Stanford Football: David Shaw Was Clearly the Right Man to Succeed Jim Harbaugh

Ryan RudnanskySenior Writer IJanuary 1, 2013

PASADENA, CA - JANUARY 01:  Head coach David Shaw of the Stanford Cardinal celebrates after the Cardinal defeat the Wisconsin Badgers 20-14 in the 99th Rose Bowl Game Presented by Vizio on January 1, 2013 at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena, California.  (Photo by Jeff Gross/Getty Images)
Jeff Gross/Getty Images

It's not often that you lose a head coach of Jim Harbaugh's caliber and pick up right where you left off.

But that has exactly been the case for Stanford after David Shaw was promoted from offensive coordinator in 2011 following Harbaugh's departure to the San Francisco 49ers.

After the Cardinal's 20-14 victory over Wisconsin in the Rose Bowl on Tuesday, they have gone a combined 23-4 in Shaw's two seasons with the team.

While the naysayers could say Stanford went 11-2 last season primarily because of Andrew Luck, what Shaw did this season with the program truly shows he was the right man to succeed Harbaugh.

The primary goal of a coach is to get the most out of each player, maximizing his strengths and helping to improve his weaknesses.

While the Cardinal had talent this season (including NFL prospects Stepfan Taylor, Chase Thomas and Zach Ertz), they certainly didn't have as many game-changers as some of the other powerhouses in the nation. 

There was also the quarterback situation. Shaw not only changed quarterbacks midway through the season, going with freshman Kevin Hogan over Josh Nunes, Hogan helped lead the Cardinal to five straight victories in his starts, including wins over ranked opponents Oregon State, Oregon and UCLA (twice).

Of course, a lot of credit has to go to Hogan, but Shaw and his coaching staff undoubtedly played a part in the freshman's development. Hogan went from a 3-star recruit to the leader of a big-time program and beating big-time opponents.

This season, Shaw emerged from Harbaugh and Luck's shadows to show that he is an excellent coach in his own right. He used some of the same principles that garnered success for Harbaugh, but also mixed and matched to find what worked for him. 

At this point, Stanford doesn't have to worry about its head coach. The Cardinal should be worried about Shaw leaving for the NFL down the line, though. 


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