Cheez-It Bowl Shuffle

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Last time Cal football made news in the month of January, it was to announce a bizarrely timed firing and to announce the hiring of Justin Wilcox as head coach at the last moment. Two years later, the Bears have again released odd coaching news to start the year, but this time in what seems to be a desperate attempt to avoid firing anybody.

I spent so much of last season trying to find stats that could explain just how stultifyingly unwatchable the 2018 offense was. Well, now that any sufficiently sadomasochistic reader with an internet connection can simply look up clips or the box score from the Cheez-It Bowl, there’s no need for the hard work on my part anymore.

It seemed that after the humiliation of losing to a team with four interceptions and under 30 passing yards, Wilcox’s hand would be forced in putting someone from the offensive side on the chopping block, especially considering that shortly before the game it was announced that Wilcox was getting a raise of more than $1 million and more money to use on his assistant coaching staff.

But lo and behold, there was no news of any such reorganization at all until last week — Cal Athletics sent out a press release whose subject line may as well have read “Shuffling the Deck Chairs on the Titanic.” The news was of a coaching staff restructuring that was farcical in its attempt to change everything possible about the Bears offense … outside of changing a single one of the faces and names involved.

Beau Baldwin remains the offensive coordinator, but even after being so clearly out of step with his quarterbacks’ areas of comfort and weakness, he will become the quarterback coach as well. To that move, I say fair enough — if Baldwin is going to get another year to prove himself capable in the Football Bowl Subdivision, he has to have better communication with his signal callers.

So that left former quarterback coach Marques Tuiasosopo the first without a seat in this game of coaching musical chairs. Though he has spent nearly all of his playing and coaching career with the quarterbacks, he did coach tight ends in two stints a couple of years ago, so he gets to take that title from now-special teams coordinator Charlie Ragle. There’s no mention in the release that Tuiasosopo has also been stripped of his 2018 title of passing game coordinator, presumably because no one in Cal Athletics is eager to remind fans that someone was supposed to be coordinating that part of the game.

The Bears also got remarkably little out of their wide receivers this past season, so Nicholas Edwards is out in favor of former Cal receiver and 2018 running backs coach Burl Toler III. As for Edwards, who was Baldwin’s star wide receiver as a player and who also worked under Beau as a wide receivers coach while they were both at Eastern Washington, the only spot left is running backs coach, so he’ll be taking that for a spin this year.

I really do sympathize with the position Wilcox was put in. After a year in which the team as a whole reached the big goals of getting bowl eligible and pulling off some road conference victories, I’m sure it would have felt just too cruel to call someone into the office for some bad news. Before the season, if you told any fan that getting a winning percentage of more than .500 would require an amnesty for the whole coaching staff, I don’t think you would have found a single dissenter.

But in the post-Cheez-It Bowl era, things are different. And if in 2019, the Bears once again waste a season of beautifully constructed and coached defense with a bottom-tier offense, these “changes” will be a sour reminder of what could have been.

Andrew Wild covers football. Contact him at [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter @andrewwild17.