For quite some time, Jeff Tedford was known as a producer of quality quarterbacks and a prolific offense. Unfortunately for Cal football, this hasn’t been the case for a few years, no matter what his reputation was beforehand. With the fall of the offense has come the fall in the rankings (remember those?) and the standings.
Cal is currently 1-4 with its one win coming against an FCS foe. Over the last three years the Golden Bears are 13-17 and it feels like this season is only going to get worse.
Since the departure of Aaron Rodgers after the 2004 season Tedford has struggled to find his next great quarterback. It is almost hard to believe there was once a time that the NFL simply distrusted his quarterback prospects, now they aren’t even considering them at all.
This is puzzling because even Wikipedia, and we all know Wikipedia never lies, calls Tedford “a groomer of quarterbacks.” The rather depressing string of Joe Ayoob, Nate Longshore and Kevin Reilly should bring that “guru” label into serious doubt.
His latest quarterback, Zach Maynard, has played very inconsistently over the last few seasons. He played exceptionally against Ohio State, completing over 70% of his passes while nearly leading the team to a road upset. The flip side was his game last Saturday against Arizona State where he completed just 9-of-28. The most frustrating thing is that you can see that Maynard has skills, but it seems that Tedford is trying to shoehorn him into his system instead of trying to tweak what he calls to bring out the best in his quarterback.
With the way Tedford he has handled Maynard over the last two seasons it sure doesn’t look like the string of disappointing quarterbacking is going to end this season.
With these struggles a number of questions are starting to appear. What has happened to the quarterback “guru”? Can Tedford find that next guy to get back to the level of competing for Pac-12 championships? Can he shift the Bay Area college football dominance back to the East Bay now that Stanford has risen?
With the short memories present in the “what have you done for me lately” world of Bay Area college football fans, one has to wonder how much longer the Cal faithful will be able to stand the mediocrity — especially after the millions of dollars that boosters spent to upgrade Cal’s athletic facilities. Even the most successful coach in the last 30 years isn’t this bulletproof. From Bruce Jenkins after the Bears’ 27-17 loss to Arizona State:
I’ve heard that the Cal alumni haven’t mustered sufficient anger to force a coaching change and that the university wouldn’t consider buying out Tedford’s contract, paying him some $2.8 million annually through 2015. But that’s not what I was hearing Saturday.
Before the game, I visited a tailgate party full of wealthy, influential alums. One of them, particularly well-connected and in the know, cast a grim outlook on Tedford’s future. He asked not to be quoted by name, and that’s always an unsatisfying experience for the reader, but there are times when off-the-record comments reflect the tone of a crisis, and that could well be the case here.
“I’m the last one off the bus when it comes to (firing) Tedford,” he told me. “But we have to move on. His game management has been awful. I mean, that 4th-and-1 call at Ohio State (opting for a field goal) when we’d already racked up 500 yards! I like the guy, personally. This beautiful new stadium doesn’t get done without him. But it’s so frustrating. If this doesn’t turn around, I really think they’ll buy him out. I’m predicting that if we finish under .500, he’s gone.”
With five more ranked teams left on the schedule, plus trips to Washington State and Utah, even an optimist can’t expect more than just a handful of wins left on the schedule. With each passing week the possibility of Cal’s worst season since 2001 seems more and more like a reality. Unfortunately, I’m not sure Tedford will make it out with his job intact.