The Stanford Cardinal’s meteoric rise to the top of the national standings over the past five years can be chalked up to a number of factors. Great recruiting, outstanding leadership, and immense talent among the players have all contributed to the team’s success. However, one factor seemed to truly turn the program around – coaching.
Jim Harbaugh took over as head coach of the Cardinal back in 2007 when the team was coming off of a 1-11 season. Right away, it was clear that Harbaugh was going to do big things in Palo Alto. However, he also quickly began to rub some the wrong way with his rather abrasive comments and coaching style.
This is not to criticize Harbaugh, who certainly drove the Stanford football program out of mediocrity within his first two years with the team. Nonetheless, he called out USC coach Pete Carroll very soon into his time in Palo Alto, and his hard-nosed coaching style upset some of his players.
Perhaps the most famous of these unhappy players was current Seattle Seahawk Richard Sherman. The former Stanford cornerback famously called Harbaugh a “bully.”
This statement was amplified by the fact that Sherman currently plays for Carroll in Seattle, the division rival of Harbaugh’s 49ers. Still, it reflects the way many of the coach’s former players looked at him.
In 2011, after Harbaugh headed to San Francisco, offensive coordinator David Shaw took over as head coach. Almost a completely opposite personality to his predecessor, Shaw is relatively quiet, polite, and soft-spoken.
None of his high-profile players have come out publically against his coaching style, he is polite to the media, and he still has found the same success as Harbaugh. While Harbaugh got the program rolling again, Shaw has not let up, continuing the success on the field and the recruiting trail found by his predecessor.
Though the two are completely different in terms of their personalities and coaching styles, they have found similar
results. Harbaugh finished his time at Stanford with a career record of 29-21, though he was 20-6 over his final two seasons, while Shaw is an astounding 23-4 in his two seasons.
Based on the similar degrees of success that these two coaches have found despite their opposing styles, it seems safe to say that the Stanford football program is here to stay. Whether the coach is abrasive and curt or soft-spoken and polite, the Cardinal have found a way to win thanks to the skills of Jim Harbaugh and David Shaw. In addition, they don’t look to be letting up any time soon.