Predictably, Jeff Tedford’s name came up last week on the list of possible choices for the Raiders’ next coach but don’t worry, Cal fans: Tedford’s not going there. And neither will any other top coaching prospect.
An NFL coach is more of a CEO than a coach, letting his coordinators and other assistants do the hands-on coaching while he sets the overall tone of the team and deals with the media, not necessarily in that order.
Steve Mariucci was comfortable with that, which is why he jumped from Cal to the 49ers after just one season. Tedford would not be. He’s very much a hands-on coach, involved in every phase of the operation. He talks to players, individually and collectively, not only about their play but also about their classes and adjustment to college life.
And his wife, Donna, loves the area. When Tedford briefly flirted with the pros after the 2003 season, he interviewed with the Chicago Bears. Donna reportedly cried all night at the thought he might take that job. That killed it, because Tedford loves and respects his wife; he said she personally looks over his contracts.
It’s not easy playing in a conference with Southern Cal, which has a great coach in Pete Carroll and a great football tradition. Cal has no such tradition, but Tedford is building one. His five straight winning seasons are only one behind the six notched by Pappy Waldorf, (1947-52), and his four seasons with at least eight wins are also only one behind Waldorf’s five. Southern Cal still has a recruiting edge, but Cal is at least in the conversation with the top preps, and the Bears did snatch one great player from USC, receiver-punt returner DeSean Jackson.
Tedford is exactly the type of coach the Raiders need but can’t get any more. Al Davis has been good at identifying the bright young coaches: Jon Gruden, Sean Payton and Bobby Petrino; but only Gruden has come to the Raiders.
Gruden interviewed with Davis for two years. Despite his youth (he was only 33 when he first interviewed for the Raiders’ job), Gruden was independent and demanded more say in the operation than Davis usually gives his coaches.
Unwilling to yield, Davis turned to Joe Bugel. After a 4-12 season, Bugel was fired and Gruden was hired. There were many heated arguments between Davis and Gruden, punctuated with frequent use of the F-word, but Gruden was able to convince Davis to dump Jeff George and sign Rich Gannon.
Gruden’s 12-4 and 10-6 records in his final two seasons are the only time a Raiders coach has had successive seasons with at least 10 wins since Tom Flores had three (1983-85).
Davis has become more intractable with age and does not seem inclined to give any real authority to a new coach. A young coach would be a fool to come here.
There is one young coach on the staff, defensive coordinator Rob Ryan, whom many Raiders fans would like to see promoted. History is against Ryan. His dad, Buddy, was a terrific defensive coordinator but not a good head coach.
Still, Davis may have to promote him. The last two coaches he chose, Art Shell and Norv Turner, were desperation choices. The good young coaches, like Petrino, Payton and Tedford want no part of this brain-dead operation.