I don’t really want to talk too much about the collapse yet–it’s too soon. Breaking it all down right now will force me into alcoholism. Let me dwell on it after our bowl game. But there are a few things I want to touch on, some of them involving the status of our head coach.
I’ve heard more than a few disturbing reports that players quit early on this season, starting soon after the Oregon State debacle (probably somewhere between UCLA and ASU). The reasoning was not made clear, but you’re probably guessing it might have something to do with a bleached up #9 taking snaps and looking gimpier as the game played on. The residual lack of confidence has somehow had a collective effect on the whole team’s psyche–add that into the catastrophic fall from the top and they apparently decided it was best to pull the plug. But Dank Down indicates that the problems run deeper, in fact crossing the line to outright insubordination of Tedford himself. (I have a few guesses about who the players might be, but I’ll keep them to myself. You’re free to speculate in the comments.)
I have heard the same type of information from different sources that I trust– people that have no contact with each other — that there are talks of a dysfunctional locker room. No surprise here. It is obvious that some of the team has quit on Tedford this season. But it seems to be much worse then what any fan could have imagined. There are rumors of selfish players leaving practice when they feel like it, not suiting up for team walk-through like the rest of the team, and even not showing up for practice — basically insubordination. Reading quotes from players only reinforce this thought. Brandon Hampton talks of it as well as Mike Gibson in CC Times Cal beat writer Okanes’ blog article. From what I’ve heard, this parasitic attitude has rubbed off on other players as weeks passed and losses accumulated to the point where Tedford had to set an example to the team.
So how come Tedford just doesn’t kick off the player if this is true? We’ll it could be more complicated then that. Recruiting is a factor. A coach should never throw a player under the bus. If something goes wrong, to the fans and media, the coach takes the blame as in any leadership role. As hard as it may be to get recruits to talk to our coaches after this season, it would only be harder if a high profile player was abandoned. The coach’s character would be tainted and that could be used against him in negative recruiting tactics by other coaches. Ultimately, Tedford’s responsibility is to prepare the kids for their future, be that in the NFL or in life in general, which is paramount to any of his personal statistics, despite what fans may think. So if a player is a high profile player, for example the face of Cal football and national figure, Tedford can’t just kick him off. He must find a way to bench the player for the season without hurting his future prospect for the NFL — without labeling him a cancer.
From what I’ve heard there is more then one player. The severity of individual player’s derelictions is unknown but I assume all will eventually surface, especially if these rumors are true.
For the record, I don’t put the blame solely on Tedford. If the players are frustrated with the way things are going, you don’t fucking quit. This isn’t the time for The Dip. Do you just figure that if #1 and the Rose Bowl are out of our hands, it’s ok to tank? This isn’t the NBA. There are no rewards for going into the cellar. If you have no interest in playing for this team, go. Give the freshmen and the redshirts a chance to prove themselves. Your half-hearted efforts disgust us all.
Quitting is a disservice to the fans who come out to see your games, to the recruiters and athletic officials who found you paid your scholarships to come here, to your families who raised you and taught you to give it your all, and most importantly, to your teammates who still give it their all (Follett, Hawkins, Jordan, Forsett come to mind most prominently).
So I sincerely hope it’s not true. If it is, we spent 2007 rooting for a bunch of babies.
(Wow. I just channeled Jay Mariotti. Another thing I have to thank the Golden Bears for doing. I want to vomit.)
On the flip side, coaches have to be sensitive to team chemistry and the locker room mood. For Tedford to blame Longshore’s troubles on “pass rush” is at best misleading, and at worst a blind spot. I’ve already given a theory as to why Tedford sticks with Nate after the disgusting USC defeat, and I haven’t been dissuaded from it. There is way too much loyalty that hasn’t really been earned. Plus the nuzzle placed on Cal players in terms of media access has to be constricting. Put a few bad apples in the locker room and the desire to disobey authority can be compelling.
There’s nothing worse than an indecisive leader in your huddle in football. It’s destroyed many a football team in college and the pros–both Alabama and South Carolina can also attest with their hideous ends to terrible quarterback play. I think Longshore has tried to do what he can with a divided huddle behind him, but Coach has stood by him when the team appears to have given up on him. It’s a stubborn streak that cost the Bears in 2005 with Ayoob, and it has come back to haunt him in 2007.
But the product of the last few weeks does nothing to dispute the allegations of quitting. Porous run defense, inability to cover the simplest of receivers, the absence of pass rush, the erosion of the offensive line’s blocking–all of these point to a lack of trust and confidence in each other. While some of those internal mechanisms of quitting clearly couldn’t be controlled, the recalcitrance of our coaching staff to adapt to these failings dealt the final death blows to this 2007 season. And we still have another game to play. Whoopee!
What the future of these men in headsets will be remains to be seen.
Do you think the players quit?
EDIT: I missed Oski Talk’s great take on the whole issue.
Later this week: The future of Tedford.
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