Watching the 11th year of the Jeff Tedford era is like watching one of your favorite TV shows going off the rails. The formulas that worked so well in the past are stale, so things gets changed up over and over to keep things fresh. That way you end up with a situation where that dude and that girl are hooking up and talking about things like purses even though it was way better to watch the idle flirty banter. Then to further infuriate you, they have babies, usually twins of some sort. Then you've got the male lead stuck in an outlandish situation, usually involving standing on a ledge or a hostage situation of sorts. And hospital scenes, so many damned hospital scenes.
Eventually everyone deserts the show, just like it seems like everyone is deserting Tedford now. Cancellation comes soon thereafter.
Well, we know the formulas with the Tedford offense. Those first five or so years provided great running, decent to outstanding passing performances, and so many great moments. Run to set up the pass. Play-action to rock up the defense. It was mostly power run at first, and now it's mostly zone schemes to get guys out in space. It was I-formation to start out, followed by aces and shotgun later on during the tenure. At their height, they were a beautiful symphony, an almost effortless offense. The formulas weren't difficult to break down, but it didn't stop Cal from racking up points in bunches through the first half of its tenure.
Problem is it's year 11. Everyone else knows them too. At some point, the same formulas stop working.
The Cal offense, once one of the most exciting and explosive in all of college football, has lost all of its sizzle, and now even the steak is starting to get all rubbery. There is decent talent at the playmaking positions, but offensive line play has never been worse and the quarterback play isn't too far behind. The Bears have struggled to move the football much of the past five seasons, and in the past three years have had at best an average offense.
The strange gameday management seems to be causing all sorts of problems. Ron Gould is doing what Ron Gould has always done and Wes Chandler seems capable enough, but in the trenches and at the quarterback spot everything else seems to lack cohesion.
You have Jim Michalzcik, one of the most talented offensive line coaches on the West Coast, handling all the playcalls and in-game adjustments from the sideline. That leaves him little time to focus on the fundamentals with his O-line, and it shows on game day when the O-line seems to look totally unprepared at how to deal with a beast like Morgan Breslin or Will Sutton (and Anthony Barr's up next!).
You have quarterbacks coach Marcus Arroyo calling plays from the booth, and it's starting to look like this young coach is being delegated way too much responsibility as the passing game coordinator. Other than the Ohio State game, the Bears have looked unprepared and unable to adjust from the opening snap. I'm sure Tedford is consulting with Arroyo and Michalzcik, but whatever the braintrust is coming up with isn't working.
With Arroyo and Coach M seemingly over their heads in the in-game gameplanning, the passing game rivals not only the worst in the Pac-12, but among the worst in college football.
- 55.6% completion percentage (101st).
- QB rating of 116.1 (100th).
- In 17 red zone trips, the Bears have managed seven touchdowns (113th).
- 6.6 passing yards per attempt (92nd).
- 22 sacks allowed (tied for last), and an incredible 165 sack yards lost (last).
- Combine the last two stats, and Cal has averaged a putrid 4.9 passing yards per play. I imagine that would drop them even further down the ranks.
- It all bottomed out against Arizona State. If you count the six sacks, Cal averaged 2.4 passing yards per attempt. That is the equivalent of Cal running the best version of the fullback dive play on every play.
Regardless of coaching or personnel, Cal hasn't had a good quarterback in years, and they continue to lose the battle in the trenches. The power in the offense that used to chug the Bears along when they couldn't do anything else is long gone. The yards are so tough to come by in the trenches against good defenses. That puts enormous pressure on the quarterbacks to produce, and they haven't been able to do it.
College football is a sport that seems to emphasize natural selection: You either adapt to fit the system you have. The Cal offense has decided to mesh to the idea of being multiple, and the results have been so painfully weak.
Somme will point to the schematic complexity. Cal operates with multiple formations (shotgun, aces, some I-formation) without an actual base. They then also operate some spread option along with Airraid concepts while also remaining married to a dropback passing game from either shotgun or pro-style. Perhaps the case is that things are tough for the quarterbacks and offensive lines to handle.
All of this would be fine with Aaron Rodgers back there, and occasionally a healthy Nate Longshore. But the recent line of Cal quarterbacks has been ill-equipped to handle any of this with constant regularity. And if the quarterback has struggled, the offensive line has been even worse, getting blown up at the line at too many occasions and absolutely stinking at pass protection.
The latest in this line has been Zach Maynard, who may be the most limited QB Tedford has ever had to work with. Maynard is a decent enough guy who can do things on the move, can scramble and rush for yards, can game-manage in a run-heavy attack, and possesses a pretty strong connection with his brother Keenan Allen. Force him to become the focal point though, and Cal's offense lapses into total ineptitude.
And this is what has happened on too many occasions this year, particularly in the last two losses to USC and Arizona State. The Bears would have a few bursts on offense, but the lack of a quarterback who can't throw a football accurately and have an offensive line who can block well enough without regularity turns what could be a decent offensive attack into an unwatchable derpfest.
And it goes back the other way. A defense that doesn't have to worry about defending certain plays or situations that are Tedford staples makes it easier to go after the quarterback with impunity because you're not afraid of being beaten with quick-hitters. A defense can play base in obvious passing situations while getting pressure with just their front four is so much more effective. And a defense that doesn't have to worry as much about the quarterback killing them with big plays or 3rd down conversions will ultimately look better than it is.
But ultimately the coaches have to put players in positions to succeed, and given Maynard's weaknesses at going back to throw and the O-line's inability to protect him for long, the results are underwhelming.
Unless there's a drastic change coming (whether with a QB change or a stronger base offense), it's hard not to see this season being the final nail in the coffin for Tedford. The offense has been underachieving and occasionally painful to watch for at least a few years. Interest in Cal football is reaching dangerously low levels. And the Bears do have plenty of talent on their roster that might end up getting wasted without some sort of offensive turnaround.
The team needs a new injection of something, and after a terribly listless loss, it's not clear if it can really come from the man who's defined Cal football for so long. Because right now it feels like one long hospital scene.