Criteria #1: Strong Leadership
Does David Shaw have strong leadership? Considering he’s led the same program for 12 years with resounding success, I’d say yes. Since returning to his alma mater in 2007, Shaw has been part of a drastic turnaround at Stanford, one that he continued when he became the Head Coach in 2011. I don’t care where the guy is coaching. If he lasts over a decade at one program (especially in college), then that means he’s doing something right.
Before we get into his accolades at Palo Alto, let’s take a step back and look at Shaw’s working history. Leadership is a trait that many people believe is inherent, and while I agree with that, I do believe that it can be cultivated for greater success.
Take a look at his college career at Stanford. The coach his Freshman year? Dennis Green, who soon went on to lead the Vikings for a decade (with 8 playoff appearances). Not enough of a name to intrigue you? How about the guy that coached Shaw for the rest of his college career?
Yeah, that Bill Walsh. The three-time Super Bowl-winning HC had another stint at Palo Alto following his time with the Niners in the 90s. In that time, he became a coach and more importantly, a mentor figure to Shaw. The latter details his relationship with the late coach in this video (which starts around the 12:20 mark).
When he went to the NFL, he managed to work alongside guys like Sean Payton (who’s publicly vouched for Shaw to get an NFL job before), Jon Gruden, and Brian Billick. What do they all have in common? Oh, yeah. They’re all Super Bowl-winning Head Coaches.
That’s FOUR Super Bowl-winning Head Coaches that he’s either played for or worked under (of course, Green and Harbaugh are the two others). Does this mean that he’s a shoo-in to be the next great coach? No, but it can’t hurt to have such a list of mentors to draw from.
Shaw is a guy that’s been able to observe and learn from a variety of great leaders in his time. How they create a culture, rally a team, and ultimately, win championships.
Aside from being a part of a turnaround himself, he’s seen several others do it successfully.
Speaking of culture, let’s take a look at how his ability to cultivate a culture at Stanford bodes well for his candidacy in Denver.