I had a chance to talk yesterday with Jamal Fountaine, and the former Husky was his usual engaging and forthright self.
We talked about the newly remodeled Husky Stadium and different games on Washington's schedule this year. Then about halfway through the conversation, the topic became Oregon. Fountaine, of course, never lost to Oregon in his days as a Dawg. It must be mentioned that he played in three Rose Bowls, won a National Championship with the Huskies and then a Super Bowl with the San Francisco 49ers.
Now working these days for a fire department in the Bay Area, Fountaine's mind can't comprehend how Oregon has torched Washington nine years in a row.
But with former coach Chip Kelly having departed for the NFL's Philadelphia Eagles, Mark Helfrich is now Oregon's leader. I asked Jamal what kind of impact Kelly's departure might have on Duck football.
"This is a great test of whether it's about the X's and O's or the Jimmy's and Joe's," Fountaine said. "Chip Kelly is gone, but Chip Kelly doesn't throw the ball or catch the ball. It'd be better if the Black Mamba (running back DeAnthony Thomas) was gone. It'd be better if that quarterback (Marcus Mariota) was gone. You know what I mean?
"They've got some holes they've got to fill," he said. "They've had some guys go to the NFL, which is a testament to their program. But you know what? I still don't think the school's worth a sh*t. Nor do I think the city's worth a sh*t.
"They've got to go out there with the smoke and mirrors to get these kids, who unfortunately are just looking at the ritz and not looking at (other factors). I see more Oregon stickers (on cars) down here in California than I ever have. And that's because they can't get jobs in Eugene so they have to come back here. There ain't s**t in Eugene but the stadium. That's it! And the $68 million complex they can build.
"They have all the land in the world to build that stuff because there ain't nothing else there."
We both paused to chuckle before Jamal continued.
"I can't stand that school," he said. "I really hate what they're doing to the Pac-12. I admire that they've won. And I can't stand the fact that we can't beat them. It really upsets me that we can't figure out a way to beat these guys. So it comes down to the Jimmy's and Joe's.
"Chip Kelly being there or not has absolutely nothing to do with Oregon having better players than everyone else in the Pac-12."
But then I asked Jamal, what about player development? Isn't what happens to a player once he gets to a program more important than simply recruiting the best athletes?
"We were talking about the head coach," he said. "But if you look at the head coach as being the shark's tooth, it's the coaches behind Kelly that make the difference. It's the Campbells, the Alliotis, and the guy that looks like Evander Holyfield. Those guys have been there since before I was in college. They have an infrastructure in place that is practically unheard of in college football. That shows the commitment that that school has to the football program.
"Nobody in the Pac-12 other than Stanford and USC have been able to keep up with them," he said. "And that is because of the Jimmy's and Joe's, and not because of the X's and O's. It's not!"