In the wake of Tim DeRuyter's dismissal, local and national writers have been quick to throw out the names of potential replacements. Some are more realistic than others, but the leader in the clubhouse, so to speak, is a badly kept secret.
Jeff Tedford, former Cal Golden Bears head coach and former Fresno State quarterback, is a near shoo-in even one month before the season's end. This is a bad idea. Here are several counter-arguments to the reasoning you’ll hear far and wide across the Central Valley.
The Aaron Rodgers argument. Yes, Aaron Rodgers is going to be enshrined in Canton one day. Yes, Cal had its best stretch, well, ever when Rodgers was its starting quarterback. Tedford had a hand in developing one of the best QBs in football history, and then never came close to doing it again.
Here are the completion percentages of Tedford’s quarterbacks from 2005, the year after Rodgers’ departure, to 2012: 52%, 59.3%, 60.1%, 52.6%, 54.5%, 55.7%, 55.9%, 57.9%.
Better yet, here are the yards per attempt from 2008 to 2012, according to CFB Stats: 6.2, 7.4, 6.3, 7.3, 6.8. For the sake of context, five teams in the Mountain West currently have a better average than Tedford’s best, and the Fresno State passing offense has a current average of... 6.1 YPA.
It’s just two sets of numbers, but it’s worth noting that passers like Nate Longshore, Joe Ayoob, Brock Mansion, Beau Sweeney, Austin Hinder, Allan Bridgford, Kyle Boehm and (surprise!) Zach Kline were at least as highly-rated as Rodgers was coming out of Butte College — at least half of these names were four-star recruits, per 247 Sports — and none ever came particularly close to being as efficient.
The more convincing argument, I think, is that Tedford’s running attacks were always top-notch. J.J. Arrigton was followed by Marshawn Lynch and Justin Forsett, then Jahvid Best and Shane Vereen and Isi Sofele and C.J. Anderson. Given the gradual decline of Fresno State’s own ground game, however, it isn’t likely that Dontel James or Bryson Oglesby or whomever explodes overnight under Tedford’s leadership. That’s a long term project without guarantees.
Is he going to be the coach to get Chason Virgil to a 60% completion rate? The evidence would seem to suggest “no”. If nothing else, this should be the biggest strike against hiring Tedford.
But he’s a quarterback guru! Are you sure about that?
Akili Smith’s best completion percentage was just 58%, and Joey Harrington’s best was 58.8%. Kyle Boller — and, yes, people will defend Tedford with Boller — never topped 53.8%. To their credit, most were proficient at taking care of the football: Boller’s career interception percentage (INTs / pass attempts) was 3.7%, but Smith’s was just 2.6%, Harrington’s was 2.4%.
If you want more traditional measures, though, consider that Cal’s passing offense never ranked higher than fifth in yards per game from 2008 to 2012, according to CFB Stats, never ranked higher than sixth in overall QB rating, finished in the top half of yards per attempt just once and never rose above the bottom three in the Pac-10/12 in completion rate.
Rodgers, the last best data point, played a dozen years ago. Dilfer played in Fresno well over 20 years ago. The game had clearly changed by the time Tedford was dismissed in 2012, and it’s an open question as to whether he has the answers that’ll put Fresno State’s passing game back together.
More to the point, if you’re using Kyle Boller as a data point for hiring someone, you may want to reassess that argument.
He knows how to recruit. Recruiting rankings aren’t everything, though there is evidence to suggest that there is some correlation between the caliber of players you bring in and a team’s eventual outcomes. Does Tedford fit that mold?
Yes and no. These were Cal’s national (and Pac-10/12) recruitment rankings from 2005 to 2012: 10 (2), 18 (2), 21 (3), 31 (8), 32 (5), 20 (5), 15 (3), 34 (6).
The trend is decidedly mixed, but you could probably draw a line from that 2008-10 dip to the diminishing win-loss returns which ended Tedford’s run in Berkeley in the next decade. Marvin Jones and Keenan Allen were bona fide wide receivers, but the next best player from that three-year stretch is... who? Any difference in the caliber of player Tedford could bring in versus another candidate is probably negligible.
Cal is a tough place to win, and he won more than anyone else there. Yes, Tedford’s 82 wins are the best in Golden Bears history. Yes, he won five bowl games in eight tries, also the most in Cal history. His winning percentage is just third among the four guys who spent at least ten years in Berkeley (.570), though, and do we really want to tout victories in the Insight Bowl and the Armed Forces Bowl and the Emerald Bowl that much?
Hell, two of those games don’t even exist anymore. That’s like praising former Fresno State head coach Pat Hill for winning the legendary Silicon Valley Classic a couple times.
Rightly or wrongly, the easy counterargument is that, like Hill, Tedford really never got over the hump in the Pac-10/12. He never led the Golden Bears to the Rose Bowl, only finished first or second twice, and lost less than three conference games just twice in ten years.
Tedford has Fresno State connections, he knows the traditions/area/stakes/etc. This is the thing I understand the least, mostly because narrowing the search scope to only those with past connections as a Bulldog is unnecessarily myopic. The program just made a multi-million dollar mistake with Tim DeRuyter’s extension, and they can’t afford to make a second one.
In recent years, the majority of currently successful Group of 5 teams hired coaches without prior connections to the university: Craig Bohl, John Bonamego, Terry Bowden, Jeff Brohm, Chris Creighton, P.J. Fleck, Tom Herman, Skip Holtz, Rocky Long, Philip Montgomery, Mike Norvell, Rick Stockstill, Willie Taggert. If the list seems long, that’s for a reason: Familiarity with a situation isn’t and shouldn’t be a prerequisite for hiring.
More alarmingly, though, Group of 5 teams just don’t hire retreads anymore, they hire up-and-coming head coaches (Willie Fritz, Bryan Harsin) or dynamic young coordinators (Mike Bobo, Scott Frost). Those that have bucked the trend are dealing with mixed consequences, at best:
- Bowden has slowly built Akron into a solid MAC East contender, and the Zips are on their way to a second straight winning season.
- Cincinnati’s Tommy Tuberville has backslid from two straight 9-4 campaigns in 2013-14 and is already out of contention in the AAC East this year.
- Louisiana Tech’s Holtz has a C-USA title game appearance in his four years at Louisiana Tech, and currently holds the inside track for another berth.
- Bob Davie’s New Mexico teams have gotten more fun to watch, but the results haven’t caught up to the excitement.
Holtz might be the best case scenario, but then there’s no San Diego State looming in his particular division, and Tedford or any other incoming coach would face an uphill climb in Fresno: Hawaii has progressed rapidly, too, and UNLV could be very good in a year or two.
I recognize that I’m a minority on this amongst the Fresno State faithful, but the optics just don’t sit well with me: Tedford will not have been a head coach in the FBS for five years by the time he’s likely to be offered the position. He won’t have had back-to-back winning seasons for nearly a decade. He won’t have developed any quarterback of note in a dozen years or so.
Simply put, I think that athletic director Jim Bartko, the football program, its boosters, and the community could do much better than rehashing what might as well be ancient history.