Well, here we have our first case before the California Golden Blogs Supreme Court. The Supreme Court is a way to make final determinations on pressing issues before the Cal community. This specific issue is, Which Team Was More Successful, 2004 or 2006? There have been some hot words said on both sides, but now we get to the nitty gritty.
The legal mumbo jumbo. And there's a lot of it. After the fold, we look at the brief from the 2004 team. There are a few slight formatting problems due to some copy and pasting issues, but I'm sure you can handle it. As a reminder, here are the assembled legal teams:
Team 2004: Rishi; Ohio Bear; Maharg
Team 2006: TwistNHook; Ragnarok; Chowder; HolmoePhobe
Justices: HydroTech*, Fire Starkey, Spazzy McGee, rollonubears, OakTownMario, CalumbusBear, NorCalNick
IN THE SUPREME COURT OF
CALIFORNIA GOLDEN BLOGS
2004 California Golden Bears : Case No. 2009-0001
2006 California Golden Bears, :
MERIT BRIEF OF PETITIONER
2004 CALIFORNIA GOLDEN BEARS
Maharg (CGB Bar Number 00001)
Rishi (CGB Bar Number 00002)
Ohio Bear (CGB Bar Number 00003)
Counsel for Petitioner
The 2004 season was a glorious time for California Golden Bear fans throughout the world. A convergence of factors—offense, defense, special teams, coaching, and intangibles—led to the assembly of one of the greatest teams in the University’s football history.
In this proceeding, this Court is called upon to decide which Cal team was better: the 2004 version or the 2006 version. No doubt, the Respondent will rely heavily upon its share of the Pac-10 championship, its potent offense, its stout defense, its 2006 Holiday Bowl win, and its general Marshawntasticness in support the notion that 2006 was the better team. This Court, however, should not be taken in by the lure of 2006’s greatness. Though both are great, the 2004 Cal team was the greatest of the last 25 years—and certainly greater than the 2006 team.
The 2004 Offense Was an Unstoppable Force.
May it please the Court, to even compare Cal’s offense from 2004 to Cal’s offense from 2006 is, quite honestly, an insult to 2004’s offense. While the 2006 team certainly had potent offensive talent at its disposal, the Aaron Rodgers-led 2004 offense was vastly superior to the 2006 offensive unit.
For starters, Cal 2004 scored a grand total of one less point than Cal 2006 (461 to 462), in spite of a stronger Pac-10 and Cal 2006’s padded stats from a lopsided (45-10) Holiday Bowl and a 42-16 win against overmatched FCS opponent Portland State. Moreover, the Cal 2004 team’s point production came in only 12 games, while the 2006 team played 13 games. Thus, the 2004 team’s points per game average was slightly more impressive than the 2006 team—38.4 PPG to 35.5. And while the 2006 team equaled the 2004 team’s accomplishment of scoring 40 or more points in six games, the 2006 team’s accomplishment in that regard is muted somewhat by the facts that (1) it needed a 13th game to achieve the mark and (2) one of the 40+ point games of the 2006 season came against Portland State. Simply put, the 2004 offense was a superior scoring machine.
On a position-by-position basis, there is no comparison. Cal 2004’s Aaron Rodgers will perhaps go down as one of Cal’s finest quarterbacks in history. He had some record performances, most notably his epic performance against USC in which he completed a staggering twenty-three straight passes and finished 29/34. Longshore, meanwhile, had a solid 2006 season, though with a notable slump along the way that began with Washington State and was finally broken during the Holiday Bowl (with a spectacular UCLA performance in the middle). As for Rodgers, he finished the 2004 season with a QB rating of 154.35 (Longshore’s was 141.6). Both threw 24 touchdowns in their seasons, though Rodgers finished with a 66.1% completion rate, compared to Longshore’s 60.2%, and 8 interceptions, compared to Longshore’s 13.
In other skill positions, the only edge Cal 2006 has is marginally in the receiving corps. Though Cal 2004 boasted of some top talent, including Geoff McArthur, Garrett Cross (TE), and Chase Lyman, these receivers ran into some injury problems. Cal lost Lyman in the USC game (Cal’s fourth game of the season) and McArthur for the bowl game, a blow which clearly hampered the Bears’ passing game for the infamous 2004 Holiday Bowl game. Cal 2006 had an underdeveloped corps of pass-catchers, highlighted by Desean Jackson’s breakout season. Most notably, though, the foursome of Jackson, Lavelle Hawkins, Robert Jordan, and TE Craig Stevens (the latter two both made appearances on Cal 2004) started and ended the season fully intact.
But whatever slight edge the 2006 receivers have over 2004’s, that advantage is mitigated—and then some—by Cal 2004’s running backs. The 2006 duo of Marshawn Lynch and Justin Forsett, no matter how impressive (and they were), will never match up to the formidable duo of J.J. Arrington and Lynch. As a backup, Lynch averaged a gaudy 8.8 yards/carry, while Arrington picked up 2,018 yards and a school record-tying 15 rushing TDs. Unlike Lynch as the feature back in 2006, Arrington was never held to under 100 yards in a single game in 2004. And let us not forget that when the entire team laid an egg during the Holiday Bowl of 2004, Arrington still picked up 173 yards on the ground.
Arrington’s epic 2004 season cannot be emphasized enough. Running behind a veteran and enormously talented offensive line (featuring NFL draftees Marvin Philip, Ryan O’Callaghan, and Aaron Merz), Arrington became Cal’s first ever 2,000 yard rusher (doing it in only 12 games) and was the only back in the Division I to rush for over 2,000 yards in 2004. Not only that, of all the Division I running backs with over 1,000 yards rushing in 2004, Arrington had the highest yards-per-carry average. And he was the only Division I running back to gain over 100 yards in every game in 2004.
Apart from the statistics, Arrington gave Cal fans a multitude of signature moments that captured the excellence of his (and the Cal offense’s) 2004 season. Arrington 2004 was an impressive combination of speed and power that left Cal fans in awe. Just to name a few of Arrington’s unforgettable plays were (1) the 89-yard run vs. Air Force; (2) the 70-yard TD run vs. New Mexico State when Arrington showed impressive speed (determined not to get caught from behind this time as he was against AFA!); (3) the series of power running late in the fourth quarter against Fucla that clinched the game; (4) the run on the last play of the third quarter against Oregon when he emerged from a pile, surprising nearly everyone, who thought he was tackled; and (5) the impressive power touchdown run against Southern Mississippi where Arrington kept his balance (a score called back by the nonexistent penalty against Marvin Philip). That Arrington did not win the Doak Walker award or even get a trip to New York for the Heisman Trophy ceremony was a crime.
Based on these pieces of evidence, it is clear that 2004’s offense was far superior to that of 2006.
- The 2004 Defense Was a Highly Underrated and Underappreciated Unit.
The 2004 California Golden Bears gave up an average of 13.36 points a game during the regular season. Two years later, the 2006 team would go on to give up 20.08 points a game during the regular season, allowing almost a touchdown on average, per game. When including the bowl game performances, the average points allowed per game are 16 and 19.31 for 2004 and 2006 respectively, with 2006 still allowing at least another field goal on average. The point differential is even stronger when you consider that only 3 teams scored more than 16 points against the Golden Bears, compared to 8 teams scoring 17 points or greater against the 2006 team. A major reason for this point differential was the flexibility of the 2004 defense and its prevention of crunch time points. The chart below details the distribution of points allowed, by quarter over the season for both teams.
As we have noted, the 2006 team did play an additional game, so to better understand the numbers we can look at the percentage of points given up by quarter or half.
The 2004 defense was able to adjust and react to the teams they were facing effectively, a skill vital for any defense. Only a little more than a third of the points that they gave up in the season came after half time, teams were almost required to beat them in only one half of play. This style of play greatly complimented the consistent offense ran by Aaron Rodgers, that scored pretty evenly between halves. The 2006 defense was much more even in defense, allowing 49.8% of their points in the second half, which can be dangerous when considering that they were supporting an offense that only scored 37% of their points in the second half.
The 2004 defense was not just limited to crunch situations however, as can be seen through their mid season shut out of the state of Arizona. First in a road game against Arizona that included a second quarter blocked field goal to preserve the shutout by California and then forcing 5 turnovers at home against Arizona State, including an interception returned by Tim Mixon for his first career touchdown. This was the first time California posted consecutive shutouts since 1968.
The 2004 defensive team was a stout force, and was often underappreciated despite the accumulation of significant defensive statistics. By the numbers, the 2004 team outperformed the 2006 team in almost every defensive category. The difference in passing defense is marginal, but worth noting. Averaging 6.7 yards per pass, 12.9 yards per catch and 238.4 yards per game, they narrowly edge out the statistics of 2006, 7.4 yards per pass, 13.2 yards per catch and 240.8 yards per game. The major defensive difference between the two teams came in the trenches. Due to strong senior leaders the defensive line and linebackers held strong all season long and only allowed an average of 2.7 rushing yards per play, and 82.5 yards per game. The 2006 team performed admirably but still gave up at least another yard per play (3.8) and over 40 yards more by game (125.4). The disparity of rushing defense is even more glaring when considering that despite an additional game played in 2006, the 2004 opponents lost over 100 yards more when rushing than the 2006 team (-378 in 2004 and -252 in 2006). This was in large part due to the previously mentioned Riddle and his 14.5 sacks for 122 yards over the course of the season. Thanks to Riddle’s excellent play, the 2004 team ended the season with 37 sacks for 247 yards, comparatively there were 26 sacks in 2006 for 136 yards. In the trenches, the 2004 Golden Bears established their dominance consistently throughout their season, in a way that 2006 was unable to repeat.
- The Intangibles Favor the 2004 Team
- The 2004 Team Was More Consistently Excellent Than The 2006 Team.
But if we attempt to give some standards to our comparison of the two teams, we can begin by comparing the teams’ losses. The 2004 team lost two games—23-17 at USC and 45-31 to Texas Tech in the Holiday Bowl. In contrast, the 2006 team lost three games—35-18 at Tennessee, 24-20 at Arizona, and 23-9 at USC. The teams were similar in their competitive, winnable games at USC. But the 2004 team must be given the edge because it did not have the "bad losses" that the 2006 team had.
The only other loss in 2004 was the infamous defeat to Texas Tech in the Holiday Bowl. As painful as that was for Cal fans, it should not detract from the season. Nor should the 2006 team be given the edge simply because it won the Holiday Bowl (admittedly gloriously). In hindsight, the 2004 loss in the Holiday Bowl was inevitable. The 2004 team was yet another example of a college football team that deserved a BCS bowl bid but was somehow snubbed or passed over, leading to a hangover that carried over to the bowl performance. (See, e.g., Kansas State 1998; Oregon 2005; Texas Tech 2008.) A less than stellar performance in the Holiday Bowl was a fate sealed the day that the BCS bowl bids were announced. (And if not sealed then, it became so when MacArthur was ruled out of the Holiday Bowl with an injury.)
As for the 2006 team, the two losses other than USC were epically brutal. The Tennessee opener was a forgettable experience for Cal fans (not to mention SQT); the Arizona game was downright inexcusable. While the 2006 team rebounded from these defeats (particularly the Tennessee game) nicely, the fact remains that these brutal defeats were suffered. But because the 2004 team had no such defeats (save for a Holiday Bowl result that should be discounted because it was a fait accompli), it must be given the edge over the 2006 team because of more consistent excellence over the course of the season.
- The 2004 Team Had Swagger and Leadership.
The 2006 team had its share of flash with Desean Jackson and Beast Mode. But the 2004 team had a palpable swagger that exuded "winner." Nowhere was the swagger more apparent than with Rodgers, who looked unflappable and gave an air of confidence every time he was on the field. He made Cal fans truly appreciate his greatness against USC in particular, when he completed 23 straight passes to set an NCAA record.
Geoff MacArthur also established himself as a leader. He was a competitor, and a reliable WR whom Rodgers could go to in any situation. MacArthur was money and made huge difference-making plays on many occasions, including catching the game-winning touchdown pass against Oregon.
The leadership and swagger were not only on offense. The defense had a certain swagger to it, too, most notably in guys like Ryan Riddle and Joe Maningo. And a secondary that featured talented (but young) corners Daymeion Hughes and Tim Mixon was made better by the leadership of seniors Ryan Gutierrez and Matt Giordano.
To be sure, the 2006 team had its leaders as well. But as a whole, the 2004 team’s leadership and swagger was superior.
- The 2004 Team Overcame Injuries.
- The 2004 Team Overcame Injuries.
Perhaps more memorably, WR Chase Lyman started fabulously in games against Air Force and New Mexico State, and had his signature game at Oregon State. Sadly, he was lost for the year the very next week at USC. Then, his replacement, Jonathan Makonnen was injured. The coaching staff eventually plugged in true freshman Robert Jordan, who promptly caught a TD pass in the first play of his first collegiate start vs. Arizona State.
- The 2004 Team Made Us Believe Like No Other Team Since 1958.
- The 2004 Team Made Us Believe Like No Other Team Since 1958.
Even in the season finale at Southern Miss, despite a sense of trepidation from long suffering Cal fans, there was very little actual belief that the Bears were going to lose. Even though Cal was in the unfamiliar position of having a whole nation watching, and with many nationally actually rooting against us, upstart Cal delivered a ten-point victory on the road in a hostile environment in a tarp game by double digits. The 2004 team showed it was not your same old Cal.
The fact that this wasn’t the "same old Cal" was also borne out in the Oregon game in early November. At the time, Oregon was playing very well (on a win streak) and came to Berkeley on a mission to make the upset and make some noise in the Pac-10 standings. Also, in light of Oregon’s come-from-behind victory at Autzen Stadium in 2003, when a momentum-killing power outage at the stadium and Cal’s conservative fourth quarter play calling arguably did us in, there was a sense among some fans (both Duck and Bear) that teacher Bellotti had the upper hand over pupil Tedford.
On that sunny early November afternoon at Memorial Stadium, the Ducks were mighty, pulling out all the stops and riding a great performance by Kellen Clemens. Yet, the Bears found a way to win. In particular, it was the team’s offensive leaders—Rodgers, MacArthur, and Arrington—who willed Cal to victory by making plays at critical times. It was a game that Cal would have certainly lost in the previous decades. But there was something special about the 2004 team.
This is not to say that the 2006 team did not inspire belief that a Rose Bowl was possible. After all, the 2006 team had the Rose Bowl controlled its own destiny late in the season. But with all due respect to the 2006 team, there was a buzz around the 2004 team that was much different than the 2006 team. The 2006 team had high expectations, which were doused somewhat by the egg laid in Knoxville in the opener. On the other hand, the 2004 team started out ranked 15th and just kept moving up in the polls all year. The expectations of Cal nation, though high going into the season, were met and exceeded by the regular season performance of the 2004 team.
The 2004 Team Punked stanfurd Mercilessly—and Gave Cal Fans a Joyous Field Rushing Moment.
In contrast, the 2006 team cannot boast a Big Game victory of such proportions. While the 2006 team came away with a glorious victory to retain The Axe, it was not the same as the 2004 Big Game victory. The 2004 win was more more satisfying—not only did the Bears win more convincingly against a better stanfurd team than in 2006, the field rush was special because Cal fans thought the Rose Bowl drought was over. Though Mack Brown took that away from us, the 2004 Big Game celebration remains a glorious memory that was not matched by the 2006 team.
The share of the 2006 Pac-10 Championship and the Holiday Bowl win over Texas A&M are impressive achievements that should not be pooh pooh’ed. But nor should they be elevated to a level that would make this Court overlook the epic greatness of the 2004 Cal team. Aaron Rodgers, J.J. Arrington, Marshawn Lynch, Garrett Cross, Geoff MacArthur, Matt Giordano, Wendell Hunter, Joe Maningo, Ryan Riddle, and a slew of other great players from that year made up one of the greatest Cal teams EVAIR. The 2004 team gave Cal fans thrills and enjoyment that the 2006 team simply did not match in the final analysis.
For these reasons, Petitioner respectfully requests this honorable court to rule in its favor and declare 2004 to be the better Cal team.