Saturday, November 14, 2015



  Remember how awkward it was when your Dad sat you down for that talk on “The facts of life.”  It was both embarrassing and disgusting.  Certainly something other people did, but NOT your Mom and Dad.
            Then remember how your wife told you it was time you set your own kids straight—only to discover they knew more than you did.  That was the embarrassing part.
            Well, it’s time Bear fans manned up (I love sexist expressions) and had a discussion about the “Facts of Bear life” regarding our Gridiron program.
            As Bear fans we are a lot like Rachel Dozelzal and Elizabeth Warren—two white chicks—one who identifies as Black--one who identifies as Indian.  We may not be an elite program, but we identify as something we are not.  The only difference is that those gals are what they are—despite their protestations to the contrary—whereas we can be what we want to be—it’s simply a matter of commitment—(see Stanford State Indians).  It wasn’t so long ago they were the dregs of the Pac 12.  If they can recruit kids who will graduate AND make them compete for the Rose Bowl, so can we.  But I digress.
            We should “have that discussion” now before the Oregon State game, for no matter what the result will be tonight, it is certain to cloud our thinking.
            (Until and unless we can convince the Pac 12 to institute the Hillary/Bernie Sanders scoring system we are doomed:  If one team suffers from scoring inequality—the wealth is spread so for each TD scored by the successful team, 90% of the points will be given to the team that’s behind—just to “level the playing field.”)  Were that the case today, our record would be 8-1 not 5-4 (the only loss being to Grambling State).
            If we slaughter the Beavers the way the money guys say we will (favored by 21 points, no less) we’re apt to have one opinion of where our program is. 
            Should they upset us, we are apt to have quite a different opinion.
            Regardless, one game shouldn’t matter. 
            What should matter is “Where is the program today?  Where is it going? Are we on the right track?  Are we on the wrong track?  And what, if anything can we as a community do about it?
            Clearly athletic director, Mike Williams, is wrestling with these problems as we speak.  Should he extend Sonny’s contract?  Should he give him a raise (at $2,000,000 per, he’s the 55th highest paid coach—right smack dab in the middle of all Division I coaches).  Should Williams “go in another direction?” Should he just stay the course and let Sonny dangle for the next two years of his contract?  Will Sonny take another job offer?
            These are not easy questions.  And there is no easy answer.
           And, at Cal we are often too quick to eat our young.  Sonny should be given a chance unless close (long term) analysis proves otherwise.
            On the plus side it looks like Sonny is running a clean program. 
            This is no small feat. 
            Despite one glitch in the APR scores (that’s the yearly indication of where we are headed academically), over the past the three years, academics seem to be improving, though at a glacial pace. We are still last in the Pac 12 in GPR. (Deniers won’t admit that this because of the bffoonery of Sandy Barbour and how she lost control of the academic side of the equation during the latter Tedford years.  We had the APR indictors way back when that we were headed for the academic toilet, and no one paid any attention.  Her focus was elsewhere and the current coaching staff is paying for that).
            Mike Williams says our current GPA is 2.78—probably higher than many of the recipients of this screed.  That is exciting.
            The offense, too, is exciting.  Goff is a superstar, though his recent decent to earth a la Icarus,  isn’t due to hubris, but probably due to nagging injuries and a line that though valiant, is just not as big, nor as physical as most other Pac 12 D lines.
            The Bear Raid is exciting.  The games are entertaining.  The Bears are fun to watch—at least half of the time.
            We are one win away from being Bowl eligible.  On the surface, that should count as a huge success—from being 1 and 11 three years ago.
            What is a proper measure of success for the program?  7 & 6?  6 & 7?  5 & 8? 8 & 5?
            So far we have had only 3 good wins in three years (This year’s victories over the Huskies, Cougars, and Texas Longhorns).
            At the beginning of the season, A tall good lookin’ guy wrote:  “(don’t) judge the season on wins and losses…… judge it on defense, tackling and hitting.  If we hit--if we tackle (two items which have been missing the past two years)--then regardless of our record I will jump on the band wagon and say we are on the right road.”
         I think I still stand by that statement. 
         Which makes this discussion difficult. 
         Especially after last week’s boondoggle in Auzene Stadium.  777 yards.  Really?  17 Duck rushes for over 10 yards each?  Is that Pac 12 football?  Receivers dropping 4 and 5 passes per game—at this level?
         D backs grasping for air instead of lowering a shoulder and applying some leather?  (Am I dating myself?).
         As wonderful as the offense is, the D, though improved, is still sorely lacking.
         ‘Tis a puzzlement.
         If one can get kids to move the ball against Pac 12 defenses, how come one can’t stop Pac 12 offenses—or Portland State’s for that matter?  Is it a lack of focus in practice?  Bad schemes?  Lack of athletes? Poor recruiting?
         We played Utah close and except for some dropped passes could have won.  We got blown out by UCLA and did about as much as could be expected against a much larger and faster SC.
         Oregon’s speed made it look like we were playing on the muddy side of the field.
         Formerly being known as the world’s slowest human I know what it is like to run a 10.2—forty yard dash.   One can’t coach speed.  You have to recruit it.  And can it be done with our new stiffer admittance standards?  Maybe not.
            However, the Indians seem to be able to do it.  What I don’t get is why we don’t just try to take every kid Stanford State turns down?  They can only handle 25 a year and they must recruit a couple of hundred who they think will qualify.   Like me in college when it came to girls, can’t we be satisfied with another’s rejects?
            What worries one, some, is that in his last job at Louisiana Tech, Sonny led the country in total offense, but was also last in total defense.  These past two years we’ve been last in total defense in the country—despite spending 500 thou on a defensive co-ordindator who was fired after one year.  This is statistically impossible. 
            To end up last in total defense at two different schools has probably never been done in the history of College football.  
            Also scary is the future of recruiting.  Due to the Bear Raid offense, we will attract the top QB’s and receivers in the country.  That is exciting.  But will running backs come to a "pass first" school?  We were told that Former Sophomore Cal Captain, 6’8” 316 pound, Freddie Tagaloa, transferred from Cal to Arizona because his “posse” warned him that Cal’s “Vertical Set” blocking technique (Google it) wouldn’t train him for the NFL. 
            I cannot verify that this is true (though I checked out Snopes), but it is true that the “Vertical Set” technique is different from what they use in the NFL. 
            If that is accurate, it does not bode well for recruiting elite lineman in the future.  All kids think they are going to play in the NFL.
            Also, after the past four games one has to ask herself, “Has the world finally figured out the Bear Raid offense?”
            (Note that WSU, coached by Mike Leach, Sonny’s mentor, and Cal are both less productive this year than last).
            Still, they are both pretty amazing, offensively—and extremely exciting.
            So what are we to do?  Sonny Dykes is a charming, wonderful man who has infused enthusiasm into a moribund program.  He treats us alumni well and his kids are attuned to the importance of accademics.  He’s got them focusing on the classroom.  In many respects he’s been a miracle worker.
            If the AD decides to continue on this track we should support him 100%.
            But someone still has to ask, “How can one man coach two teams over three years and come in dead last in the NCAA in defense—three years in a row?  And is our defensive improvement this year, enough to mitigate against that record? UCLA, SC and Oregon are not positive signs.
            Unless and until we actually adapt the Clinton/Sanders scoring method, it appears that there will be much “Point spread inequality” in the future.  Is this our destiny?  Or simply a Bear fact of life we have to learn to live with?
           That's why when you come to that fork in the road, you should take it.


1 comment:

JC Smith said...

Nice commentary, Jeff--very insightful as a former player and big fan that you are.
Methinks the most important part of this equation to success includes more than the offense blocking methods or the lack of a defense that you aptly mentioned, but the biggest factor is the lack of leadership.
You can recruit great players and have a top flight scheme, but without leadership the team is dead in the water. Urban Myer illustrates this perfectly--where ever he coaches, he turns mediocre teams into winners.
When we played at Cal, I recall that 90% of the football players got fed up with Ray Wilsey and his band of ex-Vietnam coaches who were bitter, mean-spirited men who ran off the smart and good players who then mostly went and played rugby instead, which no doubt set the foundation for that great program.
Until Dykes and his coaches understand the role of leadership is more than yelling at players, they will continue to flounder and lose more games and players.
Kissinger once said that "leadership is getting people from where they are to where they need to be." Perhaps someone needs to help Sonny Dykes to do just that.
Keep writing, Jeff!