There seems to be a lot of talk about coaching decisions. I suppose there were some questionable calls, but hindsight is 20/20. Had some of those coaching calls actually worked, nobody would be criticizing them.
*4 running plays at the goalline. All four apparently failed to get a score. Should one of the plays been a playaction play? Sure. Maybe. But we were at their inches and 1 yard line. Our failure to score on the first three runs lands squarely on the shoulders of the offensiveline, tight ends, and fullback. Don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying Tedford isn’t void of criticism here. I’m just saying that the OL and the rest of the blockers could take some heat too, not just Tedford.
*The "squib kick" which set up Oregon State’s 52 yard field goal right before half time. Read this quote from Tedford: "The kickoff was supposed to go the back guys, but it didn’t get there," said Tedford. "Sometimes you don’t want to front guys to field them and you want them to get out of the way. It wasn’t supposed to go to him." So it WASN’T A BAD coaching decision by Tedford. The failure of the ball reaching the back guys falls on the kicker. (Quote can be found here from the BearInsider).
*Not keeping any time outs in reserve for a last second field goal. This is debatable. In the second half, our first time out was used to rest our defense when Oregon State was at our 1 yard line. I am torn between what to do here. The majority of me feels like it’s really hard to stop the offense from getting one yard so why use a timeout here on something so uncertain? The minority part of me agrees that resting the defense to make a goalline stand is the right decision. But the decision must be taken in context. At the time Cal was up 21-20 early in the fourth quarter. Protecting the lead, no matter how small is crucial. But then again, saving timeouts for a possible comeback is also crucial. I’m not sure if there is a right or wrong decision in this case. I can see good arguments on both sides. Fans may feel that Tedford shouldn’t have used the timeout here because we obviously needed one at the end of the game, but like I said before, hindsight is 20/20.
*The other two timeouts of the second half were used to stop the clock when Oregon State had their final possession. This was excellent coaching. Both timeouts NEEDED to be used. If we had only used one timeout, our offense would have only been left with 50-55 seconds or so to get down the field instead of 1:19 left.
*Not kicking a field goal at the end of the game when it was first down. Well, this was probably the right coaching decision - probably. We had fourteen seconds or so left. Tedford obviously wanted to get a touchdown if he could to just win the game. I think going for the win with one more plays before a field goal is the right decision (but I also understand that merely kicking the field goal to take it to overtime is justifiable too). As for what particular play Tedford called and if it was the right call for that situation, I don’t know. I’d have to see the replay (all I can tell you right now that it was a shotgun play with a left bunch). But the only person that is probably certified to make that judgment is Tedford himself.
*As for our defensive philosophy. Oh, this is a touchy subject. I can tell from the comments on blogs and from posts on BearInsider. I have been a protector of Gregory so far this year. I’m cool with his philosophy, in general. But I also do feel like there are times when changes must be made based on the opponent. I thought using the BBDB was an excellent decision when we played Tennessee and Oregon. Prior to this the game against Oregon State I was sure we’d see Gregory change to a more aggressive, attacking, and proactive defense to force Canfield into tough situations. This, we did not see. And honestly, this is where I am sort of disappointed in Gregory. As we all know, even mediocre QBs can complete passes with enough time to throw. I would have preferred to see Gregory blitz more but in Gregory’s forgiveness our defensive line (when we rushed four) also failed to produce consistent and impactful pressure on Canfield (I don’t think "impactful is a word but whatever). Obviously, Gregory seemed to be banking on the fact that Canfield would eventually make a mistake and throw an interception. This isn’t a bad assumption, but it sort of hinges on the fact that our defense be in position to receive the interception. And as we all know, zones break down as the play progresses, defenders get out of position, and receivers find the seams of the zone defense. BBDB can be a great defense IF the front four gets better pressure on the QB. Otherwise the BBDB turns into the QB playing catch with the receivers between and underneath the zones.
*So who deserves the criticism for the defense? Well, I think Gregory isn’t undeserving but player performance is too. Let me explain. The quick solution for getting pressure on the QB is blitzing. This is also the quick answer and solution for every Cal fan who dislikes Gregory. But please realize, blitzing is high-risk and high-reward. Sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn’t. If the QB gets the pass off, there are much fewer defenders in the secondary to make tackles, or swat balls. We all remember Sportscenter highlights where the QB gets sacked off a blitz. And we also remember Sportscenter highlights where the QB makes a brilliant tough touchdown throw. But what often gets overlooked is that the QB made that brilliant tough touchdown throw against a blitz. And that there weren’t any linebackers in the second level to help tackle. Or how maybe the safety blitzed and thus the corner was on an island. There are tradeoffs for blitzing. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t. It is HARDLY the easy solve-all solution for our problems.
*Defensive front four pressure. Ideally, the BBDB works best when the front three or four gets good pressure on the QB without the aid of a blitz. This forces the QB to throw against 7-8 men in coverage. Without good pressure on the QB, well, you know what happens. So maybe Gregory should have blitzed but then again a good argument can be made that he’s just relying on the DL to get good pressure. While I’m sure the DL was playing tough and a very physical game, I’m sure they’d all agree that they weren’t as successful against the Oregon State OL as they would have liked.
Anyways, the point of this post is to just try and bring some reason and rational to the discussions of coach criticism. I’m seeing way too much blind bashing without reason to justify. I’m not saying coaches are above criticism, but that there needs to be justification and reason behind the criticism. There needs to be thorough examination of the thoughts and reasoning behind the coaching decisions before one blindly rails a coach for something which didn’t go right. And remember, for the most part this is all relative. Had we won, there would be A LOT less criticism about our defense (I’m not saying there would be none, just that there would be a lot less). And finally, hindsight is 20/20. Just because something worked doesn’t make it right. Just because something didn’t work doesn’t make it wrong either.