David Shaw: A defense of the Stanford coach who should not need defending

October 17, 2013

By Matthew E. Milliken
MEMwrites.wordpress.com
Oct. 10, 2013

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I’m inclined to cut Shaw some slack. Fans, in my view, have been overly critical of the Cardinal coach, despite the fact that he’s just one of two coaches to lead Stanford to the promised land — the Rose Bowl, that is — in 41 years. He is also, mind you, the only Stanford coach to win a Rose Bowl since John Ralston did it on Jan. 1, 1972.

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Yet despite his accomplishments, a lot of fans seem to hold him to account for two questionable decisions involving quarterback. One was opting for conservative play-calling at the end of the 2012 Fiesta Bowl, rather than trusting all-world passer Andrew Luck to lead the offense to a game-winning touchdown.

Shaw’s other mistake, in fans’ eyes, was waiting until the ninth game of the 2012 season to start Hogan under center in lieu of senior Josh Nunes. The move came after Stanford had sustained its only two losses of the year, at Washington and at Notre Dame, games in which the Cardinal offense collectively generated a measly 385 yards and a pathetic 12 points.

Fans feel that the Cardinal might have been undefeated and in position to contend for the national championship if Hogan had been installed as the starter sooner. That’s certainly a tantalizing scenario to envision.

But it is ultimately, I feel, a chimerical one. Shaw has been coaching football since 1995. He played for Walsh at Stanford and since then has worked for Jon Gruden, Brian Billick and Jim Harbaugh. The first three of those men have all won Super Bowls, while the last one has coached his way to two mid-major college national titles and a Super Bowl berth.

Shaw is hardly perfect, and like any other football coach, he is a perfectly valid target for criticism. But he’s also forgotten more about football than I’ll ever know, and I believe him when he says that Hogan simply was not ready to play full time until November.

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