"Family Man": The Dalman Departure

We may not actually cause disappointing news, but we do feel compelled to report on it. Well-regarded offensive line coach and valued running game coordinator Chris Dalman resigned his position this week to spend time with his family...at this time. It was a blow to the program, but not the end of the world. Read on for more detail on Dally's Decision™ and when we might expect a counter-move.

"Family Man": The Dalman Departure

In a decision that is deeply disappointing, and understandably a bit discouraging for the Stanford Football staff and fans alike, well-regarded offensive line coach Chris Dalman, universally considered one of Stanford's finest and most valuable assistant coaches, resigned his position on Wednesday, reportedly to spend more time with his family.

Should we take that explanation at face value? At this point there is no indication that Dalman had been pursuing or is intending to pursue a college or professional coaching position with another organization. He has never come across as a ladder-climber with lofty aspirations in the coaching professions - no "It has always been a dream of mine to be a head coach" proclamations. The frequent culprit appears innocent this time as the motivation for Dalman's decision does not appear to be based on finances. While it is reasonable to assume that Head Coach Jim Harbaugh has been working to "solidify" most of his assistant coaches during his ongoing extension discussions, we understand that at no point did Dalman initiate any negotiation with regard to his compensation or benefits whatsoever. It seems to be a case of long hours, an exceptionally long commute, lots of travel, and a year-round grind that is the well-reported reality of big-time college football in modern times.

It was an unwelcome surprise, but it also hurts in the sense of being a bit demoralizing and coming at a time of uneasiness as we all wait for Harbaugh to put pen to ink. It hurts because Dalman was home-grown, one of our own, a popular and admired former Stanford player who had come back to the Farm and by all accounts had brought our offensive line back from being viewed as a vulnerable Achilles' heel to being regarded as one of the Cardinal football team's greatest strengths, one of our clear on-field advantages. The timing came as a shock to many because Dalman was being credited for doing such an outstanding job, for developing a Cardinal running game that produced a 1,000-yard rusher for the first time in 17 seasons.

As the AD's press release pointed out, Stanford's offensive line under Dalman's tutelage paved the way for the second-best rushing attack in the Pac-10 in 2008 and second-best in school history, as the Cardinal rushed for 2,395 yards, averaging a very impressive 199.6 yards per game on the ground. "Sacks allowed" also improved dramatically, putting an end to a very unsettling trend that had developed during the Teevens and Harris eras.

We are not 100% convinced that Coach Harbaugh shared our view of how good this guy was for our program and for the shaky confidence of the alumni and supporters of Stanford Football. Did Harbaugh for some reason fail to appreciate the value we all saw in having a former Cardinal player with significant NFL experience on our staff? [1/24 follow-up: Coach Harbaugh made a point of calling The Bootleg after this article was published to clarify that he was 100% appreciative of Coach Dalman. Coach Harbaugh wanted to set the record straight and felt he had to "fight" any unfair impression that there was any lack of appreciation of the value of Chris Dalman to the Stanford Football program. Fair enough. If we published anything inaccurate, we do apologize.]Actually, it is good to see a guy care enough to let us know if we occasionally have the wrong impression

Shouldn't we have been making more of a concerted effort to make things work for Chris? Why was Dalman, the run game coordinator, asked to cover more than a dozen states while position coaches covered much smaller areas? [1/24 follow-up - Coach Harbaugh corrected me here again, saying that Coach Dalman had recruiting responsibility for nine states - we didn't actively recruit South or North Dakota this year - and that in his view, Chris actually had less of a recruiting/travel burden than the position coaches. Again, if this is the case, we stand corrected.] Fair question. If there had been such obvious personal strain for Dalman, shouldn't the staff have rearranged things proactively to lessen his family's burden? Maybe they did. Who knows? We guess if they felt it was important enough a priority, they should have done more. Maybe in this case it wouldn;t have mattered. Look, as external observers, we are not sitting in on collaborative coaching personnel meetings that discuss such things - actually, who knows if such meetings are even conducted? 

In fairness, the more family time argument certainly does seem to hold water. Dalman loves and misses his kids. He wasn't getting to see them as much as he wanted to. And if I have learned anything from my own six-year marriage: "Happy wife, happy life!" 

No matter how anyone positions this development, Dalman's departure is a very significant loss for the program. Not one that can't be made up at least in part with a successful new hire, but a loss nevertheless. Continuity has proven rather elusive for Stanford Football during in the past decade plus.

Is there a "rest of the story" somewhere biding its time? Possibly, maybe even probably, but honestly, we don't know. There has been some talk about the possibility of an attractive opening arising within the San Francisco Forty-Niners' staff, depending on how the Niners' search for an offensive coordinator pans out. A slightly better commute, better money, no recruiting, and perhaps most intriguingly, the fact that Dalman is very tight with former BC head coach Jeff Jagodzinski, a 49er OC possibility whom Dally knew from his time with the Falcons, when Jagodzinski was the Atlanta offensive line coach in 2004-05. "Jagz" and "Dally" see the world the same way, which wasn't necessarily always the case with Coach Harbaugh and other members of the Cardinal coaching staff. Chris played for the Niners, so that would have to make any possible opportunity worth considering, were it to arise. 

This wasn't a situation like the one last year with departed defensive coordinator Scott Shafer (who surprisingly lasted just one season at Michigan and is now defensive coordinator at Syracuse). This time there was no bitterness involved, no insurmountable conflict of philosophy. The Shafer departure clearly had ticked off Coach Harbaugh. Shafer had been well-regarded by many including his players, but his abrupt decision to leave Stanford after a single year did not sit too well with a proud Harbaugh and many of the program's greatest stakeholders. In Dalman's case, the time away from his family apparently had been a pressing concern for the young coach and his wife for quite some time and the difficult decision had been weighing upon him for months. Even the maintenance of a residence in Menlo Park during the past year or so was not enough to lessen the impact of living well over an hour-and-a-half drive away.

As those who know him personally can attest, Chris Dalman is not a "bright lights, big city" guy. He was never chasing a high-profile lifestyle. When he spent two years in Atlanta coaching with the Falcons, the Dalmans kept their family home in Salinas, Calif., historically a low-key agricultural town located near Monterey. After his professional playing days were cut short by a life-threatening neck injury, Dalman seemed fairly content teaching school and coaching high school football at his prep alma mater Palma High School. It was Jim Mora Jr., then the Falcon coach and now the heir apparent to Mike Holmgren in Seattle, that talked him into trying his hand at coaching in the NFL.

So for the Stanford family - the coaches, the players and the fans - it is what it is. Dalman went "two & out". Time will tell if it was a quick kick or in reality a tricky reverse. On the brighter side, Stanford Football has known about this possibility for some time and had a chance to prepare. At least one candidate, one few if any of us know much about other than some typical coaching ties, has already been in to discuss the possibility of filling the staff vacancy, or at least providing an important piece of the offensive puzzle if things end up getting shuffled around. It would appear that a new offensive line coach should be in place well before National Letter of Intent Signing Day.  

We will be ready to report on any new developments in that regard. We soldier on..... Let's lock down a few of our remaining recruiting targets and start feeling better about ourselves in a hurry! Some important arrows are up despite this unsettling setback.

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