I want to love Jeff Tedford as a football coach, but I just can’t anymore.
I started coming to Cal games in 2002, which coincided with Tedford’s first year with the program. On the first play of the season, Terrell Williams hit David Gray on a 71-yard touchdown, and 11-year old me was instantly hooked on coach Tedford and all things Cal football.
He was absolutely cutting edge. Tedford’s offensive schemes were multifaceted, diverse and lethal, and he managed to breath life into an otherwise moribund Cal football team.
My tie-dye “Ted Head” shirt was by far my favorite article in my wardrobe growing up. Much to the dismay of my mom, I donned it until the holes encompassed more area than the fabric. Every time I wore it to school was a good day because it reminded me of why I loved Cal football so much.
But Tedford is not the same coach he was in 2002. He isn’t even the same coach he was in 2006.
The 21-3 scoreline from Saturday’s loss to Stanford belies an absolute beat-down that felt more like 210-3. Cal’s playcalling was at its best boring and at its worst embarrassing.
No one expected the Bears to have an easy time running the ball against the Cardinal, but finishing with three yards on the ground is unacceptable. Watching Isi Sofele continually trying to run inside the tackles felt like Chinese water torture.
And then in the postgame conference, it was just business as usual for Tedford, complete with the “I’m disappointed that things didn’t turn on differently” litany of answers.
The game appears to have passed Tedford up. He’s lost that spark that seemed to always propel his offense two steps ahead.
Now, they always seem two steps behind and struggling for air. It’s time for Tedford to move on.
It was physically difficult to write that last sentence, and now I feel a little depressed for having done so. This was the man that came to Berkeley and made football relevant on campus again. He dealt with decrepit facilities, tree sitters and Joe Ayoob and still managed to become the winningest coach in Cal history.
Tedford played a major role in sparking my love for this university, as I’m sure he did for numerous other fans. Cal football was a big part of my upbringing, and the fact that it was for better than for worse is largely to thanks to him.
I want to believe in Jeff Tedford, and I want him to succeed. I want to believe in a man that runs a clean program and seems like an all-around good guy. I want to believe in the coach that tirelessly worked to get Memorial Stadium renovated.
But I simply can’t anymore. Not after watching five and a half years of underachieving Cal squads that have made a habit of losing to far less talented teams. Not after watching offensive weapons like Jahvid Best and Keenan Allen wasted by timid and vanilla play calling.
And definitely not after seeing Cal lead the nation in penalties more than half way through the 2012 season.
I just want to be able to root for a team that plays the game of football with more discipline, commitment and attention to detail than its opponents, rather than one that tries to just squeak by on talent alone.
And I want a football coach that instills the same love for this place that I and so many other fans have burning deep inside.
I want 2002 Jeff Tedford back — but unfortunately that doesn’t seem possible.
There is no doubt that Tedford has done great things for this program and this school, and I hope that all Cal fans remember that and look back upon his career in a positive light.
But it is simply time for him to move on.
Connor Byrne covers football. Contact him at [email protected]
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