A sense of inevitability is surrounding the Cal coaching staff following the 21-13 loss to Washington Friday night.
Jeff Tedford remains publicly in denial, but the head coach has lost virtually all his support in the Cal community, and athletic director Sandy Barbour will probably be risking her own job if she retains the embattled coach.
“The state of the program is fine,” Tedford said after Friday night's defeat. “We had a bad year. We need to do some things better, continue to recruit. We have a very good group of guys here. I'm very committed to this program and making sure we get back to where we need to be.”
Brave words, but the dissatisfaction is obvious in the stands and on the internet. If he comes back, a lot of season ticket holders might not and Cal cannot afford that. The stadium was only two-thirds full on Friday night, including rows of empty seats in the student section. The unusual Friday night game time undoubtedly held down the crowd, but so did the team's record, which is now 3-7 and 23-25 since the beginning of the 2009 season. Cal coaches have survived stretches worse than that, but Tedford raised expectations in his early years and things are definitely heading in the wrong direction, with immediate reversal a long shot..
With wide receiver Keenan Allen probably done for the year and his brother Zach Maynard doubtful, a fast finish for this season is unlikely. Two more defeats is more like it.
Speculation has already begun on a successor. One must be very careful here. In today's world, bad information spreads with the speed of a mouse click, and sorting out what is accurate is tricky. On the internet, wishful thinking (“I wish they would hire…”) can morph into rumor (“I hear they are talking to…”) and eventually into accepted fact (“I know they will hire..”) without attribution, accountability or credence. That said, we will play the game, but accept these at your own risk.
Three names have surfaced as possible candidates, all are intriguing but have their drawbacks.
Jon Gruden. The former Raiders and Tampa Bay head coach is a proven winner who defied Al Davis, became Oakland's most successful coach in two decades, then beat his former team in the Super Bowl. His record and enthusiasm would give the program instant national attention. But he is obviously enjoying his work as a television commentator and whether he would leave the comfort of the booth for the headaches of the Memorial Stadium sideline is a question.
Herman Edwards. Another former NFL head coach turned TV commentator certainly would have a Berkeley connection. He played at Cal in the 1970s before transferring to San Diego State. He played ten years in the NFL, and certainly would get the players' attention. He hasn't been involved in college football since he was an assistant at San Jose State more than three decades ago.
Tyrone Willingham. He led Stanford to the Rose Bowl, deserted the Farm for Notre Dame and finally fizzled at Washington. He knows the Bay Area landscape and is man of high integrity. But even when he took the Washington job he insisted it was his last as a coach, and he is enjoying his life on the golf course.
As the season winds down, look for more names to come up. Talk about them all you want, but don't make any bets you can't afford to lose.