Jeff Tedford Should Be Cal Golden Bears' Coach

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Should Cal head coach Jeff Tedford deserve to be on the coaching hot seat?

Should Cal head coach Jeff Tedford deserve to be on the coaching hot seat?

-by CoachesByTheNumber.com

In the “what have you done for me lately” world of college football, Cal fans are beginning to ask that very question when it comes to Head Coach Jeff Tedford.

With three unimpressive losses in a row, the Cal faithful are starting to shift in their seats so to speak. Coming off a 2010 campaign that saw Cal go 5-7, the margin for error in Berkeley seems to be getting smaller and smaller. Is this just a case of unrealistic expectations or have things started turning sour at Cal? We thought we would tackle this assignment (no pun intended) head on and see what we could find out.

A quick look at our active Head Coach Rankings and you will notice that Jeff Tedford ranks as our 15th best head coach when looking at the data from 2001-2011 for active head coaches. However, when you start to customize the data for more recent years, you will find the following (rankings below are for active and inactive coaches for the years listed):

Coach Years CBTN Coach Rank CBTN Coach Rating CBTN Stars
Jeff Tedford 2002-2005 16 62.71
Jeff Tedford 2006-2008 16 63.85
Jeff Tedford 2009-Present 58 46.18

After dropping the final three games of the 2010 season to fall to 5-7, Cal got off to a quick start beating three inferior opponents to start the 2011 season. Since then, Cal has lost three in a row being outscored 104-47 against Washington, Oregon, and Southern Cal.  After winning an impressive 66% of his games from 2002-2008, Tedford has eked out a lesser 51% winning percentage from 2009-Present. Overall winning percentages can often be a bit deceiving. Sometimes teams switch conferences, schedule weaker non-conference opponents, and sometimes, the conference around them simply improves. That being said, let's consider the following:

Coach Years Conf. WP% WP% Against Over .500 Teams WP% Against Top 25
Jeff Tedford 2002-2006 65.85% (27-14) 50.00% (16-16) 44.44% (8-10)
Jeff Tedford 2007-Present 43.59% (17-22) 39.29% (11-17) 33.33% (5-10)

Let's dig into some further details to see if we can find a specific reason for Tedford's downward numerical trend:

Coach Years Avg. Scor. Off. Avg. Scor. Def. % of Games Scored 30+ Pts % of Games Allowed 30+ Pts Avg. Recruiting Class
Jeff Tedford 2002-2006 34.15 ppg 21.47 ppg 59.38% 21.88% 29.40 (out of 120)
Jeff Tedofrd 2007-Present 29.43 ppg 24.61 ppg 43.86% 36.84% 23.80 (out of 120)

So, from 2007-Present, Tedford's team is scoring 13.82% fewer points and allowing 14.63% more points compared to Tedford's first five years at Cal. Additionally, the percent of games he has scored 30+ points has significantly dropped from nearly 60% to just under 44%. Additionally, the number of times he has given up 30+ points has significantly increased. So, these numbers certainly explain the drop in Tedford's winning percentage over the last few years.

However, the numbers still beg the question of why?

When we see downward trends like we are seeing with Tedford, we immediately think of Coordinator Dependency Syndrome or Guy Behind the Guy. However, looking at the wide variety of coordinators that have worked for Tedford over the last decade, it's hard to conclude that the hiring or departure of any one particular coordinator has led to Tedford's downward slide. Looking at the recruiting data above, it's also hard to conclude that Cal has a talent problem or is no longer attracting quality players. From the numbers, Cal has actually recruited better the last five years compared to Tedford's first five years.

So, where else can we look for answers?

After doing some careful digging, we believe we may have found a reasonable explanation. From 2002-2006, the average scoring offense in the Pac-10 among coaches with at least two years at the helm was 25.52 points per game. During that time period, only Pete Carroll's USC offense averaged more points per game than (38.91 ppg) than Jeff Tedford's Cal offense (34.15 ppg). From 2007-Present, the average scoring offense in the Pac-10 among coaches with at least two years experience improved by 15.48% to 29.47 points per game. Also during this period, Oregon, USC, Stanford, and Arizona all averaged more points per game than did the Cal Bears. So, it appears that offensively the Pac-10 became a much more potent conference, with a larger number of teams running the type of explosive offense that Jeff Tedford was running in the early part of the decade.

It easy to look at the offensive landscape of today's collegiate game and forget that in the early part of the 2000's, Jeff Tedford's explosive Cal offense was the exception and not the rule.  In many ways, Tedford appears to have gotten worse because the rest of the conference, especially on the offensive side of the ball, has gotten better.

This all being said, what can we conclude about Jeff Tedford?

Just like the case of UGA fans getting restless with Mark Richt,  there are a few pieces of data Cal fans should keep in mind before putting “For Sale” signs on Tedford’s front lawn. In the five years prior to Tedford being named head coach, Cal amassed a 16-49 record for a miserable 24.62% winning percentage. Fast forward to the present and Cal has won 62.50% of their games under Tedford’s leadership. This is a remarkable difference to say the least. This turnaround puts Tedford as the third best hire (among coaches with 3+ years experience) in the last decade according to our “Good Hire/Bad Hire” ranking that compares a current coach’s winning percentage to the winning percentage five years prior to his hiring.

Cal fans also need to look at their history books and realize that during the 41-year period from 1970-2010 Cal had only nine seasons with eight or more wins. Jeff Tedford, who was the head coach for 21.95% of those 41 years, is responsible for 66.67% (6) of the eight or more win seasons. Also, Cal has been to 12 bowl games during the 41-year period referenced above, and Tedford has been the head coach for 58.33% (7) of these bowl games, compiling a 5-2 record. Last but not least, Cal fans may need a friendly reminder that Coach Tedford is 7-2 against arch rival Stanford, and we all know that consistently losing to a rival is a fireable offense in today's college football landscape.

Just like Mark Richt at UGA, Jeff Tedford has almost been his own worst enemy. His success at Cal has set the expectations at a level that may be difficult to sustain. With such a paltry history from 1970 to before Tedford was hired, it's hard to believe the short memory that Cal fans have when it comes to remembering how bad times were pre-Tedford. In essence, Jeff Tedford took an irrelevant program in 2002 and has turned the Cal job into the 25th ranked job on according to our list of Best Coaching Jobs, which takes into account things like salary, conference championships, attendance, revenue, NFL draft picks, recruiting, etc.  

Tedford took over a team that hadn’t had a winning season since 1993, and he just experienced his first losing season last year. What one might conclude from the numbers above is that while Jeff Tedford is seemingly trending in the wrong direction and needs to once again find a way to be on the cutting edge offensively, it might be a tad too early to start the Chris Petersen to Cal rumors. That being said, while there is no shame in losing to top Pac-12 teams like Oregon and Washington, Tedford needs to right the ship and finish out the season strong and win the games he should win.

Finally, to all the “what have you done for me lately” Cal fans out there, we would like you to open up your history books and offer the cautionary “be careful what you wish for” warning.

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