Kevin Miller writes to us and asks "If Dorrell is so bad, how come Tedford doesn’t have a winning record against him?"
Well, Kevin, it’s not like Tedford has a losing record against Karl Dorrell. He’s 2-2 against him, winning in 2004 and 2006, but falling in 2003 (in overtime) and 2005 (when UCLA had Maurice Jones-Drew and we had Joe Ayoob) at the Rose Bowl. Both UCLA wins were close, with UCLA needing a furious comeback in 2005 to pull off the victory, while each Cal win was a blowout. Tedford’s a lot closer to being 4-0 against Dorrell than he is to being 0-4.
More to the point of your question, however, the hallmarks of bad coaching are inconsistent, unprepared, and undisciplined teams. The players are the ones who are out on the field making plays, and it is the job of the coaching staff to put those players in the best possible position to succeed. To accurately assess a coaching staff, you have to look beyond wins and losses and ask, "Given the players on the field, does this team play up to its potential? When this team loses, is it to equally or more talented teams? Are they a few lucky bounces from winning games, or is it due to inconsistent offenses, inexplicable defensive breakdowns, and inexcusable penalties?"
Any coach can win a few games with enough talented players, and for a major college program in southern California, there’s an embarrassment of Division I talent readily available in the area. You could probably field a competitive WAC team out of nothing but alumni of Long Beach Poly High (DeSean Jackson used to go there, among many, many others). Often times, good coaches will still lose because the opposing team is simply more talented, but that shouldn’t happen too often to a school like UCLA. In fact, given the fertile recruiting ground that surrounds it, UCLA should often be able to win games not just because of skilled coaching, but even in spite of inept coaching.
So, while the wins and losses may be square between Dorrell and Tedford (and 4 games is hardly a large enough sample size to make any kind of judgement), Dorrell is often considered to be a poor coach because his teams, despite a wealth of talented athletes, often lose to lesser opponents, and in sometimes galling fashion. At times, they look completely unprepared or unmotivated. How does a team beat a powerful USC team to finish their season only to lose to a 6-6 Florida State squad in their bowl game? How does any team with the talent UCLA has lose to Notre Dame this year? They weren’t even competitive in falling at Utah, a team that was without both its starting quarterback and starting running back, and these are only the most recent losses, and are by no means an exhaustive list of disappointing performances.
To answer your question, Kevin, Dorrell winning games against good teams doesn’t prove that he’s a good coach; however, the losses to bad teams, in which his teams often appeared unprepared and uninterested, are pretty damning evidence to the contrary.