Tag Archives | jeff tedford

Top 10 Overrated Coaches for 2010

This compilation was pretty popular and created a lot of discussion last year, so I thought I’d bring it back again. Keep in mind that I’m not necessarily saying these guys are bad coaches (though in some cases it is true). I’m just highlighting the coaches who, in my opinion, do not currently live up to the hype:

1. Steve Spurrier–Look at early season previews and South Carolina is on the list of potential breakout teams…again. Hasn’t it been five or six years in a row now that the Gamecocks were supposed to be a big deal? No doubt, much of this is residual respect for Spurrier, an offensive guy who hasn’t had very good offenses for SC. The media loves him because he is a good quote and grimaces on the sideline, but what’s he done lately?

2. Les Miles–He is living proof that pretty much any coach can win a national title if given the right situation. His 2007 LSU team was loaded but still lost twice and needed some crazy circumstances to win it all. He’s a questionable game manager and seems to do less with more every year. His teams appear able to beat anyone, or lose to anyone. Yet, he is somehow considered an asset in the SEC coaching fraternity because he won that one title. Well, so did Phil Fulmer….and what’s he doing now?

3. Lane Kiffin–Rarely has more been written about someone who has done so little. His bio from USC’s website reads like a North Korean propaganda pamphlet: “First-year USC head football coach Lane Kiffin is regarded as one of the game’s brightest young coaches…He is known for his high football IQ, as well as for being a vibrant leader and a master recruiter.” Who, exactly, regards him as one of the game’s bright young coaches? I’ll reserve that title for guys like Chris Peterson, Gus Malzahn and Kevin Sumlin, thanks.

4. Rich Rodriguez–Here’s a coach who used to be in the ‘underrated’ category. But his tenure so far at Michigan feels like it has been completely bungled. Did he suddenly forget how to coach, or did the Michigan ‘culture’ push back too hard when he came to Ann Arbor? Whatever the case, he may not get out of this one with his reputation intact.

5. Jim Tressel–Oh, calm down. I know he’s a solid coach who sometimes finds the groove and gets his team to elite levels. But that stubborn belief in his way of doing things–especially his lack of imagination on offense–has probably cost him a chance at one or two more national titles.

6. Pat Hill–His early-decade swagger about playing anyone, anywhere, anytime hasn’t resulted in this program actually winning many of those ‘prove it’ games. But Hill still gets credit for being a balls-out coach. Scheduling against elite teams and losing to them doesn’t mean a whole lot in my book.

7. Jeff Tedford–He’s done very well by Cal standards, but at one time the idea was that he was a genius who would be a thorn in the side of USC. Instead, his program has been passed up by Oregon as the Pac-10’s No. 2, with Oregon State and Stanford nipping at his heels for No. 3.  If only he could recruit and develop quarterbacks, he wouldn’t be in this situation.

8. Mark Richt–He seems like a nice guy, but Georgia fans must wonder how the Bulldogs could have the first pick in the draft (Matt Stafford) and the first running back taken (Knowshon Moreno) on the same team in 2007 and 2008 and come away without a national title. If he can’t win it all with those guys, when will he win it?

9. Ralph Friedgen–Things have been rough for the Terps since winning 31 games from 2001-2003. I’m not sure he would be so respected these days if he were thin…we seem to like our portly coaches, don’t we?

10. Joe Paterno–JoePa makes the list again only because he’s not really coaching this team anymore. He’s a figure head who gets most of the credit for the program’s success, but it is his assistants (primarily Tom Bradley) who get the job done.

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The Tedford Mystery

It has been a recent college football truism that Jeff Tedford produces great quarterbacks.

If you go back and look at it, the line of signal callers tutored or developed by the Cal head coach has been impressive:

Trent Dilfer, Fresno State, 6th overall pick in the NFL draft

David Carr, Fresno State, 1st overall pick in the NFL draft

Akili Smith, Oregon, 3rd overall pick in the NFL draft

Joey Harrington, Oregon, 3rd overall pick in the NFL draft

Kyle Boller, California, 19th overall pick in the NFL draft

Aaron Rodgers, California, 24th overall pick in the NFL draft

That’s six NFL first rounders right there.  Pretty amazing.  Not many coaches can match that.

Now, before I continue, let’s not get caught up over the level of success these guys have or haven’t had in the pros.  This is a blog on college football and I couldn’t care less about the NFL.  The point is that these were very productive players who competed for Heismans and All-American honors and, as a result, were considered attractive prospects for the next level once their college careers were over.

So, it’s easy to see how the notion of “Jeff Tedford, Quarterback Guru” came about.

But something has happened in the last seven years to change that perception–at least in my mind.  As usual, if you look below the surface of it all, a different picture emerges.

Namely, Tedford hasn’t coached a star college quarterback since Aaron Rodgers, who left Cal after the 2004 season.  When you consider that he found Rodgers purely by accident after happening upon the future Packer while recruiting teammate Garrett Cross at Butte Junior College and that he inherited Kyle Boller from Tom Holmoe and that he arrived at Oregon with Joey Harrington and Akili Smith already on the roster, the fact emerges that he hasn’t signed a high-level quarterback out of high school since David Carr in 1997.  (Note: Carr wasn’t highly rated nationally, but he was a physical talent so I’ll give Tedford credit).

It seems counter-intuitive, but for all his reputation as a guru, Tedford has never signed a high school quarterback and turned him into a college football star (he only coached Carr as a frosh).

Where he has been brilliantly successful in is taking guys already on a roster–Dilfer, Harrington, Smith, Boller–and turning them into stars.  Many of his guys were, at one time, residents of the Island of Misfit Quarterbacks before he turned them around.  For that, he deserves full credit and I certainly don’t mean to take anything away from Tedford in this regard.  I just think his status as quarterback guru needs to be fleshed out a bit to get the whole story.

To wit, it appears that he can coach quarterbacks once he has them.  Unfortunately, it also appears that someone else has to find or recruit them for him first.  And this has become a real problem for his current job. 

You have to wonder why this is.  He’s been a good head coach at Cal.  The Bears are experiencing sustained success at a level not seen since the 1920s.   You would think that a personal coaching tradition dating back to Dilfer and culminating in Rodgers would mean that, every year, a bunch of high school stars are clamoring to play quarterback for Tedford.

But since stumbling upon Rodgers that one day at Butte, here are the quarterbacks he has signed for the Bears: 

Cary Dove

Nate Longshore

Joe Ayoob

Kyle Reed

Kevin Riley

Brock Mansion

Beau Sweeney

Allan Bridgford

Not exactly a who’s who of college football quarterbacking, is it?  I will grant that a couple of these quarterbacks have some years left to play, but there’s a very good chance that Tedford will end up striking out on all eight of these guys. 

This begs the question:  Is the issue that Tedford can’t identify talent, or is it that he just can’t recruit talent?  Even Holmoe–whose record was nowhere near Tedford’s as a head coach–got Boller (a top three national recruit at quarterback) to come play for the Bears.  Yet, with nine recruiting classes in the books, Tedford has yet to sign a single nationally-regarded quarterback.  I don’t mean the No. 3 guy in California.  I mean the guy who everyone wants, that can’t-miss prospect.

It’s not that the Bears can’t get talent on offense.  DeSean Jackson could’ve gone anywhere he wanted.  Marshawn Lynch was highly touted, as was Jahvid Best

But for some reason, the quarterback position–of all positions!–remains elusive to Tedford.

Why is this?

If I had to manage a guess, I don’t think it’s because Tedford can’t identify talent.  He may not be perfect at it, but he has that ability.  I think it’s more because he may lack the killer instinct needed as a recruiter to land a top-flight quarterback.  When you couple this lack of recruiting skill with an extreme self-confidence in his ability to develop overlooked players–a mentality most likely derived from coaching at places where he was forced to do more with less–it’s no wonder he has been prone to signing sleepers at the one position where he should be cleaning up.

This failure by Tedford has had a profound effect on the balance of power in the Pac-10 conference.  Since 2006, the Bears have often appeared on the verge of challenging USC for West Coast hegemony.  The inability of Cal to get over this hump can be blamed almost solely on the lack of a real difference maker at quarterback.  Cal started each of the last three seasons in the top 12 of the AP poll and ended each of them outside the top 25.  That doesn’t happen if Cal had the kind of talent over center that Tedford used to churn out with regularity.   

Perhaps Kevin Riley will turn things around for Tedford’s track record this year, but I doubt it.  Personally, I’d like to see what Tedford can do with another top talent at his disposal, as few offenses in college football are as fun to watch as his is when being run properly.

But unless another Rodgers falls from the sky, I don’t see how Tedford is going to make that happen.

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