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Cal vs. Washington Post-Game Thoughts

(1)  The passing game sucked, to say the least.  The entire game, you just got the feeling that Cal couldn't pass the ball.  Maybe it was the fact that it seemed like a third of Cal's passes were screens.  Or maybe it was the fact that Keenan Allen (Cal WR #21) was essentially playing QB instead of Brock Mansion (Cal QB #10).  Right?  I mean, it must say something about your QB when he's... not playing QB. 

This is one of the most inept and lamest passing offenses I've ever seen from a Cal football team in the Tedford era.  I mean, we practically seemed like a high school team out there.  It's shameful.  Embarrassing.  Tedford, the "QB guru", has one of the worst passing offenses in the Pac-10 if not the worst. 

I know a lot of people will say that our passing offense has sucked since 2007, but I think that overlooks the fact that a lot of it was due to Longshore's injuries (ankle in 2007, and pectoral tear in 2008), and now Riley's (Cal QB #13) injury in 2010.  If you toss out those injury years, you're only really left with 2009 as being the truly bad year despite a healthy QB.  So, I think the whole "OMG Tedford's passing offense has sucked FOREVAIR" reactions are a bit overblown. 

Of course, I'm not excusing some of the poor QB play in Riley in 2008 and 2009, and Mansion in 2010.  But that's just one starting QB (Riley), and one backup QB (Mansion).  It's not like Tedford has been turning out bad starting QBs year after year.  I'm sure Longshore is coming to mind for a lot of people.  But contrary to popular opinion, Longshore really wasn't that bad.  And ask yourself, who would you rather have at QB: Longshore (2008 injured pec version), Riley, or Mansion?  I've asked a lot of my friends this, and they've all said Longshore.  Maybe that's just my friends though.

Bottom line, while Cal has certainly suffered from four year stretch of inconsistent passing offenses, I think there is some silver lining in the fact that injuries were the cause of most of those problems, and due to Riley not quite turning out to be the next Aaron Rodgers.  If Longshore was healthy yet horrible in 2006, 2007, and 2008; Riley sucked in 2008, 2009, and 2010; then I would be worried.  But as it stands now, 2010 is going down in the books as another starting-QB-got-injured-and-Cal-was-screwed kind of season.  Am I not the only that is thinking that if Riley wasn't injured that the Oregon game, Big Game, and this Washington game might have turned out a bit different?  I'm betting they would have. 

(2) Why has the QB play declined since 2008 (aside from injuries)?  This is purely speculation, but I'm going to guess that Tedford has removed himself from the development of quarterbacks to focus more on his "CEO" role of being a head coach. 

Remember in 2002, we'd always read quotes from Kyle Boller saying how he was working with Tedford on his technique?  And how we'd hear about Aaron Rodgers playing "checkers" with Tedford?  And remember all those times we heard Riley talking about how he worked with Tedford on his .... oh wait, I don't remember anything like that.  And remember all those times we heard Mansion talking about how he played "checkers" with Tedford.... oh wait, I don't remember anything like that either. 

Coincidence?  I'm leaning towards nope.  It's pretty well speculated that Tedford has taken himself away from more of the X&O part of the program, to focus more on the team as a whole and the overall football operations ever since 2007 and the whole "cancer in the locker room" thing.  I remember reading some of the quotes from the defense in 2008 about how Tedford was now coming around to the defensive side of the ball (during practices) and defensive meetings more to keep an eye on things and how he never really did that before that prior to 2008.  And then of course, I don't really remember reading any quotes or hearing about Riley or Mansion talking about special technique sessions with Tedford.  Mayyyyybbbeee, there was one article just prior to the 2010 season where I think Riley might have mentioned something about Tedford and him working on his technique, but I just feel like there has been an overall removal of Tedford from QB development. 

All this is pure speculation on my part though.  I really don't know how much time that Tedford spends on developing the QBs himself, rather than leaving QB development up to the offensive coordinators.  I would really like to know though.

If Tedford is leaving QB development up to the offensive coodinators instead of doing it himself, I think he's making a huge mistake.  Tedford's biggest selling point when recruiting high school QB prospects is that he is a "QB guru," and can point to the likes of Akili Smith, Joey Harrington, Kyle Boller, and Aaron Rodgers as products of his mystical QB-guru ways.  All those guys got to the NFL from Tedford's teachings.  But then if Tedford is sacrificing QB development time to do more CEO stuff, then I think we're going to see a drop off in QB play.  We might be seeing that a bit right now.  Tedford is a greater asset to the development of QBs than any other coach in the Cal Football program.  I think he truly needs to play a heavy role in QB development.

(3)  I'm sort of surprised Cal just didn't run, run, run the ball.  It was quite obvious Cal was having serious passing problems.  The receivers weren't getting open, and Mansion was scrambling.  Even when Mansion had the opportunity to throw, his passes weren't exactly that accurate.  Mansion has a tendency to fastball some of his throws into the ground.  He did that on a few passes, besides under throwing Marvin Jones (Cal WR #1) along the sideline resulting in an interception.  On the other hand, Cal's running game was doing decent.  Shane Vereen (Cal RB #34) was averaging 4.6 yards per carry behind the Cal offensive line.  Those aren't bad numbers.  With that kind of average, you can't help but like the offense's chances of getting 10 yards in three downs.  Hell, if Cal won the game with Mansion not throwing a single pass, I wouldn't complain.  I'd be happy.  Of course that would suggest Cal's passing game sucks (something we already know), but if we can get dub-uh-yuh by rushing every single down... then why not? 

(4)  My couch offensive coordinator suggestion of the day: fake bubble screen to Allen.  So Cal was trying to get the ball to Allen at any costs.  Allen was the target of at least four or five screens himself.  Washington was keying in on those plays and forgoing a lot of down-field coverage once they realized a kitten was more dangerous than the Cal downfield passing game.  So if that's the case, then why not fake the screen to Allen, and instead pass the ball to one of the would-be-bubble-screen-blockers streaking down the field as fast as he can.  Basically, I'm saying Cal should have run the play like what Cal ran against USC in 2008 (the play which was called back for ineligible receiver down field).  Just my two cents.

(5) Who wrote this script? Jake Locker passes the ball deep down the field.  Cal has Marc Anthony (Cal CB #2) in perfect position to make an interception or at least bat the ball down.  But when the ball arrives, the Cal defender helps bobble the ball up into the air so the Washington WR can catch the ball and waltz into the end zone.  Then later, Locker passes the ball again down the field.  Cal has Darian Hagan (Cal CB #26) in good position along the sidelines between the ball and the WR.  The ball is thrown way into the middle of the field rather than along the sidelines, and the Washington WR somehow squeezes around Hagan, and dives like 10 yards laterally into the middle of the field, and makes the catch.  Washington would then ultimately score on that drive to win the game.  It's like when Cal should successfully defend the play, God intervenes and decides to just screw Cal.  God hates us.

It's like 50/50/90.  When you have a 50/50 chance of being right, 90% of the time you'll do the wrong thing.  But in Cal's case, it's like 75/25/100.  When Cal has a 75% chance of successfully defending a play, Cal will 100% of the time get screwed.  We just can't win!  Who didn't sacrifice a helpless farm animal this week to appease God? 

(6)  Lowered Expectations.  It seemed like only a few years ago, Cal fans would get *pissed* when a run play only went for three yards, or a pass play wasn't at least a ten yard gain.  I remember being in the student section a few years ago and hearing some Cal students cussing out the QBs and WRs for sucking when they didn't get a first down with every catch.  It was mind-boggling.  Expectations were so high.  Every play had to be a successful huge gain.  Now though, expectations have dropped to an all time low.  Mansion completes a pass for a modest six yards?  Everyone cheers like it's a touchdown.  Mansion runs for a positive gain rather than getting sacked or having to throw the ball away?  Everyone cheers like it's a touchdown.  I found it really funny to hear the crowd around me cheering some of these really small gains.  When you suck so bad, completing a pass is like the greatest thing ever.

(7)  Who's gonna get sacked?  When Cal finished the 2007 season -- the worst season that Tedford had seen at the time, a couple of Cal coaches got the axe.  Since Cal did even worse in 2010, I would not expect anything different.    But who is going to get fired?  Marshall (OL coach)?  Ludwig (offensive coordinator)?  Daft (WR coach)?  Those seem to be the front-running candidates. 

I think Marshall is the most at risk.  Cal's offensive line has been very sub-par the past few years.  Whatever Marshall is doing, or isn't doing, isn't working.  In Marshall's defense, I don't think this year's offensive line was that talented to begin with.  In other words, Marshall might be a fine coach, but the players he has to work with just aren't making him look good.

As for Ludwig, I don't think Ludwig is going to get canned.  Not this year at least.  He and Tedford have somewhat of a history which I think buys him some leeway.  I haven't been terribly disappointed by the playcalling this year and I think a bigger problem than playcalling is just the team's talent and execution.  Those responsibilities fall more on the shoulders of the positional coaches. 

As for Daft, he's at risk because a lot of the WR drops.  But I think it's fair to say he's pretty much on the hot seat only because Jones (Cal WR #1) has been dropping balls.  Right?  I haven't seen many of our other WRs dropping balls that much.  Michael Calvin (Cal WR #11) used to drop a lot of balls but this year he's actually turned things around quite a bit and has been catching everything thrown his way -- even some very uncatchable balls.  Daft definitely earns some credit for this.  But otherwise, is it fair to put Daft on the hot seat just because Jones had a few brain farts?  Perhaps there are some other issues at play too that I'm not seeing, such as the WRs not running correct routes or something.  While I think a lot of people want Daft gone, I don't think he's going to get the axe this year.  Not yet.  He's a young coach, and was a graduate assistant at Cal during Tedford's early years.  I think those two facts buy him a little leeway.