David Shaw explains why he hasn't left for the NFL

Posted by: Chris Vannini on Friday January 13, 2017


Another string of NFL head coaching changes is about to end, and David Shaw once again isn’t moving, despite many continually saying he’d be a fit.

But as Shaw puts it, college and the NFL are two completely different jobs. He’s not saying he’d never go. He even says he could see it one day down the road. But it’s not as simple as one thinks. Shaw was an NFL assistant from 1997-2005. His dad coached in the league. He knows how it works. 

Shaw recently joined The MMQB’s podcast with Peter King for a wide-ranging interview and talked jobs.

“The thing I stress to our guys who want to play in the NFL, college football and the NFL are two different sports,” Shaw said. “The NFL is not an extension of college. The NFL is its own monster. For me, going from college football to the NFL is essentially changing jobs. You can’t even do them the same way. The people who have been successful at both understand that. What it takes to be successful in college is not what it takes to be successful in the NFL. You have to draw a big line.”

So what’s the biggest difference?

“Everything. Absolutely everything,” Shaw said. “When you’re in college, the essential for being a good college football coach is to never forget someone just dropped their most important possession in my lap. I can’t ever forget that. No matter what I do or say, no matter if we win or lose, whether I yell at a young man or put my arm around him, I can’t ever forget that’s someone else’s baby, and they gave them to me. That can’t ever change.

In the NFL, when a guy walks in the door, he works for me. He’s got a job to do, or I’m cutting him. That’s it. That’s everything. The rest of it is how you do and blah blah blah. The essentials are completely different. … We’re training young men to be successful in football and out of football. In the NFL, we’re trying to win football games. Nothing else matters. Can you help me win games, or can you not help me win games? You can’t be afraid to cut a talented player and let him go. In college, I don’t want to cut anybody. They may play, they may not, but before they leave this football team, we’re going to help them grow. They’re two completely different jobs to me.”

So King followed up by asking what if an NFL team offered Shaw $8 million?

Shaw said it wouldn’t affect him, because it wouldn’t last. He's admitting the odds of him surviving as an NFL head coach for very long are small.

“I’m different because I grew up in this profession, my dad was a coach, I watched it over and over again,” he said. “That first press conference for an NFL head coach that just got hired, as soon as it starts, you start the clock for how long he’s going to be there. It’s just a fact of the business. I’m not saying it’s good or bad. That’s just what it is. It’s three to five years. That’s what you have, if you’re lucky.

“It’s not a permanent job. You’re a temp. Every NFL head coach, outside of Bill Belichick, is a temp. … To not understand that is folly. To be one of those guys that takes the money doesn’t understand it. Now if I get myself into that washing machine at some point, I’m doing it with my eyes wide open. For me right now, my daily life is Stanford University. I can’t imagine there’s a better job in America.”

That’s what it comes down to right now. Shaw feels he has at Stanford something he can’t get anywhere else.

One day down the road, I could see (going to the NFL). I’ve never shied away from that. I’ve never said never," he said. "But my daily job right now, in the heart of Silicon Valley, around these kids that are bright, motivated, competitive, athletic. In the last six years, we have the fourth-most wins in college football. We’re doing great things here, putting out great athletes and great guys, not just in the NFL but all kinds of businesses.

"Walking in this building every single day, trying to find ways to win games and do great things with guys that are biology majors and chemical engineering majors, biomechanical engineering majors, that’s exciting to me. It’s excited to be at a place where what college football is supposed to be, we are still that, where I think so many have strayed. We are about these scholar athletes. We are at a 99 percent graduation rate, trying to get to 100. Being around all the guys on the same page, for me, it’s as good as it gets.”

Chris Vannini is in his fifth year with CoachingSearch.com and serves as its managing editor. He has previously written for the Detroit Free Press, The Oakland Press, The State News, MLive.com, 247Sports and SB Nation.  A graduate of Michigan State University, Chris now lives in the Dallas-Fort Worth area.  Be sure to follow @coachingsearch and send emails to chris@coachingsearch.com.