I have yet to drink the Tedford Haterade. Contrary to the tide of popular opinion, I don’t abhor Tedford or think he ought to be burned at the stake. At the very least, I think the athletic department should ride out his contract for two more seasons before considering his termination.
But I also don’t think he is best suited to be at the helm of a collegiate program. I picture him as an offensive coordinator in the NFL, in which he could be exacting with his playbook but removed from the team.
Because Jeff Tedford does not seem like the kind of coach that players can turn to for comfort or advice. He’s reserved. He plays everything – team injuries, disappointment, personal anecdotes – extremely close to the vest. He’s just not the public figure that people identify with.
And in this climate, that’s a grave mistake for Tedford.
Tedford is 1-1 on the season thus far when he should be perfect. After waiting nearly two years while his beloved stadium underwent massive renovation, he fell to a Mountain West opponent and struggled mightily against an FCS team.
You could blame it on the players. The one that immediately jumps out is Zach Maynard, who missed the first quarter of the season opener and turned in lackluster stats – including one interception – last week against Southern Utah.
But it’s not Maynard’s fault. It’s not necessarily anyone’s fault. Fans might not like to hear it, but Cal isn’t destined to be a great Rose Bowl contender. Cal is destined – for the foreseeable future, at least – to get lost in the shuffle that is the middle-to-bottom dregs of the Pac-12. No use trying to reverse fate.
That being said, a certain amount of blame lies with Tedford. It’s his team, after all. His program to mold and inspire and lead. He’s the one who makes the initial calls and gets the final say. He’s the leader, so by default the final result lies at his feet.
That could be enough to prick doubt in the hearts of fans. But think about it: There are far worse teams whose fans remain loyal through failure. The Toronto Maple Leafs are downright terrible, but the team still maintains one of the largest fan bases in the NHL. The Chicago Cubs will probably never again win a World Series title, but people still use that damned curse as a scapegoat to keep on foolishly loving the club.
There are dedication and tradition in each instance. Cal has both of those as well.
But what Cal needs in this uncertain era is a man worth fighting for.
So, Jeff Tedford, let me love you.
Let me in to the inner workings of your mind. Keep me updated on how you genuinely feel about your season. You need to be more than a bobble head at the helm of a football program: you need to be a person with visceral hopes and fears, one who shares his uncut reactions with a crowd.
I grasped a glimmer of the real you a few weeks ago at a media luncheon for local journalists. You said that walking into the new stadium gave you butterflies.
I know that’s a huge admission for you, Tedford. And there’s hope for you yet. If you want to keep your job and your fans, you need to start making more confessions like that. People don’t want to dethrone the man who lets them in. People want to rally around him until he succeeds.
Stop telling me you have to look at the tape, Tedford. Let me love you.
Annie Gerlach is the sports editor. Contact her at [email protected]