In college football, coaches get fired pretty frequently. Sometimes for misconduct, but mostly, they get the boot after a string of bad seasons.
David Shaw and Stanford are having a bad season. They’ve continuously worsened the past couple of seasons. Some think the solution to Stanford’s woes is to fire Shaw. But there is absolutely no chance Shaw will be fired. Stanford could lose the rest of their games (which seems like a possibility because of all the injuries), and Shaw would still have his job next season.
Yes, I realize I’m the guy who imagined David Shaw and Jim Harbaugh switching schools for 2020, but there’s a world of difference between what I want to happen and what actually will happen. Let’s be honest with ourselves: David Shaw is not going anywhere.
First off, let’s remember how hard it is to fire someone. The decision rests on the shoulders of Stanford’s athletic director, Bernard Muir. It’s a decision that would weigh heavily. One thing most fans don’t realize is that if you fire a head coach, his assistants go with him. In total, you’d likely displace 40 or 50 people, including family members. In many cases, the assistants don’t deserve firing, but they’re a part of the old coach’s regime. Ethically, it’s a difficult decision for any athletic director to make.
Furthermore, blame doesn’t always lie with the head coach. For example, after last week’s Falcons game, fans were calling for Dan Quinn to be fired. Their star player Julio Jones gave a moving speech afterwards and pointed blame at the team, not his head coach.
Does Shaw deserve the blame for Stanford’s poor performance? None of us truly knows, but the person who does is Muir. Whereas fans only see the team in action for the three hours they play their game, Muir can see the team behind the scenes throughout the day. Like an NFL owner, Muir sees the team in the locker room and sees them at practice. He also sees the amount of effort coaches put into each game. My point: Muir knows a lot more than we do.
Even if Muir does blame Shaw, though, do we really think Stanford will get an upgrade at head coach?
Stanford can’t get the “retired” Urban Meyer. He’s not going to downgrade from Ohio State to Stanford. Bob Stoops, who is now coaching in the XFL, wouldn’t come either.
As much as I hate to admit it, Jim Harbaugh is not coming back to The Farm; I think he burned too many bridges at Stanford. He’d also want to move forward in his career rather than backward.
Stanford is not a high enough caliber program to convince a premiere coach to come. Remember, Stanford hired Harbaugh as an unknown. His successor, Shaw, was basically an unknown at the time of his hire. After many years of success under Shaw, is Stanford really going to roll the dice on a new, unproven coach?
Shaw has been a good coach; there’s no arguing that. He led the Cardinal to three Rose Bowl games and won two of them. He was named PAC-12 Coach of the Year four times. He’s the winningest coach in Stanford history.
Plus, David Shaw runs a pretty clean ship, despite college football being filled with scandals year after year. Urban Meyer hid domestic violence at Ohio State, Art Briles hid sexual assault at Baylor, and Maryland’s DJ Durkin was accused of player mistreatment.
David Shaw has never been accused of anything close to these scandals. He’s promoted positive change by raising awareness for sexual violence. His team played games dedicated to the cause, and Shaw is a member on the NCAA Commission to Combat Campus Sexual Violence.
There’s no denying Shaw is a good role model for students and student-athletes.
Muir will not blame Shaw for Stanford’s bad season. Instead, I believe Shaw will put the blame on his assistants and on injuries, which are both valid.
Stanford has suffered injuries left and right, which could be the fault of Stanford’s new strength and conditioning coach. Perhaps Shaw will replace him.
The offense has struggled. Maybe it’s time to replace Tavita Pritchard.
The defensive line has regressed in recent years. Maybe it’s time to find someone else.
There’s no denying that Stanford football needs help and that change is needed. But there’s also no denying that firing David Shaw will lead to even more trouble for Stanford.