[Cross-blogged for Leland Quarterly]
The end of the season means one thing: it’s time to bust out the superlatives. Superlatives are tossed around a lot in football—sometimes tossed around more than the football itself—and so it’s easy to forget that only one quarterback, one linebacker, one coach is the absolute, unquestionable, indisputable best.
And this year, two of those three belong to Stanford.
Andrew Luck, in a wildly unpredictable turn of events, has been named the Pac-12 player of the year, and our coach David Shaw (not that David Shaw) is the Pac-12 coach of the year. Add an 11-1 season, a likely shot at another BCS bowl title, and wins over Cal, USC, and Notre Dame, and it’s easy to see why the superlatives start flying.
But it’s been a rough year for some other Pac-12 schools. Stanford, on the other hand, found that it’s pretty easy to win when you have the best coach in the game. And when your quarterback also happens to be the best coach in the game, well, what do you expect to happen?
But: We should take a moment to pause at this, the end of our season, before we’re tossed into the chaos of college football’s bowl games, and reflect on how grateful David Shaw must have felt this Thanksgiving to still have his job, when elsewhere in the Pac-12 it was coaches (and not just turkey) on the chopping block. The expectations for Shaw were astronomical. The stakes were colossal. And the results were monumental.
Other coaches were not so lucky. Rick Neuheisel helped his Bruins accidentally become Pac-12 South champions, despite their best effort not to do so. Arizona State’s Dennis Erickson watched his team implode slowly over the course of the last six weeks of the season. After a strong start, Washington State collapsed into its (as of recently) usual place as football doormat, and Paul Wulff got shown the door. And Arizona didn’t even wait until the end of the season to give Mike Stoops the boot.
Yes, it’s a hard job, being a NCAA football coach. And one that sometimes seems frustratingly based on how much luck (Luck?) you have on the field—or how well your predecessors managed to recruit people like Luck. But don’t feel bad for Neuheisel or Erickson or Wulff or Stoops—they have hefty severance packages and they’ll turn up again somewhere, either assistant coaching in the NFL or commentating or just realizing that making between $600,000 (Stoops) and $1,500,000 (Erickson) per year was a pretty nice gig while they had it.
College football players may not be paid, but college football coaching is not exactly an altruistic endeavor. And like in any job that’s highly competitive and rewards talent, if you don’t perform to expectations, well, say goodbye to that bathroom.
Finally, a look at some rhetoric from around the internet:
- Pac-12 coach firings don’t surprise Stanford’s Shaw—listen to Shaw wax elegiac
- A suitably awful end to an awkward Pac-12 Season—an alliterative introduction to the inaugural Pac-12 championship game: Oregon vs. sure, UCLA, why not?
- Stanford tight end ‘one of a kind’—which is, I believe, the most ironic of all idioms
- Andrew Luck, the student, not part of Stanford’s Heisman push—which is really too bad