In a previous post, I suggested that JT continued to start Nate Longshore over Kevin Riley because Tedford felt that a hobbled Longshore gave Cal a better chance at winning than a healthy Riley. I also concluded that because Tedford started an injured Longshore, that Tedford must have felt that Riley isn’t ready.
After doing some thinking, I think I’ll have to redact that last statement (that Riley isn’t ready).
You see, I think there are really two conclusions for as to why Tedford continued to start an injured Longshore over a healthy Riley. Either (a) an injured Longshore gives Cal a much better chance at winning games because Longshore is just that much better even while injured and despite Kevin Riley being ready, or (b) an injured Longshore gives Cal a much better chance at winning games because Longshore is just that much better even while injured and Kevin Riley isn’t ready.
Maybe a brief illustration by numbers will make things clearer. I’ll use a rating system from 1-10, 1 being piss poor, and 10 being god-like, to rate the QBs for the mere illustration of the concepts to the above answers. Keep in mind, I’m just using this rating system to illustrate my answers and these rating systems aren’t representative of my opinion on the quarterbacks. Oh, and let’s also assume that a QB rating of 6+ is considered game-ready. So 6 through 10 is game ready and 1 through 5 is not game ready.
Alright, so answer (a) suggests that JT started Longshore, even while injured, because Longshore still gives Cal a better chance at winning than Riley despite Riley being game-ready. So this answer suggests that on any given day Longshore is an good QB, let’s say 8 out of 10. While he’s injured let’s just say he’s 7 out of 10, meaning not as good as when he’s healthy but still game-ready and competent. Kevin Riley on the other hand is 6 out of 10, meaning game-ready but less capable due to his inexperience. So if this answer scenario was what JT was thinking, then Longshore still starts despite the injury and despite Riley being game-ready because Longshore while injured still gives Cal a better chance at winning.
On the other hand, answer (b) suggests that Longshore started while injured because Longshore gives Cal a better chance at winning than Riley because Riley isn’t ready. Using the same number rating system to illustrate this example we’ll say that Longshore is again an 8 while healthy. But while injured, let’s just say he’s like a 4, meaning no longer game-ready. Finally, Kevin Riley is a 3, meaning really not game-ready. So if this answer scenario was what JT was thinking, then Longshore starts despite his injury because Riley is even worse even though Riley is healthy.
Also answer (b) sort of encompasses the possibility that Longshore starts with the injury because he is still very game-ready and competent and Riley isn’t ready. So using the numbers again, Longshore would be like 8 while heathy, a 7 while injured, and Riley would be like a 3. Either way, Longshore still starts because Riley is the not as good as Longshore.
Does that really overly long illustration by numbers make sense? I feel like I might have gotten my point across just with the wording of my original statement but I’m a numbers guy and so I thought I’d just throw out that example with numbers.
Anyways, my previous post was more along the lines of answer scenario (b). Meaning that Longshore started despite the injury because he gives us a better chance to win and Riley isn’t ready. But how did I know the true answer scenario wasn’t (a)? Meaning that Longshore started despite the injury because he still gives us a better chance to win despite Riley being ready?
Well, I didn’t. So I guess for all fairness to Riley and to maintain the accuracy of my statements I must say that it could be either answer scenario (a) or (b). Meaning Tedford started Longshore despite his injury because an injured Longshore gives Cal a better chance to win - period. That’s it. Maybe Riley is ready, maybe he isn’t. But my previous post definitely concluded something which I didn’t know: whether Riley is ready or not.
So that got me thinking. Is Riley ready? Is there any way I can answer that question?
Well, yeah. By watching the OSU game again! So I did just that. Because the OSU game was a home game, I was at the game and didn’t write down all those notes that I usually do for away games while I watch them on TV. So while re-watching the OSU game, I took down all those notes. The usual down/distance, personnel package, formation, plays, etc. My hopes were to try and gain an understanding of whether Riley was ready or not.
I suppose the fact that Riley started the OSU game seems to suggest the he is ready. But that could be because Longshore was really hurt that week. So, again using my numbering system, Longshore was a 2 that week, and maybe Riley was a 3. Meaning that both weren’t game ready, but Riley was moreso than Longshore.
So it seemed to me that the only way to really tell if Riley started was because Riley was game-ready (so like a 6 rating or higher, while Longshore was a 3) or if Riley started despite not being ready but Longshore was even worse off (so Riley was a 3 and Longshore was like a 2), was to watch the game. So yeah, I watched the game again looking for anything to suggest that Tedford felt Riley was or wasn’t ready.
What did that mean I was looking for? Well if Riley wasn’t ready then I suspected that Tedford would baby him. Meaning calling more run plays than normal, and only passing when absolutely necessary. And if a pass play was called, it would be a very basic pass play. On the other hand, if Riley was ready then I suspected that Tedford wouldn’t baby him and we’d see the regular offense we’ve seen all season.
Now normally I would jump into the plays and what they suggested as to JT’s opinion of Riley. But actually, the answer to my question was answered during the telecast when the announcers relayed information from a Tedford interview. They said that Tedford said he was not going to change the gameplan for Riley.
That right there is pretty much the answer to the question of whether Riley is ready. That answer given by Tedford means that Tedford thinks that Riley is ready. If Riley is ready, then he should be capable of running the normal offense. If on the other hand, Riley wasn’t ready, then Tedford would change the playcalls to protect Riley.
Well, despite knowing my answer, I still looked at the game and playcalls. I specifically just focused on the first 3 quarters because that’s when the game was still close and I assume that JT was calling normal plays (as opposed to desperation pass plays when we needed multiple scores to win).
So let’s go through the playcalls (below are my much shortened version of my notes which don’t include formational information. The first part is field position, the second part is down and distance, the third part is personnel package, and the fourth set is a much abridged description of the plays):
C24 1st 10 12 under - run right
O31 1st 10 21 gun - pass - sack
2nd 11 11 gun - zone read
3rd 10 11 gun - pass
1st Drive thoughts:
*1st play, the first play of the game is a run. It’s 1st and 10, so it can be run or pass. The fact that JT called a run doesn’t necessarily mean that JT was babying Riley.
*2nd play, the second play is a pass on 1st and 10. Again, it’s first and 10 so it can be a run or pass. But the fact that the play is pass suggests that JT has confidence in Riley. Afterall, if JT didn’t have faith in Riley and was babying Riley, then it would be more natural to assume that JT would have called a run.
*3rd play, the third play is a zone read from shotgun. This play -while it is a run- is not your typical run play. Unlike regular run plays where the QB just hands off the ball, on these zone read plays the QB is required to read the defensive end and choose to either keep the ball or hand it off. Again, the fact that JT called a zone read play as opposed to a run out of, say, the I-formation for example, shows JT’s confidence in Riley to not only perform a zone read but to run with the ball if Riley had chosen to keep the ball.
*4th play, the fourth play of the first drive is a pass play. After this play, Riley was showered with boos. This is because Riley threw the ball to the corner of the endzone… and there wasn’t a receiver within 15 yards. But, this was because the defender prevented Hawk from running his corner route to the corner of the endzone. So while the result of the play looked to be Riley’s fault, it wasn’t. While this pass play was a pass play, and more dangerous than a run play, because it took place on 3rd down in a situation where Cal pretty much needed to pass, you can’t say that because it was a pass play that JT wasn’t babying Riley. RECAP: So, while JT does stress a balanced run/pass attack in his offense, if JT was babying Riley then JT would probably call more runs than passes. But in this drive we say JT call a pass play for Riley on a 1st down suggest that JT was willing to let Riley pass, thus bringing to mind the inference that JT has faith in Riley and Riley is ready. Also, the zone-read playcall suggests that JT is confident in Riley’s ability to read and perform the tricky zone read. So… so far, it looks like JT is calling plays like normal and calling plays which do not baby Riley.
C14 1st 10 21 gun - draw
2nd 8 11 gun - zone read
3rd 8 11 gun - pass
2nd drive thoughts: 1st and 10 draw, eh, could have been a run or pass. The fact that it’s a run doesn’t seem to suggest that JT feels or doesn’t feel that Riley isn’t ready. The 2nd and 8 zone read, well, this doesn’t really suggest much either. 2nd and 8 is probably more of a passing down than a rushing down, but you can still run and it’s not a sin. This play occurred out of shotgun and a passing formation. So it looks as if JT was trying to trick the defense into thinking pass then throwing a run at them. Typically in a 2nd and 8 situation you either want to pass, or show pass formation but run. JT chose the latter, which is more conservative, but inconclusive as to whether he was babying Riley because running out of a passing formation is just as acceptable as passing. Now, the 3rd and 8 pass, well, that’s an obvious passing down so the fact that JT called a pass play for Riley doesn’t really indicate whether JT feels Riley is ready or not. RECAP: nothing really from this drive suggests whether JT thinks Riley is ready or not.
C32 1st 10 12 under - play action bootleg pass
2nd 12 11 under - run
3rd 8 11 gun - pass
3rd drive thoughts:
*1st play: 1st and 10, and JT calls a pass. Normally this would suggest that JT is suggesting that he has faith in Riley and Riley is ready. Afterall, JT did call a pass play -which is more dangerous than a rushing play- on a down when JT could have done either. But the type of pass play called (a playaction bootleg pass) is one where the QB benefits from playaction and essentially just dumps off the ball on the short route without much reading of the defense. So, while it seems like JT is willing to pass with Riley, then again, this play wasn’t one where Riley had to take a straight dropback and read the defense. But, JT does call these playaction bootleg pass plays for Longshore too. So they are a part of the normal offense. Thus, the fact that he called one is NOT indicative of him babying Riley.
*2nd play, the 2nd and 12 run sort of suggests that JT doesn’t want Riley to pass. 2nd and 12 is (more or less) a passing down but JT didn’t call a pass. Does this suggest that JT is afraid to have Riley pass? Sort of, but JT did run out of a passing formation. Again, just like in the previous drive, JT is showing a pass formation on 2nd and 12, but then rushing which is perfectly acceptable and not really indicative of JT babying Riley.
*3rd play, the 3rd and 11 down is a pass. Because this is a passing down, the fact that JT called a pass isn’t conclusive as to whether JT is babying Riley or not. RECAP: nothing from this drive to really suggest that JT doesn’t think Riley is ready.
I’m gonna skip the fourth drive. It’s one play, because Forsett fumbled. It was a run on 1st and 10. Again, rushing on first and 10 isn’t really indicative of JT’s opinion of Riley.
C23 1st 10 12 under - playaction boot pass
2nd 4 20 gun - zone read
C35 1st 10 12 gun - WR bubble screen (option play)
2nd 3 21 under - run
3rd 2 22 under - max protect pass
O22 1st 10 21 under - run
O10 1st 10 12 under - PA pass
5th Drive thoughts:
*1st play is another playaction bootleg pass. Again, this can be interpreted as JT babying Riley but then again these are regular plays that get called when Longshore is the QB. So it’s hard to say really if JT is just sticking with the gameplan or making things simpler for Riley.
*2nd play is a zone read. Nothing special here. It could have been a run or pass being 2nd and 4. The fact that JT chose to run doesn’t really say much.
*3rd play is an option play (QB can either hand the ball off or pass). In this play Riley passed. As with the zone read plays, this playcall requires the QB to read the defensive end. As stated earlier, these types of plays seem to suggest that JT has faith in Riley to be decisive.
*4th play is a run on 2nd and short. Obviously you can run or throw on a 2nd and short. A lot of fans will suggest that you pass on 2nd and short but it isn’t mandatory. The fact that JT called a run doesn’t really suggest anything as to whether Riley is a capable starter or not because JT runs about 90% of the time on 2nd and short.
*5th play is a deep pass on 3rd and short. Now I think this play does reflect JT’s opinion of Riley. Rushing the ball -even when the D knows you’re probably going to run- is much safer than a deep pass down the sidelines (to Hawk). Even when the QB puts the ball on the money, it’s still a tough pass if the DB coverage is decent. Nevertheless, JT called a play requiring Riley to heave a deep one down the field requiring substantial deep ball accuracy to place the ball in a catchable and non-interceptable position. Obviously, I doubt JT would have called this play if he didn’t think Riley wouldn’t be able to make the tough throw.
*6th play is a run on 1st and 10 - nothing really to be inferred here.
*7th play is a playaction pass approximately 10 yards out from paydirt. Calling this kind of play definitely shows JT’s faith in Riley’s abilities. While the QB sort of gets the protection and deception from the playaction, he is still required to throw against LBs facing the LOS (and thus the QB), as well as against a very short field meaning there is less room for error. Riley executed this play perfectly, made an excellent throw and connected on his first career TD to Hawk.
*Recap: two plays really stand out to me on this drive, the deep sideline pass to Hawk, and the touchdown pass to Hawk. These two plays really suggest to me that Tedford believes that Riley can make the throws. Obviously, the deep sideline pass is always a toughie. And the touchdown pass was actually fairly high risk. Riley was required to make a throw against linebackers spying him, throw into the windows (gaps between defenders), and over the middle (as opposed to a playaction bootleg dump pass).
I suppose I could go on with the rest of the game but I won’t. We only really need to look at the first few drives to see whether JT changed the gameplan for Riley or not. Like many coaches, Tedford scripts the first 15 plays or so. How do I know this? Well, I just straight up asked him one day. Now, like most coaches, he does come off the script on 3rd downs, so we only really need to look at the first 15 non-3rd down plays. What was covered above was 18 plays, of which 4 were 3rd downs. So we covered enough plays to get an idea of JT’s OSU script.
In my opinion, this script, along with the 3rd down playcalling seems very normal. JT called 8 pass plays, 9 run plays, and one run/pass option play. If JT were babying Riley, or didn’t think Riley was ready to play, we would probably expect to see fairly run-heavy playcalling but we didn’t. Even if you take out the three 3rd downs where Cal had to pass (and ignore the run/pass option play), we passed 5 times and ran 9 times (35.7% pass; 64.3% run). This percentage seems a little run heavy, but a 60/40 run/pass ratio is perfectly normal for JT. If you count the run/pass option play as a pass, then JT’s run/pass playcalling was exactly 60/40 (6 passes, 9 runs). If you just looked at the raw run/pass ratio for the drives above, then JT’s playcalling was practically 50/50.
What does this all mean? In short, I believe it means that Tedford’s playcalling did not change to accommodate Riley. Meaning that Tedford believes Riley is a capable starter ready for playing time. Riley is ready! Using that funky numbering system I concocted, Riley would be a 6 or higher meaning capable of starting. That would also knock out conclusion (b) as a possibility for why Longshore started over Riley. Remember, conclusion (b) suggested that Longshore started despite NOT being game-ready only because Riley wasn’t game-ready and was a worse option than Longshore despite the Longshore’s injury. Since I think JT’s playcalling for the OSU game suggests Riley is in fact game-ready, then conclusion (b) gets the axe.
This of course leaves conclusion (a) which suggests that JT started Longshore, even while injured, because Longshore still gave Cal a better chance at winning than Riley despite Riley being game-ready. I suppose this will still have some Cal fans scratching their heads. An injured Longshore is still the better option than a healthy Riley despite Riley being game-ready? Yup. I know a lot of Cal fans might disagree, but then again, we’re just fans and Tedford is God. God has also put a bunch of QBs in the NFL and knows more about his QBs than we do. Certainly God can make mistakes. Afterall, he made women, then cars, then let women drive cars… JUST KIDDING… okay, certainly Tedford can make mistakes, but I think this is one area of expertise where if the man says Longshore gives Cal a better chance to win than Riley then we just gotta accept it as fact.
Anyways, I hope this post made some sense. I worked on it over a couple of nights in the wee hours of the morning when I’m sleepy. In case you missed my point or I didn’t make it clear enough, I’ll recap: Longshore with bum ankle > healthy Riley. And Riley is ready, There. If you actually made it through this long post and didn’t quite know what I was talking about or trying to prove, then there ya go. After the Oregon State game, Longshore was like a 7 and Riley was like a 6. Both were game-ready but Longshore still gave Cal a better chance at winning.