P.J. Fleck had never been a coordinator and was only 32 years old when he took over as the head coach of Western Michigan, one of the worst programs in college football, before the 2013 season.
Months later, mired in a season that would ultimately net only one win, the Broncos played a home game at Waldo Stadium that had only 10,274 people in the stands (and that was probably an aggressive round-up.)
Fleck is an excitable guy -- he's a human Red Bull -- but not even his infectious energy could get Kalamazoo excited about the Broncos that first year on the job.
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But Friday, three years after that miserable game against Ball State in that dismal season, the Broncos put 45,615 in Ford Field in Detroit for the MAC Championship game against Ohio, a 29-23 victory for the Broncos.
When you know that, it's no surprise that Fleck is the hottest coach in college football and a candidate for the open head coaching positions at Purdue and, more significantly, Oregon.
Oregon is a peculiar job. Expectations are high after Chip Kelly took the success of the Mike Bellotti era and made National Championships the goal in Eugene.
Had those not been the expectations, Mike Helfrich would not have been fired.
Oregon is Nike U, but it's also a state that produces a single Top 100 national recruit every two years -- it's not exactly a hotbed.
Oregon needs a force of nature -- it needs someone who's aggressive -- it needs someone on the cutting edge.
It needs someone cool.
Fleck and Oregon could not be a better fit.
Concerns over Fleck's lack of West Coast recruiting experience -- his lack of general coaching experience in general -- are a byproduct of overthinking.
In a division with Chris Petersen and David Shaw -- Oregon needs a superstar coach. Right now, there isn't a proven one on the market, but Fleck could easily turn into one in a short period of time in Eugene.
Fleck had never led a program -- he had never been in charge of an entire offense before he took the Western Michigan job -- but in four years he took a team that was left for dead and beat two Big Ten teams, won a MAC Championship, and has an undefeated regular season.
Fleck's X's and O's are strong, but that's only half -- if that -- of what a head coach does in college football. The head coach of a team needs to establish a culture, a program-wide energy, and he has to lead 100 players and dozens of staffers by example.
Western Michigan is a long ways away from a big-money Power Five school like Oregon, but there's no question that Fleck has the latter part of the head coaching gig down. He has been transcendent in Kalamazoo. And with Uncle Phil Knight's money, what's to stop Fleck from surrounding himself with the best X's and O's coaches in the sport?
Oregon has punched above its weight for the last 16 years because it has taken bold risks. Fleck is a risk -- he could be overwhelmed by a move up, to be sure -- but the Ducks can't pass on the possible reward.