What’s gotten into David Shaw these days?
I ask that question, of course, in a good way. It’s hard to complain when the offense is putting on a show quite literally the likes of which I’ve never seen in my three-plus years at Stanford. Or when Stanford seems like the only certainty in an incredibly uncertain, tumultuous Pac-12 conference.
I ask that question because the transformation of the Stanford offense seems to have been accompanied by a transformation in David Shaw as well — both in his coaching and in his demeanor — over the last year. And quite honestly, it’s incredibly energizing to see.
It used to be the case that hating on David Shaw was Stanford fans’ favorite pastime. (He’s too conservative! He runs the ball too much! He runs the ball too little! He punts too much!) And when Shaw’s pro-style, ball-control system doesn’t work, it can indeed look ugly and frustratingly out of place in the collegiate game.
For the first few years of his tenure, whether it was an inexperienced quarterback, a mistake-laden offensive line, a lack of tight ends or something else that held Shaw’s offense back, frustrations were paramount for all Stanford fans — with no end in sight.
That being said, with one knee-jerk column aside, I’ve typically been a fairly ardent defender of David Shaw’s style. Even to the point where people at The Daily’s office would look at me like I’d killed a puppy with my bare hands when I defended Shaw after the Northwestern and UCF games. (Yes, Alexa, I’m looking at you.)
Looks like the wait has paid off.
With every component of Shaw’s intricate offense fitting together and humming like cogs in a well-oiled machine, Stanford has looked just about unstoppable over the last month over some of the better teams in the Pac-12. And what’s more, with his offense finally working in the way that he always wanted it to, Shaw seems to be pumped and rejuvenated as well. He’s a new man these days.
Over the last few years, when Stanford would go up two or three scores early, it was pretty much a foregone conclusion that the Cardinal would run the ball for the rest of the game and run out the clock — for better or for worse.
Shaw doesn’t seem content with just taking leads and running out the clock anymore. He seems intent on showing off his offense’s full capabilities while he still can and isn’t taking his foot off the gas pedal — which is, again, so much fun to see.
Take the fourth quarter of last week’s game at Oregon State, for instance. Stanford was running roughshod over the Beavers, with Christian McCaffrey nearly unstoppable en route to a 206-yard day on the ground. But up 42-24 in the fourth quarter, Shaw wasn’t content to just run out the clock — on third down, he dialed up another deep bomb to Michael Rector that would likely have been a touchdown if completed.
Or the second quarter of Saturday’s game against Arizona, where Stanford got the ball back with 2:34 left in the half up 20-3. I guarantee you that Old Shaw would have just been content to move the ball slowly downfield and maybe set up a relaxed field goal. But New Shaw dialed up four straight pass plays and Stanford sliced through Arizona’s lack of defense like a hot knife through butter for a touchdown and a 27-3 lead.
This is the kind of offense that makes games fun for even the casual Stanford fan to watch (and, let’s be honest, casual Stanford fans outnumber diehard fans thousandfold on this campus). And with his offense finally coming together for the first time in two years, it looks like David Shaw is finally having a little fun again as well. And that’s great to see.
Don’t believe me?
That’s Shaw after Barry Sanders broke free for a 65-yard touchdown run last week.
He’s so happy! He’s so amped! That’s literally exactly how I reacted in that moment, too!
This is the same David Shaw that we would always be frustrated at a few years ago for not showing any emotion on the sideline, regardless of the circumstances. (If you haven’t seen this yet, you absolutely need to see it.) That was in stark contrast to Jim Harbaugh, who we all loved for his ridiculous shows of emotion on the sidelines that injected energy into players and fans alike.
But something has cracked David Shaw, and the resulting mess is glorious to behold. Whether it’s Happy Shaw celebrating after a huge run from Barry or ANGRY SHAW >:( >:( >:( throwing his headset and screaming obscenities at referees on the sidelines after a penalty call (which has happened many times this year, by the way), Shaw is letting all of his emotions out as well, which, honestly, makes me so proud of him as a fan. This is a head coach that I want to show off to the world and enjoy watching on the sideline.
Winning is fun. And Shaw seems to be enjoying every minute of it just as much as we are. In any case, he seems to be more emotionally invested in this season than we’ve ever seen him before — and we’ve still got seven games to go.
Buckle up, folks. However this one ends, it’s going to be one fun ride.
Do-Hyoung Park called out Alexa Philippou for defending David Shaw, but she would like to reiterate how much of a David Shaw doubter he was in his column after the Northwestern game, in which he called the offense’s problems “a year and a week” in the making and criticized Shaw’s in-game coaching. To remind Do that there are still seven games — with many against top-ranked opponents — left in the season, and that we should see how long New Shaw stays around, contact dhpark ‘at’ stanford.edu.