As we turn the page from one era to the next, I have one final request for our head coach: Get busy living. And I'm not talking about coaching.
Dave Newhouse at Bear Insider wrote what might be the best single piece breaking down how the Jeff Tedford era went wrong to lead to his firing this week. It's full of some vagaries (that house has been on the market for years, it didn't just go up this past summer), but for the most part it talked about things we've touched on: His own insecurities as a coach, particularly on offense. Factors cited include the offensive inconsistency and failure to develop a quarterback, an inability to either take the reins of the offense or completely separate himself from it, having difficulty deciding what decisions to make and what not to make, another stab at Tosh Lupoi's recruiting ethics, etc. All of that seemed to wear down Tedford and wear down the Bears during his final three years.
There are some insider tidbits from this article, and some of the most pressing ones concern Tedford's health during his final years as Cal's head coach.
Tedford's health, however, was another factor. Too many years of watching film until midnight, then sleeping in his office, wore him down.
He worked so hard at one point that he was diagnosed with walking pneumonia. He took medication and pushed onward, but his sideline demeanor had changed. He aged beyond his 51 years. He became weary and overweight, he lacked expression, and athletic director Sandy Barbour actually did him a favor by unshackling his heavy burden.
The stress and pressure of coaching, even though Tedford was making $3.2 million a year, still takes its toll. Remember who he is, a son who didn't really know his father, and who was raised by family members, and who lived by himself in a warehouse for awhile, and who was determined to succeed, to the point of becoming obsessed.
And suddenly all the press conferences this year where Coach seemed to be coughing every minute or so take on another, sadder aspect. Whether it was pneumonia or not this time around, it's become clear that he wasn't healthy at all. Our beloved Tedford had literally worked himself to exhaustion, and he might as well have been on the injury report every week with all the other players.
There's no denying Tedford looked like a very healthy and sharp individual through the first half of his tenure, but he was always a workaholic (the stories of his inflatable bed at old Memorial are famous), and the concerns that he'd eventually wear himself out seem to be well-founded. Tedford has not looked terribly healthy on the sideline the past few seasons, and it appears his inability to cope properly with his workaholic habits finally took its toll on the team and his coaching staff. Regular assistant coaching attrition might have been partly due to salary concerns, but it's long been reported that the long hours the coaches spent on the Cal football beat has burned out coaches or sent them elsewhere.
There's nothing wrong with a solid, fundamental work ethic. It's no doubt what made Tedford and the Bears so successful for much of his time at Cal. Take it to its extreme though, and it can burn out all the energy. And it appears Tedford finally was working in circles near the end, to the detriment of his team and himself. It almost feels like Sandy Barbour was doing Tedford a favor: It was time to put an end to being "Coach" and put a start to being "Jeff".
So while I'm sure Tedford will hear about plenty of offensive coordinating and possibly coaching positions in the next few months, I'd rather he take a moment to sit on the sidelines, negotiate a settlement that doesn't require him to go looking for a coaching position immediately, and enjoy life for once. He's spent his whole life trying to prove that he's worth something. Perhaps now it's time for him to sit back and appreciate all he's accomplished and realize there's more to life outside a smash route concept and a wide receiver screen. It's time for him to appreciate his wife, his kids, his friends, the players, and the stadium he rebuilt.
Coach, you've given us everything you could. Time to give Jeff everything he deserves.