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Ducks' issues forgotten amid 6-0 start

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Remember when this guy was the poster boy for "lacks institutional control?"
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Kalani Simpson

Kalani Simpson is an award-winning journalist who has earned national recognition as a sports columnist at the Honolulu Star-Bulletin and editor at Nebraska Sports America magazine.MORE>>
 
   
 

It seems like it was 15 minutes ago, but of course it’s been longer. In reality, it’s been a few months. More important than any length of time, it’s been six wins.

It was not so long ago that Oregon coach Chip Kelly was the guy who was losing his grip. Guys were getting arrested, one after the other. The incidents seemed to pile onto each other, at the worst possible times ... at least as far as public perception was concerned.

One guy got busted the day after Kelly held a press conference to say he was getting tough on this kind of stuff.

“We’re embarrassed,” the coach told ESPN’s “Outside the Lines” in February.

Running back LeGarrette Blount famously punched out an opponent after last year’s season-opening meltdown, and had to be dragged off the field, hold-me-back style. A national television audience watched in horror (or glee).

And despite a Rose Bowl season, the off-field mayhem rolled on from there. Assaults. DUI. Domestic violence. Rogue Facebook posts.

Thugs, we all thought.

I wrote this last week: Attitude reflects leadership.

Could Kelly even handle this job? The timing of a couple arrests and dispatches from at least one social-network account made you wonder if his players bothered to respect his attempts at discipline.

It seemed like the guy was losing his grip. That seems like about 15 minutes ago.

Yet here we are, several months and six wins later. The Ducks are No. 1 in the Associated Press poll. Kelly is a genius, hailed universally so. He just got a $20.5 million contract extension. He’s on national shows and if he gets asked about arrests, I must have missed that part.

From Thug U. to darlings in the blink of an eye. In just six consecutive wins.

It wasn’t so long ago the press was all over him. This year, one of the big stories out of Eugene, Ore., is that Kelly really, really likes ice cream … but only in moderation.

(It’s true. KEZI-TV tracked down the local Dairy Queen that supplies him with his weekly Blizzard fix.)

Man … winning. It’s like, you know, better than losing.

Kobe Bryant knows it. There’s nothing like winning to clean up a mess. It’s amazing what we’ll forget after a few feel-good games.

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Just look at the guy tabbed this season as the poster boy for coaches who can’t control their programs. Urban Meyer is fresh off two national championships at Florida and could do no wrong. But suddenly, now, his players’ discipline is a stop-the-presses problem.

It could be because he just reinstated a guy who allegedly texted his girlfriend, “Time to die, (bleep).”

Or, it might have something to do with Meyer’s problems being more glaring since he’s lost three straight games (something that never happened when Ron Zook was around).

What … a coincidence.

So is that it? Is that what it comes down to? Winning makes everything better, makes all your troubles go away? It’s the ultimate image rehab, the best air freshener known to man?

Well, partly, yes. Bluntly, yes. But there might be more to it than that here. We might actually give Kelly the benefit of the doubt. Maybe he actually did clean up his mess.

Not long after all this other stuff came to a head, Kelly was hit with another one. An even bigger one.

And he kicked his quarterback — his star quarterback, his Heisman Trophy-candidate quarterback — off the team.

This time Kelly did not hem and haw, or dig in his heels and bristle or save his toughest stuff for a little-used sub. No, he got out the broom on what might have been the best player Oregon had.

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Of course, it didn’t hurt that his next quarterback, Darron Thomas, turned out to be just as good.

And yes, that move might not have been made without all the embarrassment, without the public outcry, but it seems as if karma has smiled on the Ducks. It seems as if Kelly might have regained his grip.

Oregon hosts UCLA on Thursday night in the Ducks’ first game in program history as the nation’s No. 1 team. We’ll see if there’s a happy ending to all this.

But we’ll be watching its off-field record, too. We’ll see if this is a new program.

Or we’ll see if it’s the same old, same old, that just happened to start 6-0.

Tagged: Oregon

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