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Altering the Offensive Scheme

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David Shaw’s offensive scheme tried jamming a square peg into a round hole. Lesson learned?

Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

About a week ago, Antonio Gonzalez of the Associated Press wrote an article recapping Stanford's season. It is a fine article, and you can read the rest of it HERE.

One quote in the article really struck me:

"I'll try to look back on the season and learn some lessons," Shaw said. "Schematically, there were some things we could have done better, but I never lament. I don't go back and say, 'What if?' I'm a big believer in looking forward. Learn from what's happened in the past. I've always believed that and these guys have cemented that."

If you are a regular reader of Rule of Tree you too are likely quite excited by this quote. So many have attempted to diagnose Stanford's 5 losses but one (actually several) of our readers hit the nail on the head in a comment on a recent post:

For those of you that cannot read the comment, the relevant line is:

"The season was an indictment not of the level of talent in the program, but of the coaching staff's inability to use talent when it does not immediately fit the scheme."

This season's problems had little to do with lack of talent, or the inability to replace key players on offense. Stanford did not lose five games solely because of poor performance in the red zone or Kevin Hogan forcing passes to Ty Montgomery (those now appear to be symptoms, not causes). Stanford lost five games this season in large part because David Shaw ran an offensive scheme that did not capitalize on his players' strengths. Coach Shaw wanted to go big up the middle, but the players' talents were suited to a more open passing attack.

If Shaw altered the offensive scheme earlier in the season would Stanford have won the PAC 12 and made the playoffs? I am not prepared to go that far, but I certainly would have loved to see the Stanford offense that showed up against Cal, UCLA, and Maryland line up against the likes of Oregon, Ohio State, Alabama and certainly Florida State.

I do not want to read too much into Coach Shaw's quote, but it sounds like he is acknowledging that at times he attempted to (if I may borrow a line from one of our readers: Pugesh) fit a square peg into a round hole on offense and that we should expect to see less of that next season. It almost sounds as if Coach Shaw is telling us that next year we might expect the type of success the Stanford offense saw at the end of this season (though not necessarily the same type of scheme) as opposed to the Stanford offense we saw against Notre Dame and USC. If that does not get you excited about next season then I do not know what will.