After the announcement of Texas head coach Mack Brown’s resignation this past week, many national media members began to speculate that Stanford head coach David Shaw could be his replacement. While all indications point to Shaw remaining at Stanford for a long time, Brown’s resignation and Chris Peterson’s move from Boise State to Washington are reminders that nothing is permanent in the coaching world. We asked football writers David Cohn, Do-Hyoung Park and Winston Shi: How long do you think it will be until Shaw leaves Stanford and, if he does leave, where will he go?
David: I personally wholeheartedly believe Coach Shaw when he stated that he wishes to remain at Stanford for a very long time, or in his words, until his young kids graduate from college. First of all, Shaw and the Cardinal program are currently at the height of a previously unprecedented wave of success that features four consecutive BCS bowl berths (now the longest active streak in the nation after Oregon’s hopes of a BCS bowl melted in the Arizona desert) and two consecutive Pac-12 Championships.
In contrast, the new head coach at Texas, and Steve Sarkisian at USC, will probably find that returning those marquee programs to their prior glories will be a multiple-year process. Therefore, I imagine that, after participating in the rebuild of the Cardinal program from Pac-12 doormats to kings of the conference, David Shaw would prefer to not have to go through that same ordeal again.
Secondly, I believe that marked difference in expectations among Cardinal fans, when compared to the demands of the fans at any traditional powerhouse like Texas or USC, will keep Coach Shaw on the Farm for many years to come. While most fans at any program would probably be very happy with two consecutive conference championships, the ultimate expectation of these Longhorn or Trojan fans is for their programs to win national championships. As one can see with Mack Brown at Texas or Bobby Bowden at FSU, a four- or five-year downturn at a traditional powerhouse can even spell the end for a Hall-of-Fame coach.
In essence, while coaches at Texas, USC or FSU are hired in order to be unceremoniously fired later down the road, David Shaw was chosen as Stanford’s head coach in the hopes that he could sustain Stanford’s run of success, and in the process, become a Stanford coaching legend. In short, I believe that Coach Shaw is well on his way toward reaching that rarified air.
Do: I know that my editors really like for there to be varied responses to these prompts, but in this case, I can’t bring myself to play devil’s advocate because I really can’t see David Shaw voluntarily leaving Stanford at any point in the near future.
He has remained steadfast in his public statements throughout the years that he is dedicated to the success and well-being of the Stanford program in the long term, and do we really have any reason to question the man? I am obviously in no position to speak for Coach Shaw, but I definitely think that, at least at the collegiate level, he is in the perfect position right now.
Shaw has done an excellent job at sustaining the excellence that he helped Jim Harbaugh build in the last half-decade from a supporting role, and now that Stanford and success are becoming ingrained in people’s minds, he’s in a much better position to grab the elite recruits (and has been doing so) to make that success the norm on the Farm and not just a temporary upswing.
And even if it is just a temporary upswing, Shaw has the advantage of being at a program like Stanford (and not Texas, USC or Alabama) where he is not constantly under the microscopic scrutiny of a fanbase used to consistent success. Thus, Shaw is on a much less hot of a seat than other people in his position in the bigger programs around the country. Heck, look at what just happened to Mack Brown after just three sub-par (not terrible, just sub-par) seasons. One has to think that his job is fairly secure, especially given the success that he has given this program in these last few years. Because of that, I don’t think Shaw is going anywhere else in the NCAA.
Although the NFL is always a possibility (and Shaw’s name is undoubtedly going to be near the top of any NFL vacancy shortlist) I don’t think he’s going to bite. I think there’s just too much going for him at Stanford given what he has meant to this program in its recent success. If he can sustain it for even two or three more years, he’s in really good shape to cement himself among Stanford football’s biggest names.
Winston: Will David Shaw leave Stanford? At the end of the day, it’s up to him, and I don’t have a crystal ball. But I think that Shaw has invested a lot of his time and energy in the belief that Stanford can win a national championship. Shaw doesn’t seem like the sort of guy who is content without crystal footballs in the long run, and if Stanford can’t win a national championship — for example, if the University doesn’t sufficiently support the football program — Shaw may decide to leave.
Stanford’s often skyrocketed to prominence and faded away soon after; Shaw tasted success during his playing years at Stanford, and armed with that sweet memory, he seems genuinely committed to building a program of lasting excellence. With a national championship in his sights, Shaw has indicated no desire whatsoever to leave his alma mater. Palo Alto is a pleasant place for a guy to settle down and raise a family, and Stanford combines unsurpassed intangible advantages with — as Do pointed out — a comparatively low-pressure environment. Quite frankly, even though it’s undoubtedly easier to recruit at a Texas or a Southern California, I don’t see Shaw leaving for another college job.
As an NFL guy, Shaw wouldn’t have to spend time on the recruiting trail or entertain boosters, but the NFL has its downsides. Chip Kelly’s example is instructive — before taking the Eagles job, Kelly insisted on and received a long leash and complete control of football operations. But there are not that many owners who would give a coach that much authority, regardless of the coach’s ability — even Jim Harbaugh is clashing with his boss Jed York. Perhaps Shaw will go to the NFL, but only if the environment at Stanford becomes toxic or he has nothing left in college to prove. Either way, nobody can blame him.
Winston Shi’s play breakdowns have put him on the short list for the Texas head coaching job. For an interview request, email Winston at wshi94 ‘at’ stanford.edu. For character references, email Do-Hyoung Park at dpark027 ‘at’ stanford.edu and David Cohn at dmcohn ‘at’ stanford.edu.