta Bowl. Campbell has proven that he knows how to build a strong culture and get his players to buy in to his message. Just think about what he can do with Oregon's brand and resources. 

Will he ever leave Ames? Who knows, but you've got to try and at least give him a call.

Kalani Sitake-BYU Head Coach

How can you not be impressed with what Sitake has been able to do at BYU? He's 21-3 in his last two seasons there and swept through the Pac-12 this season with a perfect 5-0 record. 

He's built BYU into a top-15 program and positioned the Cougars to be competitive in the Big 12 in a few years.

Dave Aranda-Baylor Head Coach

Aranda has become a hot name in the coaching circles recently after he led Baylor to a Big 12 title in his second year in Waco. The former LSU defensive coordinator won a national championship with the Tigers in 2019 and has Baylor’s defense playing at an elite level in the offensive-heavy Big 12. 

There have been reports that Aranda will sign a contract extension with the bears, but could Oregon pull him away from Waco after just two seasons? 

Luke Fickell-Cincinnati Head Coach

Fickell has led Cincinnati to become the first Group of five team to ever make the College Football Playoff. While that would clearly make him a top candidate, that would also complicate things greatly if Oregon wanted to hire him. 

It's unlikely he would pull a Brian Kelly and leave them before a CFP matchup on New Year’s Eve, and it’s also hard to see Oregon waiting until after the early signing period to find a new head coach. While timing is an issue here, Fickell is no doubt one of the top coaches available for the Ducks.

Kellen Moore-Dallas Cowboys Offensive Coordinator

This is another big name in college football history. Kellen Moore was electronic during his playing days at Boise State.

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Many Oregon fans will be asking if not demanding for the next hire to be someone who can generate some excitement and buzz on the offensive side of the ball and Moore would be a great option. The Cowboys' offense has been up and down at times, but we've also seen it be very effective with a cupboard full of weapons.

Does Moore even want to come back to college after landing an NFL gig? The only way you find out is by picking up the phone.

Brett Brennan-San Jose State Head Coach

Oregon’s last two head coaches have now left for Florida, which is why it could make sense for the Ducks to look at a West Coast guy to become the next head coach in hopes they will last in Eugene for more than four seasons. This would be in line with what the Oregonian's John Canzano reported regarding the possibility of Phil Knight being upset with coaches using the Oregon job as a stepping stone. 

It stands to reason a coach with West Coast ties would be more likely to stay for the long term. In that case, Brennan fits the bill. Pretty much his whole football life has been spent in California, so he understands the state, how much talent it has and that recruiting it should be a priority. If Oregon is looking for a long-term fit Brennan could be that guy.

Andy Avalos- Boise State Head Coach

Now looking at a pair of former Oregon assistants as options for the Ducks head coaching vacancy, Boise State Head Coach Andy Avalos was the Oregon defensive coordinator for two seasons under Cristobal from 2019-20 before taking the job at his alma mater Boise State. He led the Broncos to a 7-5 season this year beating BYU and being just a point shy of beating Oklahoma State in the non-conference slate. 

As a team, Oregon was playing it's best football in 2019 with Avalos leading a dominant defense that ranked among the best in the country. However, the defense took a noticeable step back in 2020. How much of that can be attributed to a COVID season is up in the air, but he's a young coach who enjoyed notable success in Eugene, albeit for one season.

Joe Moorhead-Akron Head Coach/Former Oregon Offensive Coordinator

This would be funny, wouldn’t it? Moorhead officially took the Akron head coaching job on Saturday, but Oregon is a massive step up from Akron and Moorhead would certainly be interested in the opportunity. 

Had he still been on the staff when Cristobal was hired by Miami, he might be the top option to promote internally. From Oregon’s perspective, this would be a way to try and keep the current staff together and keep continuity with the 2022 commits already in the fold.

Justin Wilcox-California Head Coach

Another interesting head coaching name out there with Oregon ties, Wilcox would almost certainly take the job if presented to him. Cal’s lack of commitment to football and the lack of facilities make that job extremely difficult, and Wilcox would instantly make Oregon’s defense a great one. The question is, could he find a good offensive coach? Also, what would recruiting look like with Wilcox running the show? He hasn’t been able to at Cal.

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