Did Guru Addiction Sink Jeff Tedford?

April 10th, 2014

jeff tedford

There’s no denying the success of quarterbacks guru and “Cal” reviver Jeff Tedford, the Bucs’ new offensive coordinator, who as Cal head coach brought program from the basement of the Pac-10 to among the elite of college football.

However, Tedford’s success plummeted in 2007. Ask any “Cal” fan and they’ll tell you that after starting 5-0 in 2007, Cal fell off the map and never recovered. Tedford was fired after the 2012 season.

Joe’s given Tedford a completely clean slate. There’s no reason not to focus on his strengths and see what evolves. While Joe’s put in an immense amount of research into Tedford, including talking to his former players at Super Bowl Media Day, Joe hasn’t written much about what Tedford might do with the Bucs because it legitimately is a mystery. Tedford is no cookie-cutter coordinator.

A common theme Joe’s learned about Tedford is that he’s a guru type, meaning he complicates things. He seems to like things complex and innovative, as much as he likes to move the chains on 3rd-and-a-long-1 with a run up the gut.

That can be a dangerous trait in the NFL, where many coordinators overthink things and lose sight of the objective and get too caught up in minutiae and style points. (See the Benn’d Around, telling Josh Freeman not to run, so much of Jon Gruden’s pre-snap shuffling and monstrous playbook, and Mike Sullivan calling wheel routes for Doug Martin and abandoning slant passes to Mike Williams, among many other recent examples.) 

Jon Wilner, of the San Jose Mercury News, penned a long analysis of Tedford near the end of his reign at “Cal.” It’s an interesting read. Here’s an excerpt:

Tedford’s focus on tactics, at the expense of chemistry, also helps explain why the Bears have suffered 15 blowout losses (17 points or more) in the past four years — a far higher rate than any program that could reasonably be considered a peer.

When adversity surfaces, especially on the road, players must trust their coaches and themselves; leaders must provide inspiration and hold others accountable.

Cal is, far too often, deficient in those vital areas.

But even something as significant as poor chemistry pales in comparison to the Bears’ greatest problem over the past half decade:

The lack of an identity on offense.

When Tedford arrived in Berkeley, he installed the same pro-style offense he coached at Oregon: Use the run to set up the play-action passing game, with the quarterback primarily positioned in the pocket. The approach worked masterfully with Kyle Boller and Rodgers.

But Tedford eventually felt compelled to tweak his offense. He began taking plays and formations from other teams and adding them to Cal’s playbook — to the point that the Bears’ essence got lost in the clutter.

Stanford’s identity is apparent: Ball control, power running, play-action.

Oregon’s identity is obvious: Zone read out of the spread formation, warp speed.

USC’s identity is clear: Pocket passing, play-action.

But watch Cal on a regular basis and you’ll see pro-style passing and some spread option running and some stationary pocket and some moving pocket. Tedford is forever tweaking, forever grasping — and forever adding to a playbook that is too much for his quarterbacks to process.

Whether it’s Joe Ayoob or Nate Longshore, Kevin Riley or Brock Mansion, Maynard or Bridgford, the results have been the same:

Touted quarterbacks fail to meet expectations because the information overload created by Tedford’s voluminous playbook prompts them to short-circuit during the heat of the game — when overthinking is the last thing a quarterback should be doing.

Tedford’s constantly changing offense — and his hands-on approach to tactics — creates a difficult situation for his assistants. Is it any wonder that the Bears burned through six offensive coordinators in eight years? The lack of continuity brings an incalculable cost.

Now remember, Tedford was head coach and offensive leader, and he was recruiting and leading the charge and management at “Cal” of a new stadium deal. The man was spread thin. Tedford acknowledged when he got the Bucs job that his role in Tampa was a breath of fresh air, a chance to get back to his true love of solely focusing on offense.

Again, Joe’s got a clean slate for Tedford, but Joe will be keeping an eye out come September for unnecessary tinkering and sticking with plays that don’t work. And don’t be thinking that Lovie Smith will reign in Tedford, if necessary. That’s not how Lovie rolls with his offensive coordinators.

21 Responses to “Did Guru Addiction Sink Jeff Tedford?”

  1. Jonny 2.3 Says:


  2. Theodore Says:

    Tedford’s offense will be bland. Lovie wants defense to win games and offense to not lose them. He’s already said it and McCown validates it. Not sure why this offense is a mystery to anyone.

  3. Architek Says:

    Aww hell Joe, this is concerning! Don’t go messing up my Thursday with more doom and gloom.

    Same thing that got Gruden canned – out thinking himself.

  4. phattitudes Says:

    Lovie took a year off to reflect and refresh. Maybe the same is true for Tedford. Being a guru is good thing. It indicates dedication, pride, and innovation. Gurus learn from mistakes and are on a path of constant improvement. They are at the leading edge. For years the Bucs have been predictable and uninspired. I welcome a chance to see the team go for it with some style and flash. Before we hang Tedford let’s give him a chance to show what he has decided to implement. Patience Joe. Let’s not panic before the first snap.

  5. Leon Says:

    Gonna need a smart QB… Bridgewater!

  6. mike n Says:

    Tedford is the one off season move we made that scares me ( and the uniforms).

  7. Bucfan#37 Says:

    Hope he don’t tweak us out of too many wins.

  8. pablo Says:

    I’m pretty sure you learn from his mistakes and would do things the right way. If its not broke don’t fix it Tedford.

  9. OB Says:

    Joe hopefully he and his fellow coaches will be “learn from my mistakes” breed and the HC, OC, and DC will not make these mistakes again.

    But the Benn around play might surprise all of us one day, that would be funny, of course it should be the last preseason game only.

  10. Daffy Buc Says:

    Sullivan 2.0!! No hope for this offense. We’re Doomed!! Oh well we have the Mattress Bowl to look forward to the third preseason game.

  11. Left_Coast_Bucs_Fan Says:

    “Keeping an eye out for unnecessary tinkering and sticking with plays that don’t work”? What is unnecessary tinkering, tweaking something that doesn’t need tweaking? Typically, after reading how the defense it set, the QB calls a check down on almost every play. Isn’t that in essence tinkering with the play that’s been called? And then if the check down doesn’t go well, who’s to blame, Tedford or the QB (McNown, Glennon, Manzeil, Bortles, Carr, Garoppolo, McCarron, whoever)?

    Come on Joe, there will always be the former (tinkering) when the later (plays that don’t work) happens, and they will. What we should be watching like a hawk is to see that Tedford sees it for what it is, good or bad, and then tinkers away the bad.

    That’s what Joe meant by “sticking with plays that don’t work.” Tinkering is great, but don’t get stuck on something if it ain’t working. –Joe

  12. Sweets Willie Says:

    Bring back Jagodzinski!! He brought me my food at Denny’s, he’ll work cheap.

  13. Theodore Says:

    When Gruden took over, and everybody was excited to see “offense”, I always thought it would have been funny if, during the first preseason game, Gruden ran Alstott up the middle for the first three plays.

    And a first down, of course 🙂

  14. ToesOnTheLine Says:

    Good thing the Bucs already have highly intelligent QB’s on the roster

  15. Buccaneer Bonzai Says:

    Tedford was a chancy hire, but he is someone Lovie became focused on before he was even hired. I’m not sold on him, but I have to be honest, he’s not my greatest concern at the moment.

    Jason Licht is.

    I think we can agree that Lovie had a strong influence on the defensive side of free agency. Maybe not 100%, but because it is his area, he knew what he wanted.

    But even so, other than DE, where was the true upgrade? You might argue the DT that was signed…but he is injury prone and IF Spence stays out of trouble, he can improve enough to be Booger-McFarlane-like.

    None of the other hired were an improvement, not even quarterback. Glennon had a better year than McCown. Everything else was a lateral (hopefully) move or worse.

    We certainly got worse at WR. Another pass catching TE was brought in. If he stays healthy maybe that’s a slight improvement.

    And while the draft has yet to happen, Jason Licht has failed to get us extra picks of value. In fact, Licht has been reamed on trades. And what about his cap management? Say what you will about Dominick, and I understand wanting to move on from him, but when it came to the cap he was a master. A master of trades as well. He got a 2nd for Adams.

    Licht would have gotten a 7th.

    The draft will NOT fix this team and the holes we had before, much less now. You have to know a QB will be taken in the first 3 rounds. Those are the rounds you usually get starters in most positions.

    5th round is a 50-50 shot. We have no 4th. And 6th & 7th you maybe have a 20% chance of striking gold (probably less).

    All this talk of acquiring more picks in trades…just how has Licht proven he can get anything of value in a trade? And if he trades up? God help the Bucs. It will probably cost next year’s first, this years first and a 3rd rounder.

  16. Couch Fan Says:


    You can’t force people to give you what you want. Nobody was going to give up picks when they know you are going to cut him. All of our guys we lost were over rated and/or overpaid.

    The Revis thing was ruined once someone let it out that we would cut him, someone screwed the Bucs with that leak. Up until that point, nobody thought we would cut him. IMO nobody should be blaming any of that on Licht. I’m sure he wouldn’t jeopardize his own trades.

  17. Nick H Says:

    Sounds like a man gone crazy at Cal. Or maybe college QBs who aren’t NFL material couldn’t handle the offense once it became too complex.

    Natural progression to NFL caliber coach, or mad man?


  18. MR.T Says:


    Agreed, we’ve got one.

  19. getaclue Says:

    Good thong we have “dat neck” mg8, the greatest qb from the shoulders up that Lovie has ever had

  20. feelthepewterpower Says:

    You also must remember that college players are not full time professionals to digest the offense. where in college, that might difficult to implement all those things, but in the pros you have a longer season and more time to get it right.

  21. BoJim Says:

    Hmmmm. This is not a good story. I’ll wait for the season to start. Hope we’re pleasantly surprised.