Embattled Cal football coach Jeff Tedford has one of the NFL’s biggest stars in his corner.
Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers said his former coach deserves to keep his job.
“They would be losing the greatest coach in their history if they make a change,” Rodgers told me Thursday in a phone interview.
The Bears, 3-8, close their season Saturday at Oregon State. Tedford, the winningest coach in school history, is scheduled to meet with Cal athletic director Sandy Barbour on Sunday to discuss his future.
Rodgers, who starred for the Bears in 2003 and ’04, said he and Tedford contributed to the momentum that got Memorial Stadium renovated, and Tedford now deserves the chance to reap the benefits.
“He’s been through a lot, all the stuff they had to go through just to get that stadium finished up,” Rodgers said. “I was a part of bringing that fan base back and take a lot of pride in that.
“I think he deserves an opportunity to recruit to those new facilities.”
Rodgers led the Bears to a 10-2 record in 2004 and the brink of a long-awaited Rose Bowl bid. “I’m still upset about that,” he said.
He remains the most successful of many professional players Tedford’s program has developed, having led Green Bay to a championship in Super Bowl XLV after the 2010 season, then winning league MVP honors a year later.
Rodgers, recruited by Tedford out of Butte Community College in Oroville, said Tedford was a key figure in his development.
“I know personally I owe a lot of my success to him,” he said. “He’s still a close friend. I talk to him in the offseason and look forward to coming to Berkeley every year to visit.”
Rodgers suggested fans should recall where the Cal program was before Tedford took the reins in 2002. The Bears were 1-10 in 2001 and hadn’t had a winning season since 1993.
“I feel for him because I know how much he puts into it. I know how much he cares about the program and the team,” Rodgers said. “Look at his track record. Coming off a 1-10 season in 2001 and taking them where they’ve been.”
Cal went 7-5 in Tedford’s debut season, then won no fewer than eight games in six of the next seven seasons. But the Bears have slipped in recent years, posting a combined record of 15-21 since the start of 2010.
Rodgers said the new facilities — renovated Memorial Stadium and the year-old high-performance training center — finally put Cal on even footing with its conference rivals.
“I’d say give him an opportunity to recruit with the kind of facilities that teams we have in the Pac-12 now,” Rodgers said. “They’ve been talking about the facility at Cal since I was recruited there in the winter of 2002.
“It’s different when you can bring in recurits and show them a 100-yard weight room and the kind of stadium we’ve created now with the (premium-seat) boxes and the fan level up there.”
Rodgers, who threw 43 touchdowns in two seasons at Cal, recalls that time in his life with fondness. “Pretty special,” he called the experience. “Coach has done some amazing things there. He deserves the opportunity.”
Rodgers said he has not talked with Tedford about his job status.
“I wouldn’t. This is not something he’s spending time thinking about,” Rodgers said. “He’s so focused on getting his guys ready and prepared each week.
“Obviously, the whole program’s disappointed they’re not going to a bowl game this year. But he would say he’s really optimistic about next year. I think the picture looks bright and it’s going to be brighter with coach Tedford there.”