Mario Cristobal Discusses Oregon Football, Justin Herbert, Recruiting

Changing a program's culture requires less talking and more doing – and Oregon's Mario Cristobal is doing a lot

Tiki and Tierney
October 29, 2018 - 9:38 am

USA Today Images

It’s been tough sledding for Oregon football in recent years. Chip Kelly turned the Ducks into a national power, which Mark Helfrich was unable to sustain. Wille Taggart, meanwhile, bolted for Florida State after less than a season.

The program was in a tough spot.

That’s when Mario Cristobal stepped up. A program that went 11-14 in 2016-17 is now 4-1 and ranked No. 18 in the country.

How did he do it? By chang

It’s been tough sledding for Oregon football in recent years. Chip Kelly turned the Ducks into a national power, which Mark Helfrich sustained for a couple of seasons before a 4-8 disaster in 2016. Wille Taggart, meanwhile, bolted for Florida State after less than a season.

Last December, the program was in a tough spot.

So Mario Cristobal stepped up. 

And just like that, a program that went 11-14 in 2016-17 is 4-1 and ranked No. 18 in the country.

How Cristobal he do it? By changing the culture.

“It’s got to be the offseason program,” Cristobal said on Tiki and Tierney. “I think talking about it does absolutely nothing, I got to be honest with you. I don’t think it has any kind of effect whatsoever. The culture of the entire organization has to be different, and everyone has got to be held to a standard. The entire team has to have the mindset where they will not tolerate anyone or anything that doesn’t uphold the standards of the culture.”

Cristobal, who coached under Nick Saban at Alabama from 2013-16, knows a lot about culture. In fact, when he became head coach, he hired former Alabama strength and conditioning coach Aaron Feld.

“He sets the tone,” Cristobal said. “It’s not the offseason program where you blow a whistle and you cross cones or lines. This one pushes back and demands the most of you. If you’re not prepared for it or if you don’t want to take part in it, it’ll take care of you.”

The results are showing. Oregon lost in overtime to then-No. 7 Stanford (4-1) on Sept. 22, but responded with a 42-24 win at Cal (3-1) this past Saturday. Quarterback Justin Herbert, one of the top quarterback prospects in the country, threw for two touchdowns against the Bears and has accounted for 16 touchdowns (15 pass, one rush) and five interceptions on the season.

Indeed, players – and recruits – have bought in to Cristobal’s message.

“It’s straight up being genuine and real and just being yourself,” Cristobal said. “I don’t really have any good jokes to tell. I really have a boring life. I don’t have much of anything except my awesome family – my wife and my kids. I love fishing, but I can only go fishing once every decade nowadays. Somehow, someway, I relate to the parents because I guess I’m the same age as them now. Usually some good stories come out of that, but aside from that, I’m talking about as right to the point, genuine, and honest.”

Oregon, which is off this week, hosts No. 10 Washington (4-1) on Friday, Oct. 12.

ing the culture.

“It’s got to be the offseason program,” Cristobal said on Tiki and Tierney. “I think talking about it does absolutely nothing, I got to be honest with you. I don’t think it has any kind of effect whatsoever. The culture of the entire organization has to be different, and everyone has got to be held to a standard. The entire team has to have the mindset where they will not tolerate anyone or anything that doesn’t uphold the standards of the culture.”

Cristobal, who coached under Nick Saban at Alabama from 2013-16, knows a lot about culture. In fact, he brought former Alabama strength and conditioning coach Aaron Feld to Eugene.

“He sets the tone,” Cristobal said. “It’s not the offseason program where you blow a whistle and you cross cones or lines. This one pushes back and demands the most of you. If you’re not prepared for it or if you don’t want to take part in it, it’ll take care of you.”

The results are showing. Oregon lost in overtime to then-No. 7 Stanford (4-1) on Sept. 22, but responded with a 42-24 win at Cal (3-1) this past Saturday. Quarterback Justin Herbert, one of the top quarterback prospects in the country, threw for two touchdowns against the Bears and has accounted for 16 touchdowns (15 pass, one rush) and five interceptions on the season.”

Players – and recruits – have bought in to Cristobal’s message.

“It’s straight up being genuine and real and just being yourself,” he said. “I don’t really have any good jokes to tell. I really have a boring life. I don’t have much of anything except my awesome family – my wife and my kids. I love fishing, but I can only go fishing once every decade nowadays. Somehow, someway, I relate to the parents because I guess I’m the same age as them now. Usually some good stories come out of that, but aside from that, I’m talking about as right to the point, genuine, and honest.”

Oregon, which is off this week, hosts No. 10 Washington (4-1) on Friday, Oct. 12.