Jeff Tedford, Mike Singletary, Tim Lincecum, Manny Ramirez
Here are some of the criticisms Iíve heard from readers:
--His teams are inconsistent. Hello! This is college football, where teams go up and down every week. There isnít a weekend that goes by without upsets that are truly mind-boggling.
Sometimes, I think we forget that these players are barely out of their teens, and some are still in them. Theyíre going to have wide emotional swings and, at some schools (including Cal), they have the added complication of having to go to class.
The very best teams sometimes have enough depth of talent to avoid the wild ups-and-downs, but even USC, which certainly is in that category, has lost in consecutive seasons to Stanford and Oregon State, two teams they should have beaten by four touchdowns.
Cal has never had that depth of talent. Tedford and his assistants have done a good job of recruiting but they canít equal USC. Cal does not have the same rich football tradition, it is not in the middle of the area richest in prep prospects and it has had the worst athletic facilities of any school in the conference. My older readers especially donít understand how that affects recruiting because they remember the spare facilities of their youth, but believe me, itís of paramount importance to young athletes.
--His career path is following that of Ben Braun. Not at all. The signs were there early with Braun, who had a losing record in his second season and was below .500 in conference play in three of his first four seasons. In contrast, Tedford has NEVER had a losing season, and two of his teams have won 10 games. His teams have gone to five straight bowl games, and only the fact that Cal was on NCAA suspension for code violations in the Tom Holmoe era kept his first team from a bowl.
There is also a matter of style. Braunís failure was due to his insistence that his assistants agree with him, so he got no real input. Tedford has continually tried to refine his style, even bringing in Mike Dunbar to coordinate aspects of the spread offense with his concepts one year. That didnít work well, but heís not closing off any avenues.
--The offensive game plans havenít been as imaginative as when Tedford first came to Cal.
That often happens to coaches who take over a moribund program, as Tedford did. I still remember the first play from scrimmage in his first game, the pitchout and running back pass for a long touchdown against Baylor.
Other teams catch up to that style of play and defend it, so Tedfordís game plans have had to account for that. Much of the criticism I hear from readers, though, is silly. One reader will accuse him of being pass-happy, another will criticize him for running the ball too much. In fact, Tedfordís offenses have always been well balanced between run and pass. Iíve found that readersí criticisms are often based on the fact that particular plays didnít work. In other words, dammit, call something that works!
--Heís never gotten a team to a BCS bowl. Much of that is because of the Pac-10ís terrible bowl lineup, with only the Rose Bowl (for the conference champion or runnerup on the years USC is in the national championship game) is a BCS bowl. In fact, as we all know, Cal hasnít been to the Rose Bowl since the 1958 season. There have been nine coaches in between Pete Elliott, the 1958 coach, and Tedford. So, heís got a lot of company.
I have my issues with Tedford on his current quarterbacks, because I think Kevin Riley should be starting, but that doesnít blind me to the fact that heís the best Cal coach in the 53 seasons Iíve been watching closely. It shouldnít blind you, either.
SINGLETARY CHOICE: Three days before he got the job, I recommended that Mike Singletary replace Mike Nolan at the helm of the 49ers. As far as I know, I was the only Bay Area writer who recommended Singletary.
It seemed a logical move to me. The Niners werenít going to disrupt the staff by elevating a coordinator, so Mike Martz wasnít going to get the nod. Singletary has great credentials, starting with his Hall of Fame career. He inspires players; itís no accident that the linebackers heís been coaching are the one group of position players who have been playing well.
So, why didnít other writers see this? Because of the herd mentality among the sports media. One person develops a story line and others fall into line. In this case, the prevailing story line has been that Martz was brought in by the 49ers to become the head coach when Nolan was fired, presumably, after the season. There is one small problem with that story line: Nolan was the one who brought him in because he thought Martz could save his job. Didnít work, of course.
I also thought that this would be a good time for Singletary to audition for the head coaching job beyond this year. Donít be misled by his low-key performance at the news conference yesterday. His strength is bonding with the players in the locker room, not talking to media. Heíll have the time to show if he can energize a group of underproducing players for the rest of the season.
In a less-noted but important move, the Niners also sacked offensive line coach George Warhop, a much overdue move. Of all the position groups, the offensive line has been the worst and the coaching has to be part of that.
One other note from the news conference: Donít judge general manager Scot McCloughan off that. Iíve talked to McCloughan one-on-one and found him to be intelligent and incisive, two qualities which did not show up Tuesday.
Now, the Niners should be working to build a strong organization for the future. One move has already been suggested by my friend, Artie Gigantino: Recruit Mike Holmgren to be the team president. Holmgren is retiring from coaching but he would be a perfect fit for this. Heís a native San Franciscan, he knows the NFL well from his head coaching stints in Green Bay and Seattle, as well as being the offensive coordinator under Bill Walsh with the 49ers and he worked with McCloughan in Seattle.
TV: Iíll be a guest this week on ď49er PreviewĒ, which airs at 5 p.m. Saturday on KPIX-TV (5). Lots to talk about.
CY YOUNG: If Tim Lincecum doesnít win the Cy Young award, he can blame it on a Giants bullpen which cost him perhaps five wins by blowing leads and a manager who was probably overcautious in monitoring his pitch count.
Iím not one of those who yearn for the good old days when pitchers expected to complete games. Iím aware that there were many pitchers in that time who broke down because of throwing too many pitches. The Oakland Aís starters of 1980 under Billy Martin, who had a history of overworking pitchers, is an excellent example of that.
But, Lincecum is a different animal. His pitching style was developed by his father, who worked with medical experts, and puts relatively little strain on his arm. When he has been stretched out by the Giants, Lincecum has shown no bad effects in his next start.
Of course, he can also help his own cause by throwing more strikes, to keep his pitch count down. I think heíll do that in the near future. Heís something special and, if he wins the Cy Young this year, I suspect it will be the first of several in his career.
MANNY, MANNY, MANNY: Reportedly, Manny Ramirezís agent, Scott Boras, will be looking for a six-year, $150 million contract for his client when the free agent market opens. I doubt the Dodgers will go for that, but Giants GM Brian Sabean might not be able to resist it. At least, the Giants could get two good years out of Manny before he goes south, which would be better than their $126 million pitching lemon, Barry Zito.
TICKETS! TICKETS! TICKETS! The World Series is here and tickets are available. Big college games include Oregon-USC, Ohio-Wisconsin and Missouri-Texas. In music, tickets are in demand for Madonnaís shows in New York, Houston and Miami. Coldplay also goes to New York and Texas on their current tour. Just click on the local or national links and all games and shows, including these, will come up.
What do YOU think? Let me know!