(Written by Ken Crawford)
I was completely shocked to find last night that the top search criteria that had people coming to my blog was some variant of “Fire Coach Tedford”. That was taking them to my old post titled “Fire Tedford, are you NUTS!?!”. Rather than repeat the sentiment there, which I fully stand behind, allow me to give some thoughts on the state of the Cal program and specifically it’s leader Jeff Tedford.
I believe there are 5 things that make up good head coaches: Recruiting, talent development, game planning, good assistent coaching hires and finally empire building. Let’s take them one by one:
I believe Tedford has a very good sense of which recruits are truly worth their “stars” and which are all hype. It’s a similarly difficult task as NFL coaches have to determining if great college players can make the transition to the NFL, but instead it is the transition from high school to college. Additionally, I think he’s done an exceptional job of convincing a lot of very good players to come play for Cal despite our lack-luster facilities. Additionally he’s recognized the schools issues that have prevented them from recruiting the top talent and has worked diligently to address those. I’ll come back to that in “Empire Building”, but suffice it to say that ever since Cal broke ground on the SAHPC, the recruits have been pouring in like never before.
While I’ll admit the inability to get another QB to perform at the level of Boller or Rodgers in a number of years is a bit baffling to me, in the big picture I think Cal has done an exceptional job of making the most of its talent. In fact, for the most part when I’ve seen Cal lose in the back of my head I’ve always known that part of the problem was the talent differential between Cal and its opponent, although due to recruiting this differential is lessening every year. I think this is part of the reason Cal fans are so upset about yesterday’s loss. They know we finally have talent that is well developed.
OK, I’ll admit I’ll have a tough time selling this one to those who watched yesterday’s game, but I think the history of Cal football under Tedford shows him to be a great game planner, particularly in his ability to grow and learn. Particularly if you include game preparation as part of game planning, which I do, his willingness to do things like travel to Minnesota on Thursday after how poorly traveling to Maryland on Friday worked out or changing the emphasis from the opponent to internally on the team when facing a big opponent after he did the opposite versus Tennessee in 2006, show not only that he’s a good game planner but that he’s one who’s on a mission to constantly improve. I can guarantee you that Tedford will be spending a lot of time thinking about this Oregon loss and figuring out how to address it.
Good assistant coach hiring:
I think if you look at Tedford’s overall record here, he’s done pretty well, but I must admit that this is the weakest of the 5 categories for him. Sticking by Alamar may be his worst on-going mistake, but sticking by Gregory while he completely re-tooled the defense was one of his best. Bringing in Dunbar may not have been the best decision for the short term but it helped the Bears add new aspects to their offense that have remained to this day. Cignetti is hard to judge but was not a bad hire. Just as importantly the next tier of coaches have been awesome hires including Gould, Lupoi and Marshall (or Michalczik before him), If Ludwig proves to be a good OC, and no yesterday’s game does not prove that he won’t be, I’d say Tedford has done pretty well in this category.
And here’s where it all comes together. Between Tedford and Sandy Barbour Cal football has come a REMARKABLY long way in the last 7 years. Has everyone noticed the big hole in front of the stadium or the 200 million dollars in the bank for future improvements? Or what about the fact that there’s a ton of interest in Cal football like there has never been before. 8 years ago when I told some random person I was a Cal fan, they’d say “you’re a, what did you say, cow fan?” Or if I said I was going to the Bears game in Berkeley people would ask why Chicago was playing an AFC team and didn’t I mean Oakland? Now although there is the occasion oblivious person but the vast majority of people in northern California are well aware of the empire being built in the Berkeley hills. It’s the first empire to topple the formerly unbreakable grip that the radical socialist activists had on Berkeley. And here’s the most incredible part, most people in Berkeley CHEERED when it happened! There’s no doubt that Tedford has built something special in Berkeley. Even if he were to get run over by a bus tomorrow his impact on the program would endure and his influence would never be forgotten. Andy Smith, Pappy Waldorf and Jeff Tedford, those are the great names of Cal football.
Does Tedford make mistakes? Of course. He’s not God, or even a god, despite reports to the contrary. In fact, perhaps that’s the problem. Sometimes we put him up on a pedestal that nobody could possibly live up to. Nevertheless what I like about Tedford is that he’s committed to continuing to improve and to learning from his mistakes. People forget this is his first head coaching job and he’s learning as he goes. He’s got great instincts and pretty good analysis skills. Between the two he’ll continue to improve and I’m absolutely that Cal will reach the promised land and I will be able to take my children to a Rose Bowl not just before I die but before any of them are off to college themselves. Heck, I still haven’t given up hope on this year.
I believe Tedford is our guy and he’s going to get us there. We just have to be a little bit patient and keep showing up. I’ll be there next Saturday, will you?