The quarter isn't over, but progress reports are in. Looks like another smiley face for Jeff Tedford.
He's had better report cards, no doubt. On the other hand, he has met the ambitious standards we have come to expect during his seven seasons as Cal's football coach — a winning record, a bowl bid and a big win in the Big Game.
It's a good life, if not idyllic. The Bears were not listed in Sunday's Associated Press poll, and they are 1-2 against ranked opponents this season. While those are nits ripe for the picking, they are footnotes to the big-picture view of the work Tedford has done at Cal.
Since he arrived here in 2002, the Bears have:
Take a snapshot of any moment in time, and you can find a blemish or flaw. Tedford is 1-6 against USC. Last season's astonishing collapse still defies explanation.
And Joe Montana heard boos during a home game against Cincinnati in 1984 — the year the 49ers won 18 of 19 games, including the Super Bowl. Clearly over-reaction is part of the sports fan's bill of rights.
But it's not the best way to pass judgment on a body of work. We can think of three criteria that work much better in Tedford's case:
One, is he competitive within the conference?
He is, especially when you recognize the unique nature of Pete Carroll's preposterously successful run at USC. While Tedford has been winning close to two-thirds of his games at Cal, Carroll has been winning nine out of 10 in South Central. If you judge every head coach at the FBS level by Carroll's standard, there are 118 guys out there just stealing money.
Recall that basketball coach Ben Braun was invited to leave Cal last spring, even though his overall record was defensible. The problem was that Braun's teams were no longer competing well in conference play. Tedford has won 60 percent of his conference games. His trio of top-3 Pac-10 finishes equals Cal's total for the 30 years preceding his arrival. This leads us nicely to:
Two, does he compare favorably on a historical level?
Next month Cal will appear in a bowl game for the sixth consecutive season. That equals the school's total for the 52 years preceding Tedford's arrival. That's a jaw-dropper even considering how the bowl landscape has changed over the past few decades.
Tedford ranks fifth in school history in games coached and fourth in victories. A couple of 10-win seasons, and he'll be top o' the heap.
Three, have Tedford's results lived up to his mission statement? Let's revisit his acceptance speech from nearly seven years ago:
"I have a goal and a vision," he said, "that the University of California, through hard work and dedication, can get to where we are competing for the Pac-10 championship and at a national level."
That part of it remains open to interpretation. Cal has made two legitimate runs at the conference title in Tedford's seven seasons. Nationally, three of his first six Cal teams finished in The Associated Press Top 25. That's better than friends of the program had been conditioned to expect, but falls just short of the working definition of "perennial powerhouse."
Then there's the whole Rose Bowl thing, which we should probably save for our next session.
Tedford is low-key, well-mannered and hard-working. He understands football's place in the Cal culture, and that understanding hasn't chased him off. From a macro perspective, which we should probably employ more often than we do, he's done about as much as could be reasonably expected given the parameters of this time and place.
In other words, if you want more from a football program than he's delivering, you're looking for something that doesn't grow here. Medical marijuana pun not intended.
Contact Gary Peterson at firstname.lastname@example.org.