Clardy's Corner: Shaw's Validation

Don't call it a comeback. Stanford's been here for years. And David Shaw may have finally proven that he can keep the Cardinal there for a while.

I'm not sure if you've noticed, but in less than two years as the Stanford head coach, David Shaw's record is 20-4.

Twenty wins in less than two years. Think about that for a second. Shaw has already won more games at Stanford than Dennis Green did. He has already racked up more wins than Buddy Teevens and Walt Harris combined. He has almost half as many wins in just under two seasons as Tyrone Willingham had in seven full years.

Pop Warner won 71 games for Stanford from 1924 to 1932, a mark that still stands as the Card's coaching record. At the rate he's going, Shaw could get to 71 wins by 2017.

Eleven of Shaw's wins came last year, in one of the best seasons in school history. Yet, because Shaw had a transcendental player taking snaps for him, many fans want to credit those wins to the quarterback, and not to the coach. It's as if some people think Shaw's record last year should actually read 11*-2.

Shaw's biggest critics may have to get rid of those asterisks. Last Saturday's win may have finally seen to that.

Oh sure, last Saturday's win was about getting in the driver's seat for the Pac-12 Championship. It was about proving that defense can actually win the day in an offensive-minded conference. That win was also about revenge for two tough losses to the Ducks. And that revenge was sweet. As Jordan Williamson's game-winning field goal flew through the uprights, nothing spoke louder than the silence of 58,000-plus Oregon fans.

But in the bigger picture, last Saturday's win was about a head coach winning over some of his biggest critics. That outcome in Eugene may have, in the eyes of some, finally validated David Shaw as Stanford's head coach.

No, Shaw has not been perfect. I would rehash his handling of the quarterbacks this season, but I'd rather let Lindsay Lohan serve as my designated driver. Some still haven't forgiven him for going conservative at the Fiesta Bowl. I'm sure there are a bunch of decisions Shaw has made that, behind closed doors, he would admit to reconsidering if given a second chance.

But facts are facts. And the fact is that David Shaw's decisions have led to 20 wins in 24 games. The head coach is ultimately judged on his win-loss record. Nothing else matters. (Unless you crash your motorcycle while riding with your mistress whom you've hired into a phony job in your department, and then lie about it. But no one would be stupid enough to do that. Even if they won ten games the year before. Right, Bobby Petrino?)

While Shaw's win-loss record has, I think, bought him as much time as he wants at Stanford right now, things can change. If not immediately, then gradually. And for a case study in what can happen when a hot-shot coach plateaus and then plummets, Shaw can just look across the bay to Berkeley.

At one time, Jeff Tedford was one the best coaches in the West, a man who had brought a sleeping giant to life. This week, Tedford is packing up his office and heading to his house in Danville. Which he'd happily sell to you for $5.35 million.

Five years ago, the Bears were supposed to be the next big thing in the Pac-10. They had come close in 2004 with Aaron Rodgers, but three years later they were poised to make a run once again. And this time they were ready to make the leap to the most rarified of airs in college football: No. 1 in the polls.

It was there for the taking on October 13, 2007. Top-ranked LSU had gone down in triple overtime to Kentucky, clearing the way for cal to assume the throne. All they had to do was beat Oregon State.

Then Kevin Riley didn't throw the ball. Joe Starkey had an on-air conniption. Jeff Tedford slammed his headset to the ground in disgust. And the Bears never got that close again.

Not only did they never get that close, they seemed to be getting further away as the seasons passed. Despite finally playing in a stadium that won't make the safety inspectors blush, the lowest points came this year, and Tedford paid the ultimate price on Tuesday.

Interesting to note: exactly one week before cal's near-miss with glory, Stanford had beaten U$C in That Game. It's amazing how the rise of Stanford Football directly parallels—almost to the day—the fall of cal football.

Need another illustration of how far cal has fallen? Okay. If you wanted to argue that cal has now fallen to third place on Stanford's list of rivals, I would agree with you 100 percent. Then I'd take it a step further. Not only have we reached the point where U$C and Oregon are now more important rivals to Stanford, I think it's quite possible that Notre Dame could pass the Bears on that list soon, too.

Five years from now, will we be talking about David Shaw passing Pop Warner as Stanford's winningest coach? Who knows? Five years is an eternity in college football. Coaches and programs rise and fall, and only a select few stand the test of time. And while Shaw publicly treats last week's win as just another game, I'm sure that, privately, he realizes what that victory could really mean.

The Cardinal are ready and capable to be Pac-12 contenders for the long haul. And David Shaw is ready and capable of being the man who leads them. By beating the Ducks in Eugene, Stanford may have sent two big messages once and for all.

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As big as this win over Oregon was, please, please don't compare it to the Greatest Upset Ever. Anyone who was paying attention last week knew that the Cardinal had a chance in Eugene because of its defense. There was absolutely nothing to indicate that Stanford had a chance against the Trojans in 2007. Nothing…

Stat of the week: Stanford has won its last two games—against two of the Pac-12's best teams--despite a minus-five turnover margin in those games…

I saw a lot of blocked kicks and other special teams mishaps all around the Pac-12 last week. This is November. Shouldn't everybody have gotten their special teams blunders out of the way by October 1?

Can I please go through one week without getting a Matt Scott Vomit Update?

Gotta admit I like the chemistry between Mike Yam, Rick Neuheisel, Curtis Conway, and Jeremy Bloom on the Pac-12 football studio shows. Nice job, guys…

Normally, I'm a Gus Johnson fan. Last Saturday, not so much. Is it me or did anyone else find him extra annoying during the U$C-UCLA game?

With their loss to the Bruins last week, U$C becomes the first AP preseason No. 1 to fall out of the poll completely since Ole Miss in 1964. And outside of the Figueroa corridor, not a tear was shed…

Not a Pac-12 thought, but… congratulations, Maryland. Congratulations, Rutgers. Shame on you, Big 10…

Not a Pac-12 thought, but… I'm sorry, but Notre Dame doesn't pass my eyeball test as the No. 1 team in the country. Pitt almost beat them. I still think Alabama and Oregon would beat them, probably with ease. Hell, I know Stanford can beat them…

Not a Pac-12 thought, but… please have a safe and happy Thanksgiving!

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Utah @ Colorado (Friday). Remember when I said that this year's Buffaloes weren't quite as bad as the 2008 Washington State Cougars? I may have to rethink that. I like Utah by 14.

Washington @ Washington State (Friday). By the way…the 2012 Washington State Cougars aren't much better than the 2008 Washington State Cougars. I like Washington by 30.

Arizona State @ Arizona (Friday). Both teams can rack up the yards. So this game should come down to who can play better defense. That's why I like Arizona State by four.

Oregon @ Oregon State. The Cardinal defense gave the Beavers the blueprint, but I'm not sure Oregon State has the personnel to pull it off. I like Oregon by 22.

Wow…did I just pick all four road teams to win? On rivalry week, no less? That's doomed to failure…

Last week: 4-1 (straight-up), 3-2 (ATS).
This year: 33-8 (straight-up), 22-19 (ATS).
Last year: 27-19 (straight-up), 28-18 (ATS).

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Troy Clardy is in his 20th year of following the Cardinal as a columnist, broadcaster, and announcer. In its 11th season of Cardinal commentary, Clardy's Corner appears Wednesdays during the college football regular season on You can also check him out online at, hear him on Pittsburgh's Sportsradio 93-7 The Fan, or e-mail him at

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