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Penn State Coaching Search: David Shaw

We here at BSD have been running through the potential--even if they're somewhat far-fetched--candidates to become the next head coach at Penn State. From Happy Valley to Tennessee, Houston to Georgia, the list grows. Today we're going to look at one of the more "flavor of the week"-type candidates, Stanford head coach David Shaw.

It's always tough to gauge a head coach who has been at the helm of a program for only one season. Typically, if a team has success under the previous coach, it's not difficult for the next one to have similar success for the first year or two. Of course, having Andrew Luck as your quarterback doesn't hurt, either. But Shaw is definitely an intriguing figure among those potential candidates to fill Penn State's vacant full-time head coaching position.

Stanford was always an up-and-down program. They have quite a few Rose Bowls under their belts, but the Cardinal were always falling victim to the "academic standards" demon. You know, the one that other programs like Vanderbilt, Northwestern and [chuckle] Notre Dame have cursed for decades.

That all changed under Shaw's predecessor, Jim Harbaugh. The man from a family of head coaches arrived in Palo Alto in 2007, inheriting a program that went 1-11 the year before. Since then, the Cardinal have strung together three straight bowl bids, one BCS bowl win, a Heisman runner up, and another Heisman finalist. Oh yeah, and Stanford has lost only two games the last two regular seasons.

Shaw stepped into a fantastic situation at Stanford. He's basically untested, but has shown he can maintain success when given the opportunity. Now, let's expand on Shaw's resume, and how it could potentially fit into the void in Happy Valley.

Head Coaching Record

Not much here, as Shaw has been head man for only this season. But if it weren't for Oregon being in the same division (Pac-12 North), Stanford would have at least been able to play in the Pac-12 championship game, rather than being left out in favor of 6-6 UCLA from the South Division.

Year Team Overall Conf Standing Bowl/playoffs C# AP°
Stanford Cardinal (Pacific-12 Conference) (2011–present)
2011 Stanford 11–1 8–1 T–1st (North) Fiesta † 4 4
Stanford: 11–1 8–1
Total: 11–1
#Rankings from 12/4 Coaches' Poll.
°Rankings from 12/4 AP Poll.

This season, Stanford picked up right where it left off. The scoring offense is ranked fifth nationally, while the total offense is 11th and total defense 25th. Stanford hasn't had much trouble stuffing the run, either, with the fifth-best rush defense in country this year. One of the best assets this team possesses--beside Luck--is its big, very good offensive line. The Cardinal are sixth nationally in sacks allowed, and opened up holes for 207 yards per game on the ground.

The problem with this season is the strength of schedule. It wasn't very good. The strongest opponent was obviously Oregon, which Stanford lost to by 23 points. The next was Southern Cal, which Stanford beat, but only in triple overtime. Outside those two very good teams, who else was left? Notre Dame? Cal? Washington? Give me a break. Stanford's schedule was less difficult as Penn State's (the Alabama game puts PSU over the top), just to give you an idea.

Coaching Experience

Though Shaw is a young'un in terms of head coaching experience, he has had a very long history as an assistant in both the NFL and college ranks. His family connections have helped open up doors, but Shaw has definitely proven himself once he steps through them.

In the interest of time, here's the rundown

Shaw's coaching resume also includes nine years of NFL experience with the Philadelphia Eagles (1997), Oakland Raiders (1998-2001) and Baltimore Ravens (2002-05).

Shaw's most recent coaching job in the NFL with Baltimore included a stint as the quarterbacks and wide receivers coach from 2002-04 before working solely with the wide receivers in 2005. His tenure included a 2003 campaign that reaped an AFC North title and a 10-6 regular season record.

After three seasons of quality control with the Oakland Raiders from 1998-2000, Shaw moved into the role of quarterbacks coach in 2001 as the Raiders won a second straight AFC West title and finished the regular season with a 10-6 mark.

Shaw began his NFL coaching career as the quality control with the Philadelphia Eagles in 1997.

He launched his coaching career at Western Washington, where he coached the outside linebackers in 1995 and the tight ends in 1996.

The Harbaugh years...

Stanford was the ninth-highest scoring team in the nation in 2010, averaging 40.31 points a game. The Cardinal scored a school-record 524 points in 13 games, a point total that surpassed the previous record of 461, established by the 2009 team. During Shaw's tenure as offensive coordinator, the Cardinal scored 40 or more points in 11 games since the 2007 season, including 10 times over the past two campaigns.

Stanford's balanced offensive attack amassed a school-record 6,142 yards during the 2010 season, averaging 213.8 on the ground and 258.7 yards through the air. The Cardinal finished second in the Pac-10 and 17th nationally in rushing average and amassed the second-highest rushing total (2,779 yards) in school history.

In addition, Shaw's play calling ability in the red zone helped Stanford convert on a national-best 57.6 percent of its scoring opportunities inside the 20-yard line.

Shaw tutored five running backs - Stepfan Taylor, Anthony Wilkerson, Tyler Gaffney, Usua Amanam and Jeremy Stewart - that combined to rush for 2,063 yards in 13 games, an average of 158.6 yards a game, offsetting Gerhart's 143.9 yards per game average from previous season.

Prior to his appointment as offensive coordinator at Stanford, Shaw served as the wide receivers and passing game coordinator at the University of San Diego during the 2006 season, where he helped guide the nation's top Division I-AA offense that paced the Toreros to the Pioneer League championship and NCAA Division I-AA Mid-Major national title.

Coaching Philosophy

Seeing how I've watched all of about 4 total hours of Stanford football this year--not for lack of interest, rather for lack of time--much of what we have to go off of here are the stats. From what we can see, they are at least on-paper impressive. (For an explanation of S&P+, please see here.)

Year Total Offense (yds/game) Rank Scoring Offense (pts/game) Rank Offensive S&P+ Rank
2007 - OC/WRs 322.50 107 19.58 105 100.3 65
2008 - OC/WRs 351.75 67 26.25 54 124.3 12
2009 - OC/WRs
427.62 19 35.46 11 131.0 8
2010 - OC/RBs
472.46 14 40.31 9 137.7 2
2011 - HC
480.92 11 43.58 5 128.7 11

Let's just establish this right now: Shaw is a great offensive coordinator. Yes, Harbaugh had a lot to do with the improvement of the team overall, but when an offense improves so drastically over just four years, either the coordinator is fantastic, or someone is cheating. I'm leaning toward the former.

It does, however, remain to be seen how Shaw performs as a head coach. Again, one year is tough to gauge any coach. For all we know, Shaw could be 100 percent legit. But all we know, right now, is that he's a great offensive guru who took over a team with its main strength centered on the offense.

Fit - Cultural, Personnel, Etc.

Give Shaw Penn State's defense, and Stanford would be on the level of LSU and Alabama right now. The Cardinal offense has been fantastic, even after losing Toby Gerhart after the '09 season. Penn State's offense, however, is not nearly up to par for what a guy like Shaw would want to do. Needless to say, the quarterbacks would need an upgrade times infinity, and the offensive line would need some work. But Penn State has the parts and the tools. It just needs one guy to put it all together. Shaw is that kind of guy, as seen by his work with the Stanford offense over five seasons. And as long as Shaw brings a defensive coordinator who won't wreck the pure awesomeness that is the Penn State defense, this could be a football match made in heaven.

Shaw's family man reputation only adds to his allure, specifically to the folks in Palo Alto where he played his college career. He was born in San Diego, but traveled as his dad got coaching jobs all over the country. In the end, Shaw is a California Boy who seems very comfortable where he is at Stanford. It would be very tough for Penn State to lure him away (not that they are trying or anything); but doesn't that just make him an even more attractive candidate?

What is your thought on Shaw as a candidate?

Previous Candidate Profiles:

Dan Mullen, Mississippi State HC

Tom Bradley, Penn State Interim HC

Tim Murphy, Harvard HC

Mike Munchak, Tennessee Titans (NFL) HC

Mark Richt, Georgia HC

Greg Schiano, Rutgers HC

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