College football is creeping up on us as we approach the two month mark before the season begins and fans far and wide are salivating to see their team take the field for the first time with many just happy to have football back in their lives and some hoping to potentially see the first of many wins that’ll eventually lead to a national championship.
Stanford Cardinal Football is once again one of those teams that are looking to get past that conference threshold and push itself into a national championship contender. Stanford has won 76 games this decade which averages out to 10.8 wins a season. Those 76 wins were not against Podunk University or Silly Sally Junior College either. A few of those wins include last second field goals, an Orange Bowl, 3 Conference Championship games, 2 Rose Bowls, beating a #1 team in the country, and beating Cal every game since 2010.
You could say it’s been a fun ride for Stanford football and it doesn’t seem like it’s going to stop soon which is why the season can’t get here soon enough. However, it wasn’t always like this and you never know when the fun will end so it would be wise to enjoy every minute because just 10 years ago, the football season was a season many people dreaded on the farm.
Stanford football isn’t the only sports team to have an extreme high and low. In fact, it’s very interesting to look at a team, college or pro and see where they are at now versus where they were at 10 years prior. Just look at the major Bay Area teams and how a decade can change everything. The San Francisco Giants weren’t a playoff team from 2004-2009 and in the following 5 years, they won 3 championships. The San Francisco 49ers won their 5th Super Bowl in 1994 and went 2-14 in 2004. To further add onto the pain of some teams, the Golden State Warriors finished no better than 11th in the Western Conference from 2000-2006. You take away the one playoff appearance from 2007 and the Warriors would have had a playoff drought from 1994-2013. Now, the Warriors are World Champions and are breaking the NBA. Enter the pain of Stanford football.
Stanford football won 16 games from 2002-2006. That is 3 wins a season on average and for the bookend seasons, they won 2 games in 2002 and 1 game, ONE GAME…. in 2006. It got so bad that Stanford was on the verge on becoming a Division II program or what would now be known as an FCS school; that would have been great for Cal as they play those schools anyway. 3 of those wins were against San Jose State, 2 against Washington with those respective Washington teams winning 1 game and 0 games that season and the best win would have to be against Navy in 2005 which was the season opener on the road and a team that would eventually win 8 games. A decade ago, the only thing to look forward to at Stanford football was the tailgate with family and friends. Football was 2nd on my mind and I am sure I could think of another few things that were more important than whether or not I would miss kickoff.
During that run, Stanford had one 5-star recruit in Trent Edwards who would go on to be sacked more than any other quarterback in college football history. To this day, if he had played for someone like USC, he would have been a Heisman. In 2006, Stanford didn’t even have a 4-star recruit in its class. They averaged a 46 in class rankings. There weren’t young studs coming from all over the country that could play right away. Our players weren’t good, our coaches weren’t good, and the program was a giant dumpster fire.
When Jim Harbaugh came in 2007, it still didn’t have the feel of something better because we had already heard the “rah rah rah” speeches. We were getting ready for another coach who was probably going to have 2-3 years at Stanford before he gets fired or quits. The only goal in 2007 was hoping to get to 6 wins and play in the Fairyland Bowl. On paper, we had another sub-par recruiting class which included 2-star Doug Baldwin who would become a friend of mine and an NFL star, 2-star Owen Marecic who was a 2-way standout, and 3-star Coby Fleener.
10 years ago, we had no idea that Jim Harbaugh was a freaking genius and could recruit kids who got overlooked. We had no idea that Jim Harbaugh could spot talent in a garbage can. He was the MacGyver of the Stanford football program. He brought with him a guy named David Shaw to coach under him. These are things you can’t see in the present when you suck. Stanford would only go 4-8 in 2007 but it wasn’t about the record anymore as what was happening during those 12 games. Stanford beat USC in the Coliseum when they were 42-point underdogs. Stanford beat Cal for the first time since 2001. Stanford was able to shake off a tough loss and win the following week on the road at Arizona (TYRONE MCGRAW, YOU WILL BE MISSED). You can’t see change for the better as it’s happening just like you can’t see when a dynasty is cracking.
10 years ago, the goal of a Stanford football player, coach, and fan was to HOPEFULLY make a bowl game. Fast forward 10 years and 6,7,8,9 win seasons are failed seasons. It’s conference championship or bust, it’s strive for a national championship or bust. Coach David Shaw is attempting to be the all-time wins leader this season. All I am saying is enjoy the ride as it’s happening because in 2027, Stanford football might go back to being the ragdoll of the league.