Part I on Tedford & Riley, Part II on the big picture, Part III Andy Ludwig's playcalling, Part IV on positional coaches.
solarise: Chart attached to compare Mike Bellotti, Tedford's mentor, to Tedford himself.
It's too early to call for Tedford's head based on their records in my opinion. Tedford may be a victim of his own success, winning 10 games just in his third season at Cal and led to high expectations quickly. The Golden Bears program has been fluctuating between 7-9 wins in the past three years, but Bellotti had a far worse decline in the middle third of his career trajectory with Oregon.
Perhaps when it comes to his career, Tedford is equally conservative as his game-management.
Avinash: We discuss game management, in-game adjustments, game planning, and recruiting after the jump.
Game management (like punting on 4th and short)
Kodiak: I feel that he's had more of an emphasis on avoiding mistakes than making plays the last few years. His in-game decisions have followed a similar trend of playing it safe, or choosing the conventionally accepted "right" play. I don't agree with many of his calls, but that doesn't necessarily make them wrong. It's just a different style. At least he's no Les Miles.
atomsareenough: I said this in the comments, but there is no question in my mind that he absolutely should have gone for it on 4th and inches in the 2nd quarter. It was not a close game at that point. We were already down by 3 touchdowns, and the Trojans were having their way with us. However, on that drive our offense was finally beginning to put a drive together after starting the game with 4 straight 3-and-outs. Kevin Riley had completed his first pass to Marvin Jones. Shane Vereen had a 14-yard gain. Our defense had been on the field for over 10 minutes already and yielded 21 points. They needed a break, and some time to regroup, and if we were going to have any chance at making a game of it, we needed to score. You HAVE to be able to trust Vereen to gain one foot in that situation.
On an emotional level as well, I felt like punting was completely the wrong thing to do. USC had punched us in the face, repeatedly. If we were going to punch back, this was our chance to do it. Instead, we gave up and handed them back the ball, and so they took it and marched back down the field for another touchdown. The call just felt completely gutless. If we're going to receive a beatdown, I at least want to go down swinging. We punted it from near midfield to the USC 18 yard line, and it took them all of 2 plays for them to bring it back to midfield again, so it's not like the field position changed a hell of a lot. I love Tedford and I loathe Harbaugh, but sometimes it really feels like Teddy could use a bit of a killer instinct infusion from Jimbo.
ragnarok: I think kicking the field goal was the right call against Arizona. At USC? I disagree. Punting at that point was basically ceding any hope that Cal had to come back and win the game. You could argue that going for it in that part of the field is basically saying "we have to do something desperate, because if we don't get it, we've lost this game", and the conservative coaching handbook says you never make those sorts of decisions in the 4th quarter, but Cal was so far from winning that game, going for it (and making it) really was the only shot they had. The Bears *needed* to do something positive on the offensive side of the ball, and they *needed* to keep their defense off the field for a little bit, and they didn't.
LeonPowe: I'm okay with it against Arizona - although I would've been okay with going for it too. It seemed to me, again, its not so much about the playcall but instead the execution. The kick didn't work. For USC, I think by the time we got to that point, there wasn't much to lose by then. On the other hand, the SC defensive line was collapsing our offensive line every play. I think the chances were really high that we couldn't have gotten 1 foot. I think there's a lot more to criticize than the 4th down calls.
Ohio Bear: The only 4th down call I can think of that I had a real problem with was the one we didn't go for in the Big Game with a 10-point lead, 4th quarter, near midfield. The Furds were not stopping Vereen and keeping the ball would have milked more clock and we wouldn't have needed Prophet's heroics to win the game. Just my opinion. As for the 4th downs this season, I really don't have a problem with the ones most prominent, i.e. the one at Arizona and the one on Saturday vs. USC. Kicking the FG to go up 9-3 was the right call at Arizona, to go up by 6 in a game in which a TD was so hard to come by. As for the one on Saturday, I thought Tedford might go for that one, but I totally understood punting. Heck, I didn't feel we would make that after having been stoned on the 3rd and short. Perhaps it felt that way on the sideline. So why hand the ball to SC at our 43 yard line? As bad as things were, our defense was still the best unit we he had on the field. I understand the thinking to put our best unit on the field to get a stop. Did it work out? Hell no. But at that moment, I didn't have a problem with the call.
Game planning, particularly on the offensive side of the ball
Avinash: I know he works with Ludwig in designing them. I'm seeing less and less I like on that side of the ball. The offense at Arizona was abysmal, and they found a way to be even worse at USC.
atomsareenough: I honestly don't know what to make of it. Something is clearly wrong when we randomly come out so completely flat and unready to play that we get totally blown out right from the get-go. I don't expect to win every game, but we're at the point now where we should be good enough not to ever get completely horsewhipped like this, by anyone. Yet it's now happened 5 times in the past 2 years (Oregon, USC, Washington, Nevada, USC), and I shudder to think what might happen against Oregon or Stanfurd later this year, though thankfully those are at Memorial at least, where only one of the previous 5 massacres has occurred. I wish I knew what to fix, but there are almost too many things you can point at. When things go badly, it's a team-wide collapse. How can we possibly be good enough to blow out lesser teams, but bad enough to get blown out by good teams? Aren't most mediocre teams... at least consistently mediocre?
Kodiak: Not sure how much he works w/ Ludwig on these, so it's hard to say. I thought we had a sound plan vs. Az considering their strengths, and our weaknesses. Coming off a bye week, I think we were well-prepared to drink ucla's milkshake. Clearly, 'sc was a fail.
LeonPowe: Until Hydrotech (or someone) looks at the film, its almost impossible for someone watching on tv to know if it was gameplan or execution at fault. I reserve the right to complain about the gameplan, but I wouldn't do it now - or until someone has shown it to be at fault. I think its difficult to judge from one time seeing the game.
Ohio Bear: I don't have the expertise to really comment on this intelligently. Plus, against USC, we were out of it so early, query whether our gameplan was out the window.
ragnarok: I don't think the offensive gameplan was that bad at Arizona -- the results weren't great, but the Wildcat defense is good, and our execution was not. Especially with Keenan Allen knicked up, we really lack playmakers in the passing game, and that made it tough to move the ball at times. There were a number of times where the playcall was there, but the play just wasn't made.
Avinash: That didn't happen against USC. When the Trojans began to get the steamroll going, we had no answer until way too late. You could substitute in at least several other teams into here.
atomsareenough: Yeah, we may have had a game plan, but when things didn't start off the way we were expecting, we looked dazed and confused. Yeah, the drops in the first few drives were disastrous, but then once we finally started getting things going on offense, Tedford gives the ball back on 4th and inches. Anyway, the in-game adjustments were either late in coming, or inadequate. I've liked the playcalling more in general this year, but something seems amiss if it's either feast or famine like this.
Kodiak: Again, hard to say how involved he is here. I would think that the position coaches and coordinators are more directly responsible for adjustments. I thought he was delegating more than he did during his early years.
Ohio Bear: Again, I don't have the expertise to comment on this intelligently. But it seems to me, as the uneducated fan, that we should be better at this. The examples of fail vs. Nevada and USC are glaring examples. Our faceplant in the Poinsettia Bowl is another recent example that comes to mind.
LeonPowe: This I'd say is much more true. It was clear early on that our o-line was getting dominated and our d-line wasn't bringing it. Could we have moved the pocket, run more draws and screens to counteract the aggressive defense? Maybe (although I recall our screens being blown up too - maybe throw a bubble or down the line instead to get out away from the d-line. I can't say for sure - but it didn't seem like we adjusted until the third quarter. Also with the defense, Barkley clearly had all day to throw. I don't recall seeing any edge blitzs from the CBs or the backers except for one series in the first half. While I'm not in favor of selling out every time, maybe we need to hit Barkley two or three times.
ragnarok: I can't disagree with this. Losing is one thing, getting run off the field before my couch cushions have even warmed up is another. Besides a nice defensive stand early in the game, I can't recall a single thing Cal did to low the Trojan's momentum.
Avinash: As the face of the program, Tedford's recruiting very well right now. Not so much in the past thanks to many factors (SAHPC hold-up, treesitters, a NorCal football recruiting drought), and it's showing on the field right now.
atomsareenough: Is this really the problem? Yeah, we had some lean recruiting years, but that's only relatively speaking, and frankly it seems like our problems are related more to execution errors than talent gap. We're more talented than Hawaii, Virginia, Minnesota, Washington... yet USC beat us by the same margin that they defeated Washington State. Washington State scored 2 more points than we did, in fact.
Kodiak: On an uptick. You can't forget that he is directly responsible for the upgraded turf and the SAHPC.
Ohio Bear: Such a hit or miss thing. My sense is that we've done all right. But I'm far from expert on this.
LeonPowe: I don't think this is really accurate - going off the top of my head, Vereen, Riley, Jones, Allen, Hagen, Summers-Gavin, Edwards, Ladner, Conte, Sofele, etc. etc. were all really well thought of recruits.
ragnarok: Is it? Are we really that untalented? Tedford went 7-5 in 2002 with a lot less talent (albeit by sneaking up on some people, and perhaps the conference wasn't so deep then). We're not running out a bunch of guys that no one else wanted; I don't understand what your argument is here.
And now, here's TwistNHook, pumping the sunshine!
Considering we haven’t even had a losing season under Tedford, considering we have been to bowl games each year, considering we have had over 50,000-60,000+ fans in all home games for years now, considering that we are just about to finish up on the SAHPC, this post seems very premature to me.
And the people jumping off the bandwagon, fair enough. Everybody has their own places in life. The only thing that is going to keep me from going to the games will be:
1. Priced out (considering I’m not trying to get great tickets on the West Side, this seems unlikely).
2. Family restrictions (people say when you have kids etc, it becomes far more difficult to come to games and I hope to have a family someday).
I might not be the smartest fan here, I might not be the heaviest donor, I might not bleed the most blue and gold, but it is fucking insane to me that people are jumping off the bandwagon like this. “I see Cal trending downwards in the future.” “This is like 1988.” “The hot seat gets hotter.”
Maybe, but also how many people’s allegiances to the team are because it’s good. This is college sports, not professional sports. Maybe it’s time to fire Tedford. Maybe it’s time to bench Riley. Maybe it’s time to do this thing or that thing.
But this too shall pass. And no matter what the blue and the gold, the Saturdays in autumn, the marching band, the tailgating, it’ll all still be there.