Fresno State football fans have a million thoughts right now about coach Kalen DeBoer and quarterback Jake Haener leaving the program.
We wish these ex-Bulldogs well and thank them for their contributions to the program’s success. But leaving before Fresno State plays its bowl game? Well, that’s hard to swallow.
Of course, the biggest question is, who will be the Bulldogs’ next coach?
It’s too early to know that. But I can tell you that Fresno State should hire a coach who sees this as a “destination” job. Meaning: He’s here for the long haul, and not using Fresno State as a stepping stone.
The ideal candidate also should have ties to Fresno State — as a player, a coach, or both. The program needs to be led by someone who understands the importance of football to the Valley and that you can build a powerhouse with local players. We’re a blue-collar community, and we identify with teams that are tough and eager to test themselves against the best.
Our next coach must embrace this identity and leverage it into conference championships, packed stadiums, and a spot in a Power 5 conference.
Four Names to Watch
You want names. Everybody does. So let me put a few out there.
If Jeff Tedford is healthy and willing, I think he’s the next coach. He knows the job’s demands and what it will take to elevate the program. Trust me, even though he hasn’t coached since 2019, he’s kept up with the game and is always pushing the envelope with offensive concepts.
I played with Tim Skipper at Fresno State and he was the undisputed leader of our defense. He’s the assistant head coach at Central Michigan, but he’s been an assistant in the SEC and he embodies what it means to be a Bulldog. He would recruit the Valley hard and build a team capable of physically dominating opponents.
Bert Watts is the special teams coordinator and outside linebackers coach at Auburn. He was the Bulldogs’ defensive coordinator under Tedford and played for him at Cal, as well. Watts not only can draw up great defensive schemes, but he also knows how to develop talent.
The idea of Trent Dilfer is intriguing. Though Trent hasn’t coached at the college level his experience as an NFL quarterback has taught him a lot of unique things. I think he would quickly adapt to the demands of being Fresno State’s head coach. What he has done at Lipscomb Academy in Tennessee has been impressive, including a state high school title this season. And, there’s always the possibility that he would want to come here as an offensive coordinator for whoever Fresno State hires.
One candidate whose name has emerged doesn’t fit the criteria I’ve spelled out: UCLA offensive coordinator Justin Frye.
Yes, athletic director Terry Tumey and university president Saúl Jiménez-Sandoval have their work cut out. But I don’t think it’s going to be difficult to hire a great coach. One who will quickly make us forget the controversy — and heartache — of the past days and take the Bulldogs to even greater achievements.
(You can listen to David Carr’s podcast with his former New York Giants teammate Mark Herzlich titled The Super Hero Dads at this link.)
What’s Wrong With the Rams?
Football is hard, and the NFL is even harder. More than that, it’s the greatest team sport because everyone has to contribute if you are to be successful.
Despite their lineup of stars, the Los Angeles Rams have lost three straight games because they’ve resorted to “hero ball.” It’s like they’re at the Pro Bowl, always looking to make a big play instead of focusing on the fundamentals that often are the difference between winning and losing.
With games remaining at Arizona, Minnesota, and Baltimore — not to mention a home date against San Francisco — the Rams better toughen up, diversify their offense, and come together soon.
The Patriots’ Most Intimidating Player
Fourth-year New England cornerback J.C. Jackson picked off nine passes last season and already has seven this year. That takeaway ability invigorates a defense and crushes the soul of opponents.
J.C. Jackson in the month of November
🔒 90.0 overall grade (1st)
🔒 4 completions allowed
🔒 19 yards allowed
🔒 4 interceptions pic.twitter.com/BK9jCjTMap
— PFF NE Patriots (@PFF_Patriots) December 2, 2021
Regardless of whom the Patriots play, you’ll notice that the other team’s quarterback tends to be cautious about throwing the football. And that, in turn, makes life easier for the Patriots.
In four November games — all victories — the Patriots allowed just 26 points. Jackson’s numbers for the month? According to Pro Football Focus, he allowed 19 yards on four pass completions.
1. Arizona (9-2) — The Cardinals had a bye week to help get Kyler Murray and DeAndre Hopkins healthy for Sunday’s matchup against Chicago. Even though coach Cliff Kingsbury has a reputation for favoring a wide-open passing game, the Cardinals lead the NFL in rushing touchdowns with 17. (Last week: No. 1)
2. Green Bay (9-3) — The Packers are off this week and hoping to shore up a pass defense with a penchant for surrendering big plays. While virtually assured of winning their third straight NFC North title under Matt LaFleur, the only thing that matters in Green Bay is Super Bowl wins. (Last week: No. 2)
3. Tampa Bay (8-3) — The Buccaneers are back to stopping the run and appear ready for the stretch drive. The way things are trending, a Tampa Bay-New England Super Bowl isn’t out of the question. (Last week: No. 3)
4. New England (8-4) — Last season, Buffalo blew out the Patriots, 38-9, in their December matchup on Monday Night Football in the worst home loss of Bill Belichick’s reign. The rivalry renews this coming Monday night, as does the battle for AFC East dominance. (Last week: No. 4)
5. San Francisco (6-5) — The 49ers stuck with their road-grader identity while rushing for more than 200 yards in beating Minnesota. They shoot for their fourth straight win Sunday at Seattle, which no longer is a tough place to play. (Last week: No. 5)
Fell out: None
28. Seattle (3-8) — The Seahawks are headed for their worst season under Pete Carroll. At 70 years old, it’s unlikely he’ll complete a contract that runs through 2025. (Last week: unranked)
29. New York Jets/Giants (7-15) — Look out, with a win on Sunday at Miami, the Giants could escape the Bottom 5. There’s no such hope for the Jets. (Last week: Jets/Giants No. 29)
30. Houston (2-9) — The Texans stunned Tennessee a couple of weeks ago. Could they upset Indianapolis, too? Not with Jonathan Taylor lining up at tailback for the Colts. (Last week: No. 30)
31. Jacksonville (2-9) — There is a bright spot. RB James Robinson has rushed for seven TDs in his last eight games. Unfortunately for the Jags, Trevor Lawrence has passed for only one TD over the last four. (Last week: No. 31)
32. Detroit (0-10-1) — On Thanksgiving against Chicago, coach Dan Campbell called a running play on third-and-32 at mid-field. Is it any wonder the Lions are averaging 13.3 points since he took over as the play-caller? (Last week: No. 32)
Escaped the bottom: Atlanta Falcons
About the Author
David Carr is a former Fresno State quarterback, NFL No. 1 overall draft pick, and Super Bowl champion. Now he’s an analyst for the NFL Network and writing a weekly column in collaboration with GV Wire’s Bill McEwen. The column is sponsored by Valley Children’s Healthcare.