David Shaw ‘95 resigned from his post as head football coach after the Cardinal’s season-ending loss to Brigham Young University (BYU) on Saturday. A former Stanford football player himself, Shaw helmed the program for the past 12 years and is the winningest coach in the history of Cardinal football. While many are remembering the highs that coach Shaw achieved during his tenure, there is no time to rest for athletic director Bernard Muir as a new coach must be found, especially with Early National Signing Day coming up on Dec. 21 and the transfer portal opening for non-grad transfers on Dec. 5.
The Daily’s Drew Silva, Noah Maltzman, Pablo Noyola, Kaushik Sampath and Peter Gofen offer their thoughts on David Shaw, Stanford’s position within the national college football landscape and who Bernard Muir should look to in the hiring process.
First off, how do you feel about Shaw’s resignation? Was it time?
Drew Silva (DS): Following two straight 3-9 seasons, I believe it was time for Shaw’s time at the Farm to come to an end. However, it is never easy to see the most successful coach in program history step away, despite the “Fire Shaw” chants that came from a small portion of the student section towards the end of this year.
Noah Maltzman (NM): It is always hard to say goodbye to a beloved figure. Shaw is no exception. He is the coach who got me hooked on Stanford football in 2015, and has honestly been an inspiration to me for a long time. It may have been time, but it is still painful nonetheless.
Pablo Noyola (PN): It was definitely time. Stanford regressed from the top of the Pac-12 to its cellar, posting back-to-back nine-loss seasons for the first time in school history and losing 15 of the last 16 conference games. Anybody who has watched Stanford football over the last year and a half has seen a disjointed team with major issues in terms of personnel, scheme and, at times, even mentality. It’s just unfortunate that the Shaw era ended like this. Over the past 12 years, Stanford reached heights we’re unlikely to ever see again. As Noah said, that run was inspirational to me and countless other Cardinal fans, and Coach Shaw deserves his place among the Stanford football greats for his work in creating those memories.
What will stand out most in your mind about David Shaw’s time as Stanford’s coach?
NM: The amount of class and respect he garnered is one of the most impressive things any person at Stanford could accomplish. Like he said in his last Stanford press conference, there is no one magical moment to sum up his experience, but his legacy will live on the way people remember him – an honorable and praiseworthy coach, a true Stanford man.
Kaushik Sampath (KS): Just seeing how many great players came through the program and went on to have successful careers in the NFL. So many memorable NFL players were products of Stanford football during the early-mid 2010s, and it really shows how great this program was during that time period.
Despite the challenges that come with the Stanford job, many national pundits still believe the Farm is a desired job within the college football world. Where does the Stanford job fall, in your minds, within the overall collegiate landscape?
NM: Compared to the other vacant positions, I would have to say that Stanford is very average. While the atmosphere is fantastic, and the athletic department is the most successful collegiate athletic department in the nation, football is another story. With the ever changing landscape of college football recruiting, combined with the rigorous admissions process, this new chapter of NCAA sports with NIL will be challenging at a school that values academic excellence far more than other schools. These challenges will need to be faced head-on, with agreements being made within Stanford administration and other external organizations.
DS: I would agree that the Stanford job has a middle-of-the-pack appeal in the overall collegiate landscape. While the job is more desirable than some openings such as Colorado, candidates may find the head coaching position more appealing at the University of Cincinnati, a program whose recent rise brought it as high as a playoff appearance last season. Looking at factors outside of football, Stanford certainly appears to be the most attractive, but the program’s recent struggles may cause top candidates to prioritize other openings.
KS: If admissions can loosen restrictions for transfers and more NIL collectives begin to pop up, I think the job has a chance to be pretty desirable. But without these key changes being made, I think Stanford is a below-average P5 job. Recruiting restrictions, lack of home field advantage and other factors may turn some candidates away from seriously considering the job. Luckily, the coaching turnover at big programs feels a bit lower this season, which could work to Stanford’s advantage.
Peter Gofen (PG): Well, it depends who you’re asking, right? The opportunity to coach and represent Stanford might not be the appropriate fit for some, but it’s not as if the university would be interested in the type of person who desires to buy a new roster on a yearly basis anyway — and who cares about trying to land a date with someone you wouldn’t want to go out with in the first place? For the coaches that would garner genuine consideration for the job, we’re looking at one of the premier landing spots across all of college football — Stanford being Stanford does wonders in recruiting, the university uniquely pursues excellence in all domains, and there might not be another school that parlays top-tier resourcing alongside reasonable external pressure.
Who is your ideal candidate, and what makes them the best option?
DS: Chris Petersen, former head coach of the Washington Huskies and Boise State Broncos, has cemented himself as my top option for the head coaching vacancy. Petersen grew up in Northern California, and has been successful in each of his past two head coaching positions. Petersen helped to establish Boise State as a legitimate, respected team in the college football world, leading them to four top-10 finishes during his time there, including two finishes in the top five. No Pac-12 team has made the College Football Playoff since Petersen’s Huskies back in the 2016-17 season, and Petersen could revitalize this Cardinal program. While it is not entirely obvious whether Petersen wants to return to the sidelines after resigning in 2019, if he is open to a return, then Stanford should do whatever it takes to convince him to come to the Farm.
NM: While not as talked about as Peterson, former Texas head coach Tom Herman could make a great fit on the Farm. Herman, before his depressing tenure with the Longhorns, did fantastic at the University of Houston with a 24-4 record. As an assistant to dark-horse candidate and professional loser Urban Meyer at THE Ohio State, he helped the Buckeyes to become national champions behind a stellar offense. While he has not coached on the sidelines in two years, it may be worth the risk to hire Herman as the next head coach to revitalize the program.
KS: While I’d love if Peterson was interested, I doubt he would jump at the chance to come since he already retired from his dream job with Washington. I would really like Jonathan Smith at Oregon State. He’s slowly built that program into a respectable one after it was a dumpster fire when Gary Andersen left. Smith did play quarterback at OSU and might be loyal to the program, but I believe that Stanford is a much better overall program than Oregon State. Will that be enough to entice him to come here? That remains to be seen. But a hefty pay raise would surely raise the chances of Smith taking the podium.
PN: Petersen is also my number one, but who knows if he’s interested in coming out of retirement. If he rules himself out, the move might be to take a shot on an up-and-comer, as the struggling program did in 2006 with then-University of San Diego coach Jim Harbaugh. Following this archetype, the name to look out for is Troy Taylor, the head coach of Sacramento State in the FCS. Taylor took over a program perennially languishing at the bottom of the Big Sky, the toughest conference in FCS, in 2019, and despite inheriting a team that had won just two games in three of the four previous seasons, created a winning team overnight. The Hornets have won the conference title their last three seasons, and Taylor seems destined for a Power 5 gig eventually. A Northern California native (and former star quarterback at Cal), the 54 year old Taylor is Stanford’s best option from the G5 or FCS level and would be a savvy, if not flashy, hire.
Who is a dark horse candidate you are a fan of?
DS: Nathaniel Hackett, head coach of the Denver Broncos, could be an extremely dark horse candidate for this position. Hackett’s Broncos have gotten off to a nightmare start to the season, and his professional head coaching days certainly appear to be numbered, and I would be extremely surprised if he is not let go by the end of the season, or very soon after. Although Stanford might not want to wait until the end of the NFL season to lock down their next head coach, Hackett could be a viable option if his time in Denver comes to an early end. Hackett has ties to Stanford, as he served as an assistant coach from 2003-2005, and has had success as an offensive coordinator at the NFL level. While it is very unlikely, it’s definitely something to keep an eye on if he parts ways with Denver before the end of the season.
NM: I think an underrated candidate would be former Pitt and Wisconsin head coach Paul Chryst. During his tenure in the Big-10, Chryst dominated the Big Ten West what seemed like every year, and produced great talent in Madison. His stout style of play gave many teams a run for their money. This may be the opportunity he needs to get back into the college football world.
KS: I generally don’t want coaches who do less with more, which is how I feel about Hackett and Chryst. The Stanford job requires a great player developer at the helm, as the Cardinal can’t use the portal to the full extent other programs can. Dan Mullen could certainly fit that role, as he’s one of the best offensive play callers and talent developers that college football has seen this past decade. Mullen always had consistent teams at Mississippi State and had Florida in three New Year’s six bowls in four seasons. Mullen’s innovative offense is also uniquely equipped for the modern era of college football.
PN: Michigan co-offensive coordinator Matt Weiss was a graduate assistant at Stanford under Jim Harbaugh. Since then, he has had a 10+ year run on John Harbaugh’s staff with the Baltimore Ravens and has done well as QB coach and OC in two years in Ann Arbor. At just 39 years old, Weiss is another up-and-comer with connections to the university and the successful Harbaugh rebuild.
As for other names, well, let’s speculate away as to who may be on Bernard Muir’s shortlist! Former BYU and Virginia head coach Bronco Mendenhall has succeeded at academically-rigorous programs. Vic Fangio and Greg Roman are elite NFL assistants who coached at Stanford under Harbaugh and may jump at the opportunity to become a head coach. Also from the NFL ranks: 49ers defensive coordinator DeMeco Ryans will be an NFL head coach — perhaps as soon as next year — but he’s worth a call, Chiefs offensive coordinator Eric Bieniemy is a similar profile and Brian Flores had success leading the Dolphins and is at odds with the NFL. Former Cardinal offensive coordinator Mike Bloomgren has underwhelmed as the head coach for Rice and would represent a disappointing, if possible, hire. Lastly, Bay Area native Brent Brennan has quietly turned around a struggling San Jose State program and represents the most obvious candidate from the Mountain West to take the well-trodden path to the Pac-12.
And it’ll never happen, but Deion Sanders would change the mood around the program overnight and put Stanford in position to dominate the portal.
PG: I’ll parlay Pablo’s slew of candidates with some other names that haven’t been mentioned thus far yet are worth a shoutout. P.J. Fleck, head coach at Minnesota, led a remarkable turnaround at Western Michigan (leaping from 1-11 in 2013, his first season at WMU, to 13-1 in 2016); Dave Aranda earned coach of the year accolades a season ago at Baylor yet might consider a scene change after a bumpy fall; Jim Leonhard filled in admirably as Wisconsin’s interim coach, yet needs a home after the Badgers hired Luke Fickell to take over. Two more coaches to keep an eye on would be Bryan Harsin, as tumultuous as his Auburn tenure was, and Dave Clawson — after all, it might be the only way that the slow mesh lasts into 2023 on the Farm.
Finally, what will it take for the next Stanford coach to be successful?
NM: Simple answer: a lot. There are so many things that need to be done to be successful, especially at the level of Stanford athletics. The first two things, however, need to be to make a fun yet hard working environment, and secondly, they need to make a definitive statement on what direction Stanford intends to take with NIL. Football is by far the most profitable sport, and not making a firm stance will be very bad for the new coaches and players. They will have their work cut out for them, but it will be exciting to see how they combat these challenges.