Boise State's Chris Petersen: The Man to Replace Jim Harbaugh
Whether or not Jim Harbaugh ends up as the new head coach of the Michigan Wolverines (which, as of 6:40 p.m., the reports are looking like he won't), one thing has become pretty certain.
He isn't staying at Stanford.
I mean, why would he want to?
He only returns 72 percent of his rushing attack, including the explosive Stefan Taylor. Tight-end Zach Ertz, who caught touchdowns in four of his last five games, is coming back. And the offense, and defense, returns two-way star Owen Marecic.
I guess it must be losing the projected number-one pick in the 2011 overall draft that has him scared.
But if Harbaugh really took a good look, he might see that Stanford has the potential to be just as good, if not better, over the next few years as any program that he's "reportedly" or "unreportedly" looking into.
But enough about that fellow. Let's get into the real meat. Who is going to replace Harbaugh at Stanford?
It almost certainly won't be somebody in-house. Whoever Harbaugh doesn't take with him to Miami (NFL), San Fran (NFL), Carolina (NFL) or even Michigan (NCAA), most certainly won't have enough experience to be worthy of the Bradford M. Freeman Director's Chair (the fancy name Stanford gives their head coach).
Stanford AD Bob Bowlsby is going to be looking for the right type of person, and if he looks too hard he might miss the perfect candidate, just 667 miles to his northeast.
That's right, Boise State's Chris Petersen.
And while you may think that Coach Pete (as the Boisians lovingly refer to him) is just another small-town coach who preys on small-town teams to unfairly inflate his win-loss record, let's take a look at why I think Coach Pete is just the guy to keep alive what Harbaugh began at Stanford.
He's a Proven Winner
Only once in his five-year career has Coach Pete won fewer than 11 games.
Read that again. In 2007, Petersen's squad went 10-3 and was the only one of his five teams to not win at least a share of the WAC crown. It was also the only season during his tenure (or is it five-yure) that the Broncos finished the season unranked.
Alright, onto the good stuff.
Petersen's career record is 61-5.
Sixty-one and FIVE!!
He's lost an average of one game per season. He's notched three undefeated regular seasons, finished the entire season unbeaten twice, and won three of the five bowl games he has participated in.
He's won four conference titles, been awarded three different coach of the year awards in three separate seasons, and gone undefeated in two games on the biggest stage of all, the BCS series.
And true to his nature as an offensive coordinator, the Broncos have developed into one of the most balanced offensive teams in all of college football since 2006, the year he took over.
And prior to his stint as head coach, Petersen was one of the top offensive minds in all of college football.
Most important, winning is something that until very recently was kind of a hard thing to find on the football field in Palo Alto.
Like Harbaugh, He's a QB Guru
Marc Serota/Getty Images
Before his coaching career, Petersen was a record-setting quarterback at UC Davis, where he was just recently inducted into the Aggie Hall of Fame.
As a senior he was named the NCAC Player of the Year, and finished the season as the top-rated passer in Division II. Petersen still holds the record for career completion percentage in Division II.
After finishing up a stellar career for the Aggies, Petersen went to work as a receivers coach for UC Davis. He followed up that stint with a promotion to quarterbacks coach at Pittsburgh (the Division I Pittsburgh). In his one season there he tutored Alex Van Pelt into Pitt's all-time leading single-season passer, breaking marks set by Dan Marino.
After one season of ground-breaking work, he went to Portland State. He worked with the QBs there as well, and the Vikings advanced to the Division II playoffs in both seasons he was there.
From there, he was on to Oregon, where he joined Mike Belotti's staff and worked primarily with the receiving corps. Coach Pete helped the Ducks become one of the elite passing teams in the country. He held that position from 1995-2000, after which he joined the Broncos staff.
Since coming to Boise, his passing pupils have rewritten the Bronco record books again and again.
In 2006, Jared Zabransky cut his interception numbers from 16 to eight, and finished sixth in passing efficiency. He also led the Broncos to a 13-0 record, a Fiesta Bowl victory over favored Oklahoma, and went down in video game lore as the cover boy of NCAA Football 2008.
In 2007, senior Taylor Tharp, a one-year starter, broke the school record for touchdowns in a single season and finished seventh in the nation in passing efficiency.
In 2008, Petersen made a tough choice and went with redshirt freshman Kellen Moore as his starter. All Moore did was lead the Broncos to a 37-32 victory at Autzen Stadium against No. 12 Oregon in his third career start. As a freshman he set school records for completion percentage and finished 11th in the nation in passing.
The next season, Moore broke all sorts of records. He finished with 39 TDs and only three interceptions, took only five sacks all season, and finished second behind the immortal Tim Tebow in passing efficiency.
This season, Moore took another step, breaking the school mark for completion percentage that he himself set, and tossed 35 more TDs to only six picks. Again, it looks like he's going to finish second in the country to another SEC passer (Cam Newton).
Harbaugh carved out a similar path. He began as an award-winning QB at Michigan, where he went 21-3-1 in his final two seasons at UM.
He played in the NFL from 1987-2001 before taking the reigns of his first coaching job, the quarterbacks coach for the NFL's Oakland Raiders. The Raiders made a trip to the Super Bowl during one of his two years there.
Harbaugh parlayed that NFL experience into the head job at the University of San Diego, where he compiled a 29-6 in three seasons, two of which ended with Harbaugh hoisting the Division I-AA Pioneer Football League championship trophy.
From there, he moved on to Stanford, where he engineered a near-historic turnaround. The year before Harbaugh arrived in Palo Alto, the Cardinal went 1-11, and obviously, got their head coach fired.
In 2007, the year he took over, they went 4-8. The next year they went 5-7, and in 2009 they broke the .500 mark, going 8-5. His "Mona Lisa" happened this year, as the world was introduced to Andrew Luck and the Cardinal went 12-1, won the BCS Orange Bowl, and catapulted both Luck and Harbaugh into the national spotlight.
He's clearly been pretty good at developing a passer, as the future number-one overall draft pick Luck can attest. Harbaugh developed him as a pro passer in a pro system, and both the player and the team reaped the rewards.
He's a Family Guy
One of the biggest reasons Coach Pete has remained in Boise as long as he has is because of the life he and his family have built there.
Petersen has two children, one of which was diagnosed with a brain tumor at 13 months that soon spread to his spine. Coach Pete was in the middle of being recruited as Boise State's offensive coordinator at the time, and had to watch as his son endured rounds of chemo, stem-cell transplants, and surgery. It eventually got to the point where the one-year-old's body couldn't physically take any more chemo and the Petersen's chose to leave the matter in the hands of his creator.
That son, Sam, now 10 years old, has built a nice life in Boise, and as Petersen himself puts it, "I've never been a big one for moving and uprooting your family."
That hasn't stopped several schools from trying to pry Coach Pete away from the cozy confines of Boise State. Since he took the job, he's been courted by several teams, including Minnesota and Maryland just this season.
If Petersen is ever going to leave Boise, it's going to be for a city, and a program, that values family, and from what I've seen, Stanford does just that.
Harbaugh is a father of three and became involved in numerous charitable activities during his time in Palo Alto.
Then there's the city of Palo Alto itself. It's widely praised as one of the nicest places to live in the country and has some of the finest schools around.
Coach Pete Knows the Pac-10
Geoff Burke/Getty Images
Coach Pete owns the Pac-10.
Okay, understandably, it's hard for a guy to own a conference when he's only competed against them four times.
Still, Petersen is 3-1 against the Pac-10, with two wins over Oregon and one over Oregon State.
But more than that, he really knows the conference. Didn't you catch the story about him dropping in on the Oregon Ducks practice the other day?
His days as a Pac-10'er date back to his coaching days at Oregon, where he spent six seasons as the receivers coach.
He's on more than friendly terms with many of the conference's former and current head coaches, and his son's cancer scare endeared him to not only the city of Eugene, but the Pac-10 community as a whole.
He Knows the State of California
Christian Petersen/Getty Images
In addition to playing, and then coaching, in the state of California, Chris Petersen has also made the Broncos a major player in recruiting in the state.
Check out their roster and you'll find that some of their best players hail from the Golden State. Players like Titus Young (Los Angeles), Austin Pettis (Anaheim), Jason Robinson (Los Angeles), Brandyn Thompson (Elk Grove), Winston Venable (San Rafael), Jamar Taylor (San Diego), Doug Martin (Stockton), Jeron Johnson (Compton), Jeremy Avery (Bellflower), Derrell Acrey (East Highland), Kevin Sapien (Torrance), Thomas Byrd (San Pablo), Tommy Gallarda (Brea), Chase Baker (Rocklin) and Ryan Winterswyk (La Habra).
Just about every major impact player on the team, save for Kellen Moore (Prosser, WA), is from California.
And several pieces of the Broncos' future hail from the state, like wide receivers Troy Ware (Oceanside) and Chris Potter (Westlake Village), QB Joe Southwick (Danville), offensive tackles Charles Leno (Oakland) and Faraji Wright (Vallejo), and defensive tackles Darren Koontz (Los Alamitos) and Greg Grimes (Sacramento).
Petersen, and more notably his staff's, ability to recruit heavily in the state, has played a huge role in recruiting talent over the past few years and has allowed the Broncos to make a big name for themselves in the rest of the country.
That skill would be invaluable as the head coach of the Cardinal, who as a team have struggled to compete with USC for California's top talent. You have to drop all the way to the state's 15th-best prospect to find one who is attending Stanford.
Petersen and his winning allure, combined with the stable platform Harbaugh has spent the past few years building, would be a great combination and an enticing place for some of the state's top talent.