Losing Season The First Real Shot at Tedford

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I remember Jeff Tedford's first game as Cal's head coach.

"They're going to run out of shot for the cannon," my dad said after the Bears scored their fifth touchdown.

70-22. It was the beginning of something new and real. Tangible hope was revived again in Cal fans. It was exciting to be a part of, and its origin was so obvious. It came from Tedford.

Once, Cal's offense was the envy of the nation. Teams wanted to emulate Tedford's system, and players jumped at the chance to play in it. People used to glow about his reputation as a quarterback guru. Now, it's a punch line of a joke.

Last Saturday as I watched frustrated fans leaving Memorial Stadium, I wondered what we've all been wondering, to some degree, over the last few months:

How did it go so bad so fast?

As unfortunate as it is to say, Tedford appears to be a victim of his own success.

Some fans are still content with doing better than Holmoe. But most are vocally restless for more - a Rose Bowl, a conference championship, a win over USC. And as the pressure to do more has mounted in Berkeley, we've watched Cal become more and more conservative.

Taking the reins of a 1-10 team meant Tedford had nothing to lose. And he coached like it. That first game against Baylor, on the very first play, the Bears ran a 71-yard double pass for a touchdown. Now, Keenan Allen running the Wildcat qualifies as cutting edge and exciting.

With this kind of subpar season, heads will necessarily roll in Berkeley. Near the top of the list should be offensive coordinator Andy Ludwig. Tedford can no longer afford to hire vanilla offensive coordinators. The safe option isn't safe anymore - it's a formula for mediocrity or worse.

Firing defensive coordinator Bob Gregory last season was a step in the right direction for the team, as the defense demonstrated this season. This year, it was proactive instead of fearful. It's a model that the offense desperately needs to emulate as well.

In the months ahead, Tedford must revamp his offense - and that's not restricted to just picking a quarterback. He needs to kiss his beloved offense goodbye.

This offense passes to open up the run, instead of vice versa, and it doesn't pass successfully enough to make either possible. A Pop Warner coach could have defended against the Bears on Saturday. Next season is the time to cut loose and bring back the thrill that once made Memorial tremble every Saturday. Tedford's job probably hinges on it.

Once upon a time, Tedford, like Washington's Steve Sarkisian, would have gone for it on fourth-and-1. Now, I'm not so sure.

Following Cal's season-ending loss to the Huskies, a reporter asked Tedford how he would spend his extra-long offseason.

"Well, we'll recruit. That's first," he said firmly.

Then, he paused.

"I really don't know," he said, uncertainty faltering his voice. "It's been a long time. I can't really remember the last year I haven't taken part in a bowl game. I'm not going to be happy about it, I can tell you that."

He might as well have been speaking for an entire fan base.

Tags: SHANE VEREEN, KEVIN RILEY, JEFF TEDFORD, BROCK MANSION, CAL FOOTBALL


Buy more powder for the cannon with Katie at [email protected]



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