David Shaw is going to be the coach at Stanford, come Roses or Oranges or whatever else. That much is clear for now.
The question is: How long will he be Stanford's coach?
Yesterday, Shaw reiterated to the media that'd he's be staying at Stanford and wouldn't be pursuing an NFL head coaching job, telling reporters that he has no plans to leave the Farm any time soon.
However, he also mentioned that when he began coaching, he set his sights on becoming an NFL head coach.
All of this is consistent with what Shaw's been saying to the media - and to his players - for some time now. There's nothing surprising there. But it does make you wonder when Shaw might move on to the big leagues, because for the foreseeable future, NFL teams will be dying to have him as their coach. You don't even have to be that good of a college coach to go to have job opportunities in the NFL - look at Greg Schiano and Doug Marrone. Shaw's resume is much more impressive than both of theirs.
So how long will it be before Shaw decides he's done enough at Stanford and wants to move on to the next level? A year? Five more years? Ten? Or will he spurn the NFL and become the Bobby Bowden of Stanford football?
It seems natural to assume that he'll be able to stay at Stanford for as long as he wants, and he doesn't seem like the type to leap to another college job. Shaw's already got a job coaching his alma mater and I don't see any reason why he'd leave to go coach at a place like Texas, even though he's hailed as a name to watch for that job. ("But... we're Texas!" is Texas' main pitch to coaches, and that doesn't seem like a pitch that would convince Shaw to head to Austin.)
But how long will it be before the NFL looks too good to pass up? Let's explore the options.
David Shaw will leave Stanford very soon.
Based on everything Shaw has said, and given the momentum of Stanford football right now, Shaw leaving the Farm within a year seems unlikely. He obviously won't be leaving before the Rose Bowl, and he's got another talented roster coming back next year - the Cardinal is expecting a promising recruiting class to fill the shoes of this impressive senior class.
With Kevin Hogan and company back again, it'd be fairly shocking if Shaw bailed on the program in the very near future. On top of that, he's only 41 years old and his coaching staff is still intact (for the time being). There's still plenty of time to keep building the Stanford program then go on to the NFL, if that's what he wants to do.
David Shaw will leave Stanford after five more years.
This scenario seems much more likely. If Shaw stays for five more seasons, he'd be the longest tenured head coach at Stanford since Tyrone Willingham, who coached for seven years on the Farm. Shaw would have coached for longer than Willingham and Jim Harbaugh, and he would have seen through another couple recruiting classes - including the one that's about to come in the fall.Odds are that his original batch of assistant coaches would all have moved on as well.
At 46 years old and with eight years of head coaching experience under his belt, this might be the ideal time for Shaw to make the jump to the NFL.
David Shaw will leave Stanford after ten years.
I'll be a little surprised if Shaw lasts for ten years on the Farm. That's a long time in the college football world - right now there are only seven coaches in the FBS that have lasted for more than a decade. (It was eight before Mack Brown stepped down at Texas.) But if he does make it that long, I don't know that he'd ever leave the Farm. Staying that long would almost certainly cement him as one of Stanford's all-time great coaches.
Ten years from now, Shaw might have a chance to become the all-time wins leader at Stanford. Right now the career wins leader is Pop Warner, who has 96 victories to his name. Shaw has a 34-6 career record after three seasons. That'd be a pretty cool milestone to have to your name: Stanford's all-time wins leader, ahead of Pop Warner. However, he'd be 51 years old, and still young enough to take an NFL head coaching job.
David Shaw will never leave Stanford.
This seems unlikely, because I don't know how many coaches want to try the Bobby Bowden/Joe Paterno route in this day and age. But if Shaw makes it past a decade on the Farm, there's very little reason to leave. Eventually, the cost/benefit analysis of heading to the NFL would begin to skew the wrong direction, especially if he were to become a modern icon of Stanford football.
Or, think of it this way: how surprised would you be if Bob Stoops or Mark Richt left to take another job? Those two have had their share of up and down years, but there's hardly any scenario in which you can imagine them leaving to take another coaching job. Oklahoma and Georgia might not be in any hurry to build a statue of Stoops or Richt, and I doubt that Stanford would feel the same way about Shaw (unless someone wants to commission one more piece from Rodin), but you become enough of an icon after a decade of successful coaching it becomes hard to leave.
For now, though, any questions about Shaw moving on are addressed the same way: David Shaw is Stanford's coach. Period. End of story.
But how long will that last?