Does the Lions' future include Jeff Tedford?

 

Head coach has one year left on his contract, just 7 wins under his belt

 
 
 
 
B.C. Lions’ head coach Jeff Tedford watches from the sideline during the second half of a CFL football game against the Hamilton Tiger-Cats. Tedford has one year left on his contract with the CFL club and has every intention of being with the club again next season.
 

B.C. Lions’ head coach Jeff Tedford watches from the sideline during the second half of a CFL football game against the Hamilton Tiger-Cats. Tedford has one year left on his contract with the CFL club and has every intention of being with the club again next season.

Photograph by: DARRYL DYCK, THE CANADIAN PRESS

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In 2001, the worst University of California Bears football team in more than a century finished 1-10. A year later, under a new, young head coach named Jeff Tedford, they were 7-5. By his third season, the Bears were ranked among the top 10 teams in the nation.

Now 13 years removed from that turnaround season at Cal, Tedford again coached a team to seven wins in his first season. Only, this time, it took him 17 games to do it. The B.C. Lions went on to lose game No. 18 and then their 19th start, Sunday in Calgary, a desultory 35-9 defeat to the Stampeders in the CFL West Division semifinal.

Despite their worst finish since 1996, the Lions placed eight players on division all-star team, the same as the Stampeders, who finished 14-4 and didn’t even have to extend themselves for a 26-point playoff victory over the Lions, the fourth year in a row B.C. has been flushed in the first round of post-season.

What does that say about Tedford’s coaching, or the quality of the players on the squad beyond the all-star eight?

Visitors now walk into BC Place with little fear — Lions are 8-10 at home in the past two seasons — and the sad part, from organization’s perspective, is that increasing numbers of its former fan base just don’t care.

Tedford has a year left on his contract to help turn the tide and he intends to fulfil his obligations.

“I think there’s some growth there,” he told reporters Monday. “Guys worked hard. I was very pleased with the attitudes and the effort to lay down a foundation moving forward. But you enjoy coaching when you’re successful. It’s been a hard year that way.”

In some respects, Tedford’s hiring was a curious one. After the Lions fired Mike Benevides last season, Tedford, who was between jobs, called up former associate Wally Buono and inquired about the position. Buono’s coaching search started and ended with one man.

In Tedford — whose name had resonance in NCAA and NFL circles but not necessarily with those in the Lions constituency — Buono hired a coach who had to be re-introduced to the Canadian Football League after a 20-year absence. Tedford was asked to groom the league’s youngest team as a newbie himself, a coach who admitted that the 2015 season was a learning experience for him, as it was for many of his players.

“I definitely think I learned a lot,” he said. “Each week, each game, there’s something you learn from. Rule changes, things like that. It’s a different game. Three-down football, compared to four-down football, the philosophies change. It was a learning curve in the different styles of each (CFL) team. There were some things, if you hadn’t been through them before, you have to feel your way a little bit. You learn where other teams are good, and where we need to be better.”

Tedford was peppered with a number of questions Monday he was unprepared to answer. Asked about the future of specific players, his coaching staff, Buono and whether even he might be one and done, Tedford said it was much too early to give definitive responses while he was still de-compressing. “I just woke up about four hours ago,” he said, with a chuckle.

He added, “I have two years (the length of his contract). So I have another year. As of right now. We’re the day after the last game. So we really haven’t sat down and talked about anything like that. As of today, nothing’s changed.”

That means rookie Jonathon Jennings is still his quarterback. But as to whether veteran Travis Lulay would continue or would consider a backup role next season, Tedford said, “I have no idea. Those are things that will be discussed in personnel meetings before we move forward. But we have two really special people there. Travis was willing to be a mentor. Jonathon, the way he received it, says a lot about him.”

He then confessed, “I don’t know what the future holds. I don’t think any of us do. Organizationally, or anything else.”

In his first head coaching job in college, Tedford exceeded expectations in his first year. He underwhelmed in his first year as a head coach in the pros, but it’s not as easy resurrecting an organization when you’re not the one recruiting and signing players.

He took mild exception to a suggestion he’s marking time here until a better offer comes along. Once the highest paid state employee in California, Tedford could command a seven-figure salary should he return to the elite NCAA Division I ranks.

“It doesn’t matter if there’s 300 people in the stands or 103,000,” he said. “In some situations you have more control, being able to recruit people and sign them, that’s the biggest difference. I felt like this year was a very good experience. And I enjoyed it. And I’m looking forward to taking what I learned this year and going forward with it.”

Year two of the salvage operation is about to begin.

mbeamish@vancouversun.com

sixbeamers/twitter.com

 
 
 
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B.C. Lions’ head coach Jeff Tedford watches from the sideline during the second half of a CFL football game against the Hamilton Tiger-Cats. Tedford has one year left on his contract with the CFL club and has every intention of being with the club again next season.
 

B.C. Lions’ head coach Jeff Tedford watches from the sideline during the second half of a CFL football game against the Hamilton Tiger-Cats. Tedford has one year left on his contract with the CFL club and has every intention of being with the club again next season.

Photograph by: DARRYL DYCK, THE CANADIAN PRESS

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
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