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October 1, 2012

COLUMN: For Tedford, it may be time to look in the mirror



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It wasn't long ago that California was considered one of top talent-laden programs in the nation. When the Bears didn't get the job done, the problem was considered to be a quarterback like the injured Nate Longshore, or then-defensive coordinator Bob Gregory's bend-but-don't-break schemes.

Some may have blamed critical losses to not having enough talent.

Since the debacle of 2007, when the Bears were one play away from being ranked No. 1 in the country, a growing debate has emerged in which Bear Backers have fallen on the pro or con side of the blame residing on the shoulders of Cal's all-time winningest head coach, Jeff Tedford.

[VIDEO: Shell Shocked ]

This season, the clamoring for a change at the head coaching position is at an all-time high.

At 1-4 this season, with the Bears' only win coming against FCS Southern Utah at home, there is plenty of blame to go around. From Zach Maynard's decision-making at times, to Clancy Pendergast's defense, to talent questions coming up along the way, nobody associated with the product on the field can safely say they haven't contributed to the horrendous start this season.

But the man who has been showered with nearly all of the praise for raising the program from the ashes of the Tom Holmoe era should also be the one blamed for the mediocrity that he has brought back to Berkeley on the football field.

Mainly, because that's his job -- one he gets paid handsomely to do.

"We just physically got beat up front," said Tedford of the 27-17 loss to Arizona State. While this statement is true of Saturday, it is still an understatement of the offensive line performance.

There are 17 players listed as offensive linemen on the Cal roster. 17 players for five spots.

The positions those linemen block for -- fullback, tailback and quarterback - take up 20 spots on the roster (eight tailbacks, seven quarterbacks, and five fullbacks)

That's five fullbacks for an offense, which uses a single-back formation at least 80 percent of the time, and that back is usually a tailback.

Since 2009 -- that's four signing days -- the Golden Bears have signed 13 offensive linemen to scholarships -- 11 of which are still with the team. That may be why they "got beat up front" on offense, but this has been going on for several years now.

[RECAP: Bears Fall to Sun Devils For First Time Since 1997]

The turnover of assistant coaches has had a negative impact on the development of the offense, offensive line, and especially the quarterbacks.

From Frank Cignetti Jr. to Andy Ludwig, and now Jim Michalczik, the offense has continually declined from one of the most dynamic and exciting groups in college football to the embarrassing team that laid an egg against the Sun Devils on their own turf.

"Yes of course, we have the talent," said starting tailback Isi Sofele. "We're just not putting it together -- all three phases together."

While the players say they believe they have the talent to compete with the top teams in college football, it's impossible to tell if they truly have the confidence to do so. Cal's performances at Ohio State and at USC for three quarters, point to that being true -- just don't expect there to be any consistency.

Consistency can only come when teams have consistency in coaching. The Bears change assistant coaches as much as Al Davis did with the Raiders.

After being thrown under the bus in 2010 for the 'flop' of defensive linemen -- notably, Aaron Tipoti -- against Oregon, defensive line coach and top recruiter Tosh Lupoi moved on to greener pastures with Washington. Colleague Eric Kiesau -- the former passing game coordinator and wide receiver's coach -- also took an offer with the Huskies to run their offense.

[RELATED: Bears Lose Lupoi to Huskies]

They weren't the first coaches to leave Berkeley to coach for Washington. Michalczik left after the 2008 season to join Washington -- but left after just a few weeks to coach with the Raiders instead.

Famously known to be tough on his staff, the revolving door of assistant coaches gives evidence that Tedford is perhaps not a pleasant -- or easy -- man to work for.

And that was when the Bears were still winning.

The losing appears to be having an impact on the legendary coach. During Saturday's post-game press conference, Tedford appeared to be a little beaten by the turn of events -- even while insisting to reporters that, "we will not quit."

Yet, Tedford is not ready to look inward to reassess the state of his methods and his team. "What do you want me to reassess?" Tedford asked, incredulously. "What do you want me to reassess and hope for?"

[VIDEO: Maynard Under Fire ]

For starters, Tedford could investigate why his team was called for 12 penalties that cost Cal 119 yards, compared to the Sun Devils' lone penalty for 15 yards. For the season, Cal has committed 42 penalties for 374 yards.

If the penalties don't intrigue him, Tedford could then take a look at the eight sacks his quarterback suffered or the nearly 36 minutes his defense allowed the opposition to hold onto the ball. Trying to figure out why they called the plays that they called on Saturday would probably require 'reassessment.' And so may the starting quarterback.

"I don't know about reassessing," Tedford said of Maynard, who has fallen off from his virtuoso performance against the Buckeyes -- a performance that, while superlative, came in a loss. "I don't know what that means."

Reevaluate. After going 1-4 to begin the season, everything should be reevaluated. Even Jeff Tedford.



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