The end of the beginning.
The bye week marked a good time to reflect why Stanford fans have faith in this man. Before his team begins its 11-week / seven-city 2016 tour, before David Shaw starts the next stage in his Stanford career, let’s give his first five seasons their due.
They weren’t just good. They were historically good.
In 2011, I compared Shaw to others from Pac-12 schools who also took over for NFL-bound coaches. At this stage, he’s far outpaced the all-time leader in conference wins. He’s won with more regularity than the man who made Oregon an elite program. Shaw has worked himself into an exclusive club. In the group of decorated Pac-12 bosses who thrived after their predecessors chose the pro ranks, only John Robinson sits ahead of him.
Coach First five seasons Record (Winning percentage)
John Robinson 1976-1980 50-8-2 (.833)
David Shaw 2011-2015 54-14 (.797)
Terry Donahue 1976-1980 38-17-2 (.666)
Mike Bellotti 1995-1999 39-20 (.661)
And if coaching greatness is measured in wins, then Shaw deserves mention among even greater legends. Since the conference began in 1916, only four other coaches – Pappy Waldorf, Howard Jones, Robinson and Pete Carroll – compiled a higher winning percentage through their first five seasons.
I repeat: Who is the most successful head coach through his first five years in this conference who a) didn’t coach at USC or b) isn’t a statue outside Memorial Stadium? It’s David Shaw. He joins the following greats as the Pac-12’s ten best through their initial five years.
[Disclaimer alerts: Chip Kelly won 46 of 53 games at Oregon (.867), but left after four years. Gil Dobie of Washington went 58-0-3 nine seasons, the last being the conference’s inaugural campaign.]
Pappy Waldorf: 46-6-1 (.868) from 1947-1951
Uncommon achievements: The worst of his first five campaigns at Cal was 8-2 (in 1951, when Stanford broke the Bears’ streak of three straight Rose Bowl trips). Pappy arrived in Berkeley from Northwestern, where he won more games than anyone until Pat Fitzgerald. He later served as the 49ers’ director of scouting.
Common ground with David Shaw: He oversaw a team big on academic success, graduating 90 percent of his players during his stay at Cal.
Howard Jones: 46-7-2 (.836) from 1925-1929
Uncommon achievements: It was Jones who turned USC into a national powerhouse. He won or shared eight Pacific Coast Conference titles, went undefeated in five Rose Bowl appearances and began the Trojans’ rivalry against Notre Dame.
Common ground with David Shaw: His resume features a win over Notre Dame on a last-second field goal. The deciding kick in 1931 produced “one of the wildest scenes that ever gripped a sports field anywhere,” according to the Chicago Tribune’s game story.
John Robinson: 50-8-2 (.833) from 1976-1980
Uncommon achievements: Without the arrogance of John McKay, he maintained the Silver Fox’s stranglehold on the Pac-8. The laid-back presence enjoyed success in college (7-1 in bowl games, a 1979 co-national championship) and the pros. He remains the Rams’ all-time leader in wins and games coached.
Common ground with David Shaw: Al Davis’ tutelage. Robinson served as an Oakland Raiders assistant coach in 1975.
Pete Carroll: 41-10 (.803) from 2001-2005
Uncommon achievements: Like John McKay and Robinson, he took USC to great heights. Unlike his predecessors, his rosters lacked future Pro Football Hall of Famers (beyond Troy Polamalu, who else is there?). His place on this list would be higher, had the NCAA not erased 14 wins between 2004 and 2005.
Common ground with David Shaw: A gifted wide receiver once begged a Stanford assistant to move him to cornerback. With the switch, Richard Sherman’s path was destined to include NFL stardom under Carroll’s watch in Seattle.
Pop Warner: 40-8-4 (.769) from 1924-1928
Uncommon achievements: Still the greatest Stanford coach (71-17-8 in nine seasons). Warner’s 1926 club went 10-0-1 and remains one of only two Stanford unbeatens since it joined the conference. In nine years on the Farm, only twice did he lose more than one conference game. He graduated from Cornell with a law degree before coaching two of the game’s all-time greats (Jim Thorpe at Carlisle and Ernie Nevers here).
Common ground with David Shaw: With his next win, Shaw will move into second-place on Stanford’s all-time list.
Babe Hollingbery: 35-10-2 (.744) from 1926-30
Uncommon achievements: Oversaw the best stretch in Washington State football history. His 1930 Cougars, led by Pro Football Hall of Fame center Mel Hein, reached the Rose Bowl. The team wouldn’t return for another 67 years.
Common ground with David Shaw: Presidential meetings. The most accomplished head coach at Washington State had a (somewhat awkward) White House encounter in 1930. “Well, Mr. Hollingbery, what are you doing now?” asked Herbert Hoover. “I’m winning football games,” the coach replied to a man already infamous for the Depression. “What are you doing?”
Enoch Bagshaw: 37-8-5 (.740) from 1921-1925
Uncommon achievements: Became the first conference coach doomed by high standards he helped create. Bagshaw won 28 games from 1923-1925 and took Washington to its first two Rose Bowls. But he resigned in 1929 amid a steady decline. Husky fanatics hoped in vain to replace him with Knute Rockne.
Common ground with David Shaw: Both men played and coached at their alma maters.
Red Sanders: 33-12 (.733) from 1949-1953
Uncommon achievements: Famous for enjoying Jack Daniel’s and Dixieland jazz, Sanders perfected the Single-Wing. He led the conference’s best teams of the 1950’s. His Bruins shared a national title in 1954. UCLA’s trademark uniforms – powder blue jerseys, shoulder stripes, Clarendon numbers – were his creation.
Common ground with David Shaw: Jim Murray’s 1958 obituary of Sanders in Sports Illustrated said he “delved into the disciplinary history of athletes before allowing his recruiters to approach them.” With standards like those, maybe Sanders would have also turned Josh Rosen away.
Tommy Prothro: 35-15-1 (.686) from 1955-1958, 1964
Uncommon achievements: Prothro isn’t just the only coach to win conference titles at two Pac-12 schools. He took Oregon State and UCLA to Rose Bowls in consecutive years (1964, 1965). An independent from 1959-63, the Beavers had one losing season under his watch. He won bridge tournaments and carried a briefcase to the sidelines.
Common ground with David Shaw: Both are sons of coaches. While Prothro quarterbacked Duke, his dad managed the Philadelphia Phillies.
Other notables: Jeff Tedford went 43-20 (.682) from 2002-2006 at Cal. John McKay was 33-17-1 (.647) from 1960-1964 at USC.