Shaw proving to be right guy for the job

September, 20, 2011
9/20/11
10:00
AM ET
In my opinion...

We know David Shaw can X and O. He's pretty good at that.

We know he can make halftime adjustments. He's pretty good at that too.

But Shaw faces a new kind of test this week in his first season as Stanford's skipper.

With the Cardinal in a bye week, they will have a lot of time to sit around and wonder how things are going to be on Oct. 1 against UCLA when their leading tackler, Shayne Skov, is not on the field with them. Or the week after that. Or the week after that and all the way through the bowl season. Do they have the quality depth at linebacker that Shaw so frequently, and enthusiastically, touts?

Whether they actually do is inconsequential. Because what Shaw needs to do is make his players believe it. He needs to make them believe that they won't miss a beat. While replacing a talent such as Skov is darn near impossible, Shaw has to have his team believing the impossible. Whoever gets the call to run in Skov's spot -- Shaw will have to convince him that he can do what Skov can do -- and do it better.

There is no room for woe-is-me syndrome when you play for the No. 5 team in the country. And no cure for it either. Produce, or someone else will.

There is little reason to believe he doesn't have the full attention/command/support of his team. It was clear in Week 1, when the players presented the former Stanford wide receiver with the game ball after a 57-3 win over San Jose State. It was, in effect, a passing of the guard. It was their way of saying 'We've moved on. You're our guy.'

It was evident again in Week 2 when Duke threw a bunch of different looks at the offense that they hadn't seen on film or expected. The proper adjustments were made and the Cardinal looked much stronger in the second half.

Same thing happened in Arizona Saturday. Sketchy first half, solid second.

The guy can coach.

His hiring to replace the fiery Jim Harbaugh was met by some with a tepid, golf-clap-like response. The big question dogging him was that he had never been a head coach.

Through three weeks, it's clear that Athletic Director Bob Bowlsby made the right call. Shaw is the best coach for Stanford. Would he have the same success at a Michigan or a Florida? Tough to say. Different styles. Different environments. But it's clear he's a Stanford man. He's Stanford's man. And he fits the role perfectly.

He's one of seven new head coaches still undefeated. He's the first Stanford coach to start his career 3-0 since Jack Christiansen. And there is statistical evidence that his team is improving each week. Some of that, naturally, goes to position coaches, coordinators and the players themselves.

And therein lies the proof. This is a team that can be coached, and wants to be coached.

That speaks volumes about the new man in charge.

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