When it comes to the rigors and play of the gridiron, David Shaw subscribes to a specific, yet simple, school of thought.
"I like to think in terms of eras," he said. "And hopefully our era doesn’t come to an end with Andrew [Luck] leaving."
In his first season as a head football coach, Shaw guided Stanford to an 11-1 season and awaits a final foe in Oklahoma State, who the Cardinal will face Monday in the Tostitos Fiesta Bowl. The game against the Cowboys may culminate Shaw’s first season as head coach, but the Stanford alumnus is already eyeing what is to be next year.
"That’s been the thing, and good teams always handle that," Shaw said, looking ahead to coaching a team next season that won’t have star quarterback Andrew Luck on its roster. "Everybody wondered how good we’d be when we lost Toby Gerhart. And everybody is going to wonder how we’re going to be without Andrew next year."
Some probably also wondered how Stanford would fare without Jim Harbaugh, the coaching architect who from 2007 to 2010 resurrected the Cardinal program while instilling — to use a cliché — a tradition of winning.
An 11-1 season and a second consecutive BCS bowl appearance suggests that Shaw is keeping that tradition alive.
"He didn’t really have to prove anything to us," Luck said. "We knew he was a great coach and he was going to take care of business."
But I think he proved that he is a great coach to the pundits, the media and the skeptics out there. I know it must be tough coming in after coach Harbaugh left and all that he did and having to live up to that, but I think he’s done an admirable job and I love playing for him."
If there was any route that could’ve prepared Shaw for this season, it was the one he took from first coaching college football in 1995 to an eight-year stint in the pros, which ultimately led him back to college.
"I think the balance of those two is great," Shaw said of coaching at the collegiate and professional levels. "We’ve been through the highs and lows, the bumps and bruises. So when we have a bad week or a bad series, we don’t panic."
What Shaw’s season best typifies is that Stanford’s football program will not revert to the role of the lowly conifer that was once perennially chopped and beaten by teams in the now Pac-12 Conference.
"We might look a little different," he said, referring to the inevitable roster changes next year, "but we expect to be competitive from here on out."
Stanford (11-1) vs. Oklahoma St. (11-1)
WHEN: Monday, 5:30 p.m.
WHERE: University of Phoenix Stadium, Glendale, Ariz.
RADIO: KTCT (1050 AM)