Let's imagine a hypothetical situation. After a lackluster 2011 season, Jeff Tedford is fired. A new coaching staff comes in, and appraising the talent on the roster they believe they have a chance to be reasonably successful in 2012.
Then the season starts. For reference, here's a picture of Cal's depth chart prior to the season opener vs. Nevada. Take a look at the names on that list. Now take a look at this list:
Players on the two-deep who have missed games with injuries*
First of all: Congratulations to Todd Barr, Dan Camporeale and Nick Forbes for being the only three guys out of 14 on the pre-season front seven two-deep to survive the entire season so far healthy. Frankly, it's amazing to me that Cal's defense has, for the most part, been relatively decent considering that hellstorm of injuries.
In total, that's 26 players listed. I didn't include Zach Maynard or Cecil Whiteside either. Zach looks likely to make this list next week if he's ruled out for Oregon. Cecil Whiteside was expected to start at linebacker before being declared academically ineligible, which means a total of TEN linebackers that might have been major contributors have missed some amount of game time. We were all so excited to see what Cal's defense could do this year, and there's been some head-scratching about why the defense hasn't quite seemed to live up to our expectations. I think this might be a pretty good explanation for why.
Cal's losses on offense haven't been as remarkable in terms of pure numbers. But it's safe to say that the injuries that have been sustained have been to particularly important players. Matt Summers-Gavin and Dominic Galas are probably Cal's two best offensive linemen. Galas has essentially missed the entire season and Summers-Gavin has been in and out of the lineup. Richard Rodgers, meanwhile, was supposed to be a huge part of Cal's offense but he missed a few games when he really could have made a difference.
Now, if a new coaching staff had been brought in, had to deal with all of these injuries, and struggled to a record of 3-7 through 10 games, how would we have reacted? I honestly don't know. But I have a feeling that most Cal fans would chalk up the season as a mulligan because, simply speaking, too many players were hurt to reasonably expect Cal to compete.
And that's not even taking into account Cal's schedule, which is incredibly tough even when you ignore the fact that the Bears have no bye week! As of right now Jeff Sagarin has Cal's schedule ranked at the 15th toughest in the nation . . . and that before Cal plays two top 15 teams in Oregon and Oregon State. The Bears may well finish the year with arguably the toughest schedule in the entire country.
Does this mean that Jeff Tedford should be retained? I'm sure many of you can (and will!) make arguments regarding reasons this team has struggled beyond injuries. And, unfortunately, many of those arguments are very valid, arguments I've made myself. Arguments that have been around for a number of years now, when the Bears were healthier.
Still, I can't help but think - with this year's injury list, with this year's schedule . . . was this season's win/loss record inevitable regardless of the coaching situation?
*I believe that this list is reasonably accurate, but because the Cal coaching staff isn't especially forthcoming about injuries, there may be inaccuracies. If you believe a player has been included erroneously, or overlooked, please comment below.