Stanford coaching candidates: Chris Petersen, Bronco Mendenhall among top options to replace David Shaw

One of the best coaches Stanford has ever employed is gone. Now the program must decide what it wants to be in the era of one-time transfer waivers, the transfer portal, and name, image and likeness rights for athletes.

David Shaw resigned early Sunday morning after 12 mostly successful seasons in charge of the Cardinal. He picked up the leap of success started by Jim Harbaugh and was…better. The winningest coach in school history finished with the third-highest winning percentage at Stanford behind some guys named Pop Warner and Clark Shaughnessy, if those names mean anything to you.

But as the game evolved, Shaw and Stanford didn’t. A program known for its physicality has lost its mojo. Stanford’s academic restrictions do not allow the program to draw as much portal traffic as its peers. That puts Stanford football behind…far behind.

The next coach must take all of this into account. Administration too. Does Stanford just want to put together a football team or compete at the highest level in what will soon be a wide-open Pac-12. Maybe Stanford and what happens to the conference can meet in the middle. The league should be somewhat on the fence given the realignment and expansion of the college football playoffs.

But that’s getting ahead of things. Shaw once told me that after getting high school prospect grades in June, he could only sign about 75 players. nationally. He didn’t complain; this is part of the reality at Stanford.

The new coach must know this and, in some ways, embrace it.

Stanford Coach Candidates

Chris Petersen, Fox analyst, former Washington coach: Everything indicates that Coach Pete is happy behind the analyst’s desk. But if there was one job on the West Coast done for him, this is it. He could reinvent his OKG (Our Kind of Guys) philosophy in a place that values ​​the collegiate model. He already had major two-stop success, making Boise State a national name before leading the Huskies. Petersen is the No. 1 candidate until he says he’s not interested. It’s a program builder that might not chafe under Stanford’s restrictions.

Bronco Mendenhall, former Virginia coach: Judging by reports, Bronco is interested in returning to the game. He was reportedly interviewed in Colorado after leaving Virginia last December. Mendenhall won 99 games at BYU and guided the program into its era of independence. At Virginia, he stabilized the program by winning at least eight times in six seasons. He is a culture and program builder; in other words, pretty much a perfect fit for Stanford.

Bill O’Brien, Alabama offensive coordinator: Industry buzz is that O’Brien will be elsewhere next year. Whether in the NFL or in college is unknown. Although the Bama fan base has occasionally scapegoated Obie this season, it’s hard to ignore his resume: the NFL head coach and general manager, resurrected Penn State from the absolute bottom after the Jerry Sandusky scandal, coached Bryce Young for a Heisman trophy. Why not make a duo O’Brien and Derek Mason (as defensive coordinator) at Stanford?

Derek Mason, Oklahoma State defensive coordinator: Another possible slam dunk for Stanford. Mason made his reputation, even his career, as Shaw’s defensive coordinator for three seasons (2011-13). Meanwhile, the Cardinal went 34-7 and played in two Rose Bowls. Mason used that momentum to take the job from Vanderbilt where he went 27-55 in seven seasons. Vandy is an almost impossible job. Mason returned to his roots this season as Oklahoma State’s defensive boss. The Cowboys fell from fourth to 114th in total defense, which could be concerning. But in terms of fit, Mason gets Stanford. It would make sense to bring back one of Shaw’s best lieutenants.

Duke Coach Mike Elko: Elko is unlikely to leave Duke after a year, but think about it. Stanford is the West Coast version of Duke – or vice versa. Elko is rooted in coaching experience in private institutions (Fordham, Hofstra, Wake Forest, Notre Dame). In the year of the turnaround, Duke went one of the biggest from 3-9 to 8-4. It’s probably not the right time for Elko, but he’s a name to watch as a rising star.

Mike Bloomgren, Rice’s trainer: Another familiar face for Stanford. For five seasons under Shaw, Stanford’s offensive line – coached by Bloomgren – became the face of the program physically intimidating opponents. The Owls have made steady progress in Bloomgren’s five seasons, going from 2-11 to 5-7. More than that, Bloomgren made Rice competitive, something they hadn’t been in a while. Academic restrictions are similar to those at Stanford.

Troy Taylor, Sacramento State coach: A West Coast staple, Taylor has made it known he’s ready to make the jump to a job at Power Five. His name was attached to Colorado Research. When Bill Musgraves was fired as Cal’s offensive coordinator, Taylor’s name immediately popped up at his alma mater. In two seasons with Taylor as Utah’s offensive coordinator (2017-18), the Utes went 16-11 and qualified for the Pac-12 Championship Game in 2018. During his year as offensive coordinator at Eastern Washington (2016), Taylor supervised Cooper Kupp, who caught 114 passes, including 19 for touchdowns. The Hornets are currently 11-0 and heading to the FCS playoffs. The 28 years of his high school and college career were spent west of the Rockies, just four years from the state of California.

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