Tedford to Raiders? Forget It
Ever since Tedford started his great run at Cal, the best since Pappy Waldorf’s glory days more than a half century ago, there have been rumors that Tedford would move on. The juiciest was in the spring of 2005 when the word was that Tedford would go to Washington and Tyrone Willingham would come to Cal. That didn’t happen, of course, and Washington hired Willingham, whose reputation was inflated because he spent six Big Games on the opposite sideline from Tom Holmoe.
Because Steve Mariucci bounced to the 49ers after just one season, many have worried that Tedford would take the same route, reasoning that he wouldn’t have to move from his current home in Contra Costa County. The same would hold true for the Raiders, of course.
Those fears overlooked a basic difference between Mariucci and Tedford: There was never any doubt that Mariucci wanted to get a head coaching job in the NFL and would use Cal as the springboard, but Tedford has never given any indication that he wanted to coach in the pros. If he did, he’d certainly choose a better opportunity than the Raiders with their megalomaniac owner. That’s probably the worst job available in the NFL, suitable only for a coach desperate for the opportunity, not a rising star.
Pro and college head coaches have much different jobs, and Tedford is ideally suited to coaching a college team. I think he'd feel very uncomfortable in a pro job.
In the pros, the head coach is more like a chairman of the board. The coordinators, offensive and defensive, draw up the game plans. A college coach is directly involved in hands-on coaching, which Tedford enjoys.
At practice, he’s working directly with players, especially quarterbacks. After practice, he'll spend time with individual players, talking to them not only about their playing but their academic and social lives. He monitors his players’ academics closely, and he tries to warn them about staying out of trouble away from games and practices, though he admits he has no control over his players in those situations.
Moreover, he’s been remarkably stable in his coaching life. Most young coaches jump from job to job – as Mariucci did – with their eye always on the main chance. Not Tedford. After finishing his playing career in Calgary, he stayed on as an offensive assistant for three years. Then, he moved to his alma mater, Fresno State, as a quarterbacks coach and then offensive coordinator for six years. After that, he spent four years as an offensive coordinator at Oregon before coming to Cal as a head coach. Each move he made was a promotion.
At Cal, though he’s been on the radar for several openings around the country, he’s never threatened to move. He’s been consistent in saying that the one condition he had for staying was an improvement in facilities, and the Cal administration has made that a priority. Cal athletic director Sandy Barbour negotiated an extended contract with more money. He could certainly get even more if he went to one of the big football schools in the South or to the pros (though not with the Raiders) but that’s not his style.
Now, Tedford is putting together the kind of program that has been successful at other schools but hasn’t been seen in Berkeley since the Waldorf years.
In college, coaching success begets more success. As a coach’s reputation grows, recruiting becomes much easier because the top athletes want to play for the coach. One measure of how Tedford is doing that now: It’s inconceivable that an athlete like DeSean Jackson would have chosen Cal over USC to play for any other coach I have seen in 50 years of watching Cal football.
THERE’S ANOTHER reason Tedford is staying put: The 2006 team could be his best yet at Cal.
The 2005 season was a roller coaster, with early success against a weak schedule followed by a disappointing string of losses but with a strong finish in the Big Game and the Las Vegas Bowl. Overall, the Bears had as many wins in 12 games as the Raiders and 49ers had combined in 32 games. (In 2004, the Bears exceeded the 49ers/Raiders win total.)
The uneven play was a combination of an inexperienced defense and the quarterback problems of Joe Ayoob. With a year of experience behind them, the defenders should be able to play to their physical potential, which is considerable. This is the most talented group of defensive players that Tedford has had, with great speed. Sometimes, their lack of experience negated their speed because they were hesitant in making their moves. One example: freshman linebacker Anthony Felder. As the season went on, Felder played better and better. I think he’ll make a quantum leap next year, and so will the entire defense.
Steve Levy took over for Ayoob in the Big Game and the bowl game and, though he isn’t an overwhelming physical talent, he has great composure and command. There will be an interesting competition next spring and summer with Nate Longshore returning from the broken ankle which sidelined him from the first game last season, Ayoob and redshirt freshman Kyle Reed all vying with Levy for the starting position.
Whoever the quarterback is, he’ll have great running support from Marshawn Lynch and Justin Forsett, and young, fast receivers. Jackson came on strong at the end of the season, and he will be a great one for the Bears next season.
MOST IMPORTANT, Tedford will still be here. He’s been a great pleasure to watch since he came to Cal. He has a great passion for the game, which he passes on to his players, and impressive organizational skills. Players respond to that, and his recruiting just gets better. Last year was his best yet, and reports on this year’s class are good.
Cal football is in good hands – and it’s going to stay there.
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