Jeff Tedford, Tom Cable, Stephen Jackson, Rush Limbaugh
After I pointed out in my Tuesday Examiner column that Jeff Tedford’s streak of seven straight winning seasons was the longest in Cal history since Andy Smith, one fan wrote to me, “Why should Cal fans accept mediocrity just because Gilbert (as he referred to Keith Gilbertson) and Holmoe were bad coaches?”
Mediocrity, of course, is the middle ground between good and bad. Seven straight winning seasons, with an eighth almost a certainty, does not qualify.
Once, I praised Cal fans for not being so emotionally involved in football that it overwhelms everything in their lives, as is often true for fans of the SEC and Big 12 teams. Now, it seems that much of the restraint was only the result of terrible teams. Who could get emotionally involved in the Tom Holmoe teams?
There’s another factor involved: Tedford’s success has attracted those I call fans of winning. Some of these may be Cal alums, probably the young ones who don’t know much about the school’s woeful football history. Most, I suspect, are just casual fans who have been attracted by good teams.
Not all the criticism is unreasonable. Some Cal alums have been critical of the defensive schemes and the offensive play calling. Though I disagree with both viewpoints, they are legitimate criticisms.
Tedford admitted at yesterday’s media lunch that he was concerned about the “bend but don’t break” defensive philosophy. “We’re bending too much,” he said. “It was good that we kept UCLA out of the end zone in the second half (the Bruins got only four field goals after their second touchdown) but we kept losing field position. Fortunately, Bryan Anger had a great day kicking, so he got the field position back for us.” Anger averaged 50 yards on seven kicks and was named Pac-10 Special Teams Player of the week.
The Bears got a huge break, too, in the fourth quarter, when they went with only 10 men on defense for two plays because injured linebacker Eddie Young came out of the game with cramps and wasn’t replaced. The first play was an incomplete pass. On the second play, Bruins tight end Logan Paulsen was wide open (not necessarily because the Bears only had 10 men on the field because they haven’t covered tight ends even when they’ve had 11 men) but UCLA quarterback Kevin Price badly underthrew Paulsen. The ball fell into the hands of Cal linebacker Mychal Kendricks, who returned it 68 yards for a touchdown. Instead of the gap closing to 38-33, the Bears were ahead, 45-26, and cruising to victory.
More than anything, that play showed how haphazard a football game can be. It may look like a chess game from the press box or stands, but it’s often chaos on the field. Nonetheless, Tedford was appalled by that sequence. “That shouldn’t have happened,’ he said, noting that when a player comes off the field with an injury or problem, he’s supposed to report to the coach of his unit so a replacement can be put in right away.
It isn’t just the fans who have been critical of Tedford: A beat writer last week, while praising Tedford for his improvement of the Cal program, asked if Tedford were the right coach to take the Bears to “the next level.”
Let’s be honest. The “next level” is on a par with USC, and I’m not sure there’s a coach out there who could come to Berkeley and accomplish that. USC is a school with a football tradition that’s rivaled only by Notre Dame, and it’s sprinted past Notre Dame lately with eight straight wins in their rivalry. It is sitting in the middle of probably the best recruiting area in the country. It is the very model of a “two track” school; a student who wants to get a good education can get a very good one but there have always been the “basket weaving” type of classes used to keep athletes eligible or to keep the not-bright offspring of generous alumni in school.
USC has traditionally been vulnerable only when it’s had a bad coach. That is definitely not true now.
In college ball, it’s all about recruiting, and Tedford has been handicapped by the school’s lack of tradition and the athletic facilities, which have been the worst in the conference for some time. Since the idiots in the trees have been evicted, construction has been underway on new facilities, so that disadvantage is being wiped out.
Tedford is steadily doing what he can to erase the disadvantage of the school’s lack of football tradition. The more he wins, the more the image of the inept Bears slips away. The losses to Oregon and USC were damaging because they were both on TV, but the Bears will have a chance to wipe away much of that stigma if they put on more offensive shows like last Saturday.
Alumni like to think that Cal’s academic excellence is a big attraction, and Tedford and his assistants emphasize that in talking to parents. But I’ve never forgotten what Mike Montgomery told me when he was coaching at Stanford: “No matter how good a student he is, a good player always thinks he can play in the NBA and wants to go to a school with a program that will showcase him.” That’s just as true for football.
There’s another factor to collegiate coaching success: Longevity. Look around the country and you’ll see successful coaches who have been at their schools for a very long time; the best examples are obviously Joe Paterno and Bobby Bowden. They don’t have to introduce themselves to top prospects.
Tedford is settling in nicely at Cal. His wife, Donna, loves the area, and that’s very important. I think he’ll be here for a long time and the program will get better and better. There will always be nay-sayers, and in this era of the internet, they have more avenues to vent their wrath, but I’m confident the great majority of Cal alums are behind him. I certainly am.
CABLE WATCH: The Raiders unexpectedly beat the Philadelphia Eagles last Sunday but that doesn’t mean a turnaround in their season. They’re still headed for a double-digit loss season; 4-12 sounds about right.
So, the big question now is, what happens to coach Tom Cable? The guessing has been that Al Davis is waiting for Cable to get charged by the Napa county district attorney in the Randy Hansen case, but that may not happen. The Raiders bring a lot of money to Napa with their training camp, both in what the team spends itself on hotel rooms and meals, and visitors who come to see the team practice – though most of those are disappointed because the Raider practices are closed to anybody in the public who doesn’t buy a suite for games.
If Cable were charged, Davis could fire him “for cause” and not pay the rest of his salary, which is his preferred course when he fires a coach.
If Cable isn’t charged, I think NFL commissioner Roger Goodell would step in and suspend him, perhaps for the rest of the season. Davis would then promote somebody from his staff, probably Paul Hackett.
It means nothing because we all know who coaches this team. Cable is just a conduit for Davis, and Hackett – or anybody else – would be, too. That’s why the Raiders have no hope of getting either a successful pro coach or a good young coach from the collegiate ranks. The word is out: The Raiders are poison.
TV: I’ll be a guest Saturday on KPIX’s 49ers preview show – assuming I can get across the bridge; I didn’t make it to the Comcast “Chronicle Live” show last Wednesday because I got caught in that mess with the overturned big rig.
You can find the time for the KPIX show by checking your local listings.
GREAT LINE: All sports have seasons which are too long, but the NHL season may be the worst. My friend Mark Purdy of The San Jose Mercury, told me, “A woman could conceive a baby on opening night and deliver before the end of the seventh game of the Stanley Cup.”
LOOKING BACK: My memories of the ’89 “Earthquake Series” are the same as everybody’s, except for one instance in which no other media person was involved.
During the break after the second game, it seemed for a time that Candlestick would not be able to host the games which were scheduled for it, so San Francisco mayor Art Agnos hit on an idea: Play those games at the Oakland Coliseum.
I’m an admirer of Agnos, but in this case, he was acting like a typical San Franciscan, making decisions for Oakland without even asking anybody to the east of the broken Bay Bridge. I knew that the Coliseum was making good money off music concerts when no games were scheduled there, so I checked with George Vukasin, then in charge of the Coliseum, and learned that there was a concert scheduled by Bill Graham for those dates.
I called Graham to see if he’d be willing to re-schedule. He said he would be – if anybody from San Francisco called him. Nobody had, of course. It was just like the time Bob Lurie decided it would be a good idea for the Giants to share the Coliseum with the A’s, without checking with anybody on the Oakland side.
Utimately, it made no difference because it was possible to play two games at Candlestick to complete the A’s sweep. But if you ever wonder why many Oakland residents resent San Franciscans, this should give you a clue.
WARRIORS WOES A Chronicle columnist went on a long rant last Saturday, saying at length that they had to trade Stephen Jackson because he was ruining the team and criticizing Don Nelson for saying on KNBR that he thought Jackson could be an important part of the team.
Of course, this is the same columnist who rode the Giants for two years because they wouldn’t get rid of Barry Bonds, who in his mind was destroying the Giants because of his attitude in the clubhouse. He then totally bought in to the Giants ad campaign in 2008 about “gamers”, which the rest of us knew was code for “We’re not very good but we’ll try really hard.”
Pro sports don’t work that way. The important fact about Bonds was not his attitude but the fact that he was the most feared hitter in the game, through the first five months of his final season with the Giants. He broke down in the final month because he had to play in the field, which he couldn’t do any more, but he could still have been a DH last season if he could have found an American League club willing to risk the wrath of the sanctimonious commissioner Bud Selig, who is now pretending that steroids are a big problem for baseball after ignoring them as attendance rose dramatically in the 1994-2003 stretch as home run records fell.
And, guess what, the Giants still haven’t replaced Bonds’ bat. They made hitting coach Carney Lansford the scapegoat but until someone higher up in the pecking order makes ti clear to all hitters who aren't ’named Pablo Sandoval that it isn’t productive to swing at pitches in the dirt, it will make no difference who the hitting coach is..
The fact is, professional sports have changed dramatically since the Chronicle columnist was 12 and apparently forming his views for a lifetime.
Baseball and football have changed because both sports have free agency, so unhappy players can move on to big contracts, and powerful Players Associations. That’s probably why 49ers coach Mike Singletary didn’t suspend Dre’ Bly after his bonehead posturing in the Atlanta game which led to him fumbling away the ball after an interception. A suspension would have turned it into a political football.
The NBA has been known as a players’ league for a long time. Coaches have very little authority, as Montgomery discovered with the Warriors. Nelson knows that Jackson can be a very productive player, and that’s what’s important, to Nelson personally and to the team. If they traded him, it would weaken the team, not strengthen it.
In pro sports, it’s all about performance. Remember that the next time you wonder why a coach puts up with a temperamental player. As long as he produces, he’ll be in the lineup.
RUSH LIMBAUGH: Frankly, I’m sorry Rush didn’t get into the NFL. I was looking forward to the day after the deal was concluded and the Rams GM told him he could go down to the dressing room and talk to his players – and then, locked the door.
What do YOU think? Let me know!
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