A Cal Fan To Coach Tedford: It's Been Real...But It's Time For You To Go
Perhaps it was bad luck that cost the California Golden Bears yet another victory this Saturday night to the Arizona Wildcats in Tuscon.
I'm sure coach Jeff Tedford will have some clever cliche prepared to summarize another painful loss by his football team.
I used to take solace in those cliches. I used to believe that this was a program on the rise. I once believed that Jeff Tedford was the man to lead California football to their first Rose Bowl in 50 years.
I know now he is not that man. And after watching his team crumble yet again in the final minutes of tonight's game, I know that the time has come for coach Tedford to go.
I have always valued coach Tedford for his steady brand of leadership. I recall the days in Berkeley before Tedford came along. I remember the losing, the hopelessness, and worst of all: the shame associated with Cal football in those days.
Coach Tedford's arrival in Strawberry Canyon brought about an era of respectability, and put California football back in the national spotlight.
After some solid recruiting, Cal began challenging the also rising program at University of Southern California, led by Pete Carroll. I remember the game in 2003 when Cal beat USC in triple overtime.
That victory seemed to spell the beginning of a new era in California football. The Bears were for real, and coach Tedford was building a winner in Berkeley.
But then began a disturbing trend that has continued to this day. Not apparent at first, a look back in history will reveal that despite all the talent he's had to work with the past eight seasons, coach Tedford's team can never win the big games.
They rarely play up to their potential. They always seem to choke in the very moments where champions display their greatness.
There was the 2004 game in L.A. against No. 1 USC, where Aaron Rodgers completed 23 passes in a row, and Cal had the ball inside the USC 10- yard line with a first-and-goal yet couldn't score.
Despite completely outplaying USC, Cal lost the game and their shot at a national title as well.
That same season, Tedford sat mum while Mack Brown of Texas begged his way past California in the last coach's poll, bumping Cal from their first Rose Bowl appearance since 1951.
Cal went on to lose the Holiday Bowl to a Texas Tech team ranked No. 21. Cal entered that game as the fourth-ranked team in the nation.
Then there was the loss to Oregon State in 2007. Cal entered that game ranked No. 2 in the nation. After learning that then-No. 1 LSU had already lost, Tedford's Bears needed only to dispatch of a lowly Beavers team that had lost half their games that season.
Instead of rising to the top of the national rankings like champions, Tedford's Bears choked away yet another victory; losing to the woeful Beavers at home in Berkeley.
A young Kevin Riley ran the ball into the middle of the field with 15 seconds to play and no timeouts, allowing time to expire.
Cal was down in that game by 3 points, and were well inside field goal range, starting that final play from Oregon State's 12-yard line.
Cal finished the 2007 season out of the top 25. That's quite a fall from grace, I'd say.
After that ultimate choke job, Tedford's Bears have flirted with relevance a few more times. However, after so much unfulfilled hype, it seemed as though national media types just didn't believe in coach Tedford's Bears anymore.
Every time Cal strung together enough wins to enter the proverbial "conversation," Tedford's Bears would prove the doubters right by turning in another gutless performance.
The 2009 season was a classic example of Cal's inability to rise to the occasion under Tedford. After a fast 3-0 start, Tedford's boys got absolutely destroyed by good teams from Oregon and USC.
Then, when lack of attention had allowed Cal to sneak back into the lower end of the rankings in the season's final weeks, Cal went to Washington with a chance to tip-toe into contention in the Pac-10.
Instead of seizing the moment, Cal laid an egg; losing 42-10 to a Washington team that had won only four of their 11 games that season. Cal went on to lose the Poinsettia Bowl to Utah 37-27.
After the 2009 season, Tedford acknowledged his teams the past several years had suffered from their inability to win games that counted the most.
He promised to switch things up; to go back to the drawing board. He said things would be different in 2010.
And so, as the 2010 season began, Cal took their familiar place at the front of the pack after the first two weeks of the season.
They beat up on inferior teams from UC-Davis and Colorado. Cal looked as though they were clicking on all cylinders, playing dominant defense, and running the football.
Then, a trip out to Reno, to face a dangerous and rising Wolf Pack team from University of Nevada. Once again, Cal showed an inability to adjust, to rise to the occasion against an athletic and passionate Nevada squad.
Upon their return, Cal had a chance to redeem themselves for a "let down" against a Wildcat team that was beatable. Cal played great defense. They ran the ball effectively. They controlled the game.
And they lost.
Tedford failed to run the ball into the middle of the field in the fourth quarter, leaving a very difficult angle for his kicker after Cal failed to pick up a first down on a third and short.
The kick was missed, and Arizona got the ball back with just over two minutes left, down by six.
If you didn't see the game, it was a typical end for coach Tedford. Arizona, which hadn't moved the ball all game, completed a 35-yard pass to put them into scoring position.
They scored a touchdown on an easy pitch-and-catch from 5 yards out with 1:11 to play.
When Cal got the ball back with a final chance to drive into field goal range and win the game, they lost the ball on an interception, after a perfect Riley pass squirted through the hands of a wide-open Marvin Jones.
It was a pitiful end to another Cal football season. And its only week 4.
The fact is, Cal football has reached its peak with Jeff Tedford. He made the program relevant again. And for that, Berkeley fans are grateful.
But coach Tedford can't win big games. He doesn't inspire his team to fight through adversity, to adjust to tough schemes, or to win when they're not at their best.
Coach Tedford must go. Cal needs a coach that can take them to the next level. Coach Tedford can only take the team one direction, and that's down.
Cal fans know this, because we've been headed there for years.
So long coach Tedford, it's been real. But it's time for you to go.
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