Notre Dame Football’s Stanford Problem

From the 1925 Rose Bowl to Charlie Weis’s penultimate season in 2008, Notre Dame and Stanford met 23 times. Notre Dame won 17 of those games, usually in resounding fashion; the average Irish win featured an 18.5 point scoring margin. Included in that 17-6 record is a seven game win streak from 2002 to 2008. What Stanford problem, amirite? From Weis’s listless final campaign through the Brian Kelly era, Stanford has flipped the script dramatically; they’ve won seven of the last nine games, and their average win has been by 10.3 points. What’s worse, the Irish have recorded several high-profile losses to Stanford on the recruiting trail during the Kelly era.

There’s no way around it, even for the most rose-colored-glasses-wearing among us: Notre Dame football does indeed have a Stanford problem. But how much of a problem? And how fixable is it, both generally and by the personnel on hand today? We’ll dive into the history of the series a bit and look at recent recruiting work and other off-field factors; we’ll overturn some conventional wisdom and confirm some. Then we’ll laugh, we’ll cry, and we’ll drive off a cliff in a sudden fit of elan. Well, no, we won’t do that, but come along for the ride anyway.

Breaking Down the Series History

“We need to get back to pummeling Stanford regularly, like we always used to do!” This is a common refrain among Notre Dame fans, and indeed even I remember them as barely more than a patsy of an opponent. The reality, though, surprised me. In truth we’ve pummeled Stanford regularly when they had bad coaches, and we haven’t when they didn’t.

Knute Rockne knocked off Pop Warner in that first meeting on New Year’s Day in 1925. Frank Leahy beat Marchmont Schwartz (if you find yourself saying “Who?” – exactly) in 1942. Joe Kuharich and Ara Parseghian earned a split against a decent John Ralston in 1963 and 1964. I’ll let you guess who earned which part of the split… Those four meetings were the entire history of the series through 1987. Rockne over Warner in a battle of titans, Leahy over Schwartz in a substantial mismatch, and Ralston splitting with an all-time great and an all-time not-great.

In the Lou Holtz era, Notre Dame started to play Stanford almost annually, as former university president Fr. Ed Malloy tabbed them an “aspirational peer” (puke). Holtz beat Jack Elway’s hapless 1988 squad handily, then went 2-1 against Denny Green and 2-1 against Bill Walsh, with each loss crippling a potential title contender. The 1992 loss in particular was rough – a 33-16 defeat that took a lot of luster off Notre Dame’s supposed invincibility at home. Walsh is one of the all-time greats at any level; Green wasn’t spectacular, but he was definitely a good coach.

And then came Bob Davie. Oh, Robert. Robert, Robert, Robert… From 1997 to 2001 Davie went 2-3 against Ty Willingham, who had succeeded Walsh after the 1994 season. I don’t think Willingham was always a terrible coach; I think he checked out at some point at Notre Dame and never checked back in. He was never really a good coach, obviously, but it didn’t take much to be better than Davie. If you needed one more reason to dislike Davie, his record against Stanford was probably a major factor in Notre Dame hiring Willingham. Thanks, Bob. The hot dogs of Michiana salute you for your service.

It was Willingham, ironically, who ushered in the aforementioned seven game win streak in 2002. In his three seasons at the Irish helm, Notre Dame beat Stanford by a combined score of 111 to 29. Weis continued the trend, although in less dominating fashion, with his own four-game win streak. Who was leading Stanford for those games was critical, though; from 2002 to 2006, Weisingham beat up on Buddy Teevens and Walt Harris. Harris had the worst win percentage all-time at Stanford, and Teevens had the third worst; their combined record at Stanford was 16-40 (.286). The Irish were essentially clubbing baby seals.

Weis inexplicably beat Jim Harbaugh in 2007 and 2008, before Harbaugh turned the tables on the series starting in 2009. Harbaugh and David Shaw combined to go 7-2 from that point forward, with one win coming against Weis and the other six against Brian Kelly.

It’s the Coaching, Stupid

Well, that’s an oversimplification. But it’s a big part of it, and it’s certainly a part of why many current Notre Dame fans remember Stanford as a doormat. Recapping… Since 1988, Notre Dame went 6-0 against Elway, Teevens, and Harris, who combined for a .402 win percentage at Stanford; the Irish went 13-13 against Green, Walsh, Not-Terrible Willingham, Harbaugh, and Shaw, who combined for a .618 win percentage at Stanford.

From the other perspective, Holtz went 5-2 against Stanford, Davie went 2-3, Willingham went 3-0, Weis went 4-1, and Kelly has gone 2-6. That’s somewhat illustrative, but I think the opposing coach gives critical context. Unless you want to seriously argue that Bob Weisingham is a better coach than Kelly, which, well…

So part of the changing fortunes absolutely rests on who is on the other sideline. Even acknowledging that, though, the recent struggles are largely attributable to coaching errors on the Irish side. Kelly’s 2010 and 2011 teams falling to Andrew Luck’s Stanford was understandable, especially when so many kids were sick in 2011 that we couldn’t even fill out the 60-man travel squad. The 4-2 Stanford advantage since Luck’s graduation, however, has to fall on the Irish coaching staff; Stanford is clearly a better program than they were in the 2000’s, but their wins from 2015 to 2017 were all avoidable. To wit:

  • 2015: A Brian VanGorder special, as Kevin Freaking Hogan shreds the Irish defense for an 81% completion rate and four touchdowns. The play to set up the game-winning field goal is a perfect microcosm of the BVG Era; Joe Schmidt is in the middle of nowhere trying to cover for guys who don’t know what to do, as Devin Cajuste runs alone down the seam. Tactical errors by the staff, in addition to the strategic error of hiring VanGorder in the first place.
  • 2016: The Irish look lethargic but still manage to grab a 10-0 halftime lead. All the happy feels vanish quickly as Deshone Kizer throws a pick six to start the second half, and the patented 2016 Inexorable March to Eventual Gut-Wrenching Defeat begins. The defense played pretty well, but the offense looked incoherent, uninspired, and uninterested. The players bear some blame here, but the coaches bear most of it.
  • 2017: One of the most frustrating losses in the series for me. We were in control despite the Shell of Brandon Wimbush at QB, and then the wheels absolutely came off. A quick touchdown drive by Stanford, a horrific interception by Wimbush to give them a short field, another quick touchdown, and then CJ Sanders fumbles the ensuing kickoff to give them another short field. At that point the defense was absolutely gassed and it was over. Whether it was a failure to prepare Wimbush adequately, or a failure to stop the bleeding, or something, the Irish were outcoached again.

Here’s the funny thing – and I know some/many of you will disagree with me on this – I don’t think David Shaw is actually a better coach than Brian Kelly, certainly not at a 3:1 ratio. There are structural differences that make Notre Dame a harder place to win than Stanford (more on that below). I think he’s good, for sure, and better than I was willing to admit earlier in his tenure. I also think that if you put Shaw in South Bend and Kelly in Palo Alto, the two programs would at least be no worse off than they’ve been. Broadly speaking, it’s not Poirot vs. Clouseau here. I think it’s more like Poirot vs. Maigret.

Shaw is good and he’s the perfect guy for Stanford. Kelly is good (as perceived by the larger college football world) but has struggled to hit the right line at Notre Dame. There’s a chance he might be doing that as we speak, as the Irish are 14-3 since the start of last season; if so, he should be able to handle one of the most frustrating features of his Notre Dame tenure.

MANBALL

I summarily dismiss the idea that their style is “better” than any other, so no, I don’t think part of the on-field problem is that we need to emulate their offensive style. I don’t really get the fascination with it in certain quarters, either. It has no resemblance to anything Lou Holtz ever ran. Nor does it have any resemblance to anything Urban Meyer or Bob Stoops ever ran. It even no longer has any resemblance to what Nick Saban runs. Stanford has never played for a national title or been in the playoff with it. Jim Harbaugh isn’t exactly lighting things up in Ann Arbor with it either. Is it the worst thing ever? No. It’s also not the best thing ever, and the fact that Michigan and Stanford are the only major programs that run that sub-genre of pro-style offense should be a big clue. As should the fact that actual pro offenses don’t run a traditional pro-style anymore either.

You might wonder about Wisconsin, but they employ a less “pure” style of manball than Stanford. They’re pro-style, and they use power running, play action, all that good stuff, but they incorporate more spread principles into it than Stanford. Even Michigan has moved towards more of a spread this year with Shea Patterson under center. Yes, Harbaugh is embracing three receiver sets and RPOs. Somebody get the manball crowd some vapors…

The Stanford Problem Off the Field – Academics

No, I’m not talking about recruiting high-academic kids. We’ll get to that in a bit. I’m talking about the surprisingly non-existent Stanford academic casualty. You’d have to take your shoes off to count the Notre Dame players who lost time or washed out due to academic issues over the last nine seasons. You know how many significant players Stanford has lost in that same time frame? None. As in zero. As in nobody. Seems a bit odd, no? Northwestern, Duke, Vanderbilt, and of course Notre Dame have all regularly had academic casualties in the last several years. Not Stanford, though. Why? Are they better than everyone at educating and supporting those kids? Eh, maybe, but I doubt it. Are they better at screening kids during the admissions process? Again, maybe, but I doubt it – they might be a little better but nobody is flawless. So what gives?

I certainly don’t think they’re doing anything dastardly; they want to win the right way, and that’s what they’re doing. I do think they make academic life much, much easier on their football players thanks to two critical policy differences with Notre Dame. And more than anything else that’s different about the two schools, this is where I think we should try to copy them.

  • Late drops: In fairness, this isn’t specific to football players or even athletes. Stanford encourages all students to take courses that push them to and beyond their perceived limits. To tilt the risk-reward equation enough to make that attractive to a hyper-achieving student body, they allow drops up to a few days before the final. The upshot of that for football players is that if any of them are borderline on eligibility, they can just drop the problem class(es) at the last minute. A Stanford football player really has to work hard to get a course grade below a C.
  • The five-year plan: Notre Dame pushes its players to finish a degree in no more than four years, preferably three and a half, presumably to help with graduation rates and/or boost the pitch that you can head to the League with your degree. This leads to kids taking full in-season course loads and full summer school course loads. Stanford, on the other hand, basically puts all football players on the five-year plan. Twelve credits per semester is a huge stress difference from 15 and occasionally 18 credits per semester, plus summer school.

Notre Dame is never going to institute late-session drops for all students, so cross that one off. But we should absolutely allow the five year plan, and if we really want to maintain a leadership position in academia, allow the five year plan and let kids know that they can always finish their degree on the university’s dime after trying the NFL. The university can certainly afford it, and more importantly, it’s the right thing to do in exchange for the work these kids have put in to be true student-athletes.

Notre Dame is an excellent academic institution. It’ll never have the academic prestige, either within academia or in the public at large, that Stanford has. Never. And that’s OK – we don’t need to chase them there. We do need to look at what they do to help their players succeed and pick some things to copy that would still fit inside Notre Dame’s larger mission.

The other side of eligibility is, of course, student conduct. A less charitable writer might draw some unflattering conclusions about how Stanford handles student-athlete conduct issues, given the highly-publicized Brock Turner case and a 2016 New York Times article about a Stanford football player who twice was judged to have raped another student by internal boards, but not by a strong enough majority to move forward with the case. Thankfully I’m not less charitable… Suffice it to say that I find absolutely nothing worth emulating in how they handle conduct issues. They seem to prioritize an admitted student’s opportunity to earn a Stanford degree more highly than justice. OK, so I guess I am less charitable.

The Stanford Problem Off the Field – Recruiting

“Stanford kicks our butt on the recruiting trail!” Another common rejoinder among Notre Dame fans, and accepted as absolute irreproachable gospel by a subset of those fans. Here’s the reality, though:

  • The respective ranks for Stanford/Notre Dame full classes in the Brian Kelly era (from 2011 forward) are 22nd/9th, 7th/17th, 52nd/5th, 13th/11th, 24th/13th, 16th/15th, 14th/10th, and 39th/10th. Only in 2012 did Stanford pull a higher ranked class than Notre Dame.
  • The average Stanford class rank in that time is 23rd, while the average Notre Dame class rank is 11th.

Their current class ranks 29th, but will climb some as they have just 12 commits at the moment. Notre Dame’s current class ranks 13th, with 18 commits. The trend continues. Stanford has won some high-visibility battles, true, but Notre Dame has won some as well and in any case, clearly Notre Dame still pulls in talent at a better clip overall. That holds through to the next level as well; since the Kelly era started, Notre Dame has produced 15 first or second round draft picks, while Stanford has produced 10.

“But they get all the guys we want,” you might hear some say. Do they?

Since 2011, the Irish have landed 36 kids who had Stanford offers. Stanford, meanwhile, has landed 33 kids who had Notre Dame offers. That sounds even more in Notre Dame’s favor when you consider how few recruits Stanford offers; their offer list is probably about a third the size of Notre Dame’s in any given season. In other words, we’ve taken a much bigger chunk of their offer list than they’ve taken of ours.

Where they’ve definitely hurt us over the last few years is defensively, both in numbers and in quality. Perhaps not surprisingly, that window coincides with the beginning of the VanGorder era. In the 2014 through 2017 classes, Stanford signed 10 defenders with Notre Dame offers, while Notre Dame signed just four with Stanford offers. The disastrous 2015 safety class probably did more to further the “Stanford kicks our butt on the trail” narrative than anything; we went 0-for-3 against them on safety targets. Like the Cajuste catch in that 2015 game, that safety class was a perfect microcosm of the BVG era. Here are the three losses:

  • Frank Buncom: Wanted to play corner, and more importantly wanted to be a doctor. We offered him 14 months!!! after the notoriously slow-moving Cardinal did, and just four months before signing day. Not a chance.
  • Ben Edwards: Not as bad as the other two because he supposedly told everyone, including his family, that he preferred Notre Dame. Still, both parents are Stanford alums, and again we offered well after Stanford did – seven months this time.
  • Justin Reid: This time we offered just a month behind Stanford, but it was late in the cycle and VanGorder did virtually nothing to actually recruit him. And his brother Eric had just made the NFL All-Rookie team in San Francisco. Not a recipe for success.

Bad/blind evaluations with low effort on all of their recruitments. Microcosm. VanGorder didn’t attract anyone, and certainly not Stanford recruits who were smart enough to know better.

The 2015 safeties aside, Stanford has hurt us more in the types of defenders they’re getting than the raw number. Notre Dame “should” have landed guys like Solomon Thomas and Justin Reid, but with Stanford winning more consistently and some unaccountable recruiting dead weight on the Irish staff it wasn’t going to happen. I think Kelly fixed the dead weight issue in his 2016 postseason reinvention. If – very big if – he can fix the “winning consistently” angle, this part of the problem will take care of itself. My kingdom for consecutive 10-win seasons…

Side note on their recruiting: I would be very, very concerned if I was Stanford Fan. They usually have smaller classes because of their reliance on fifth-year seniors, so the fact that they signed just 15 kids last year isn’t a red flag in itself. What is a flag is the composition of that class. They signed just two defensive linemen and one offensive lineman; that’s after signing two defensive linemen and three offensive linemen in 2017. So their two-year take in the trenches is four offensive linemen and four defensive linemen. Two of those guys are 2017 five-star offensive tackles, but man, they need to hit on every single one of those four to avoid a serious hole.

Wrapping Up

Does Notre Dame have a Stanford problem? Definitely. It’s better for the Irish when they can be the only high academic/high football choice on the market; right now, they’re not. That naturally takes some guys out of the recruiting pool, and makes it more of a battle for some other guys. They’ve also been a pain in the ass on the field, derailing at two very good seasons with November upsets. The recruiting problem isn’t really that much of a problem, and it will be even less so if we take care of our own business. The on-field problem is a much more serious one, and one that has a much less clear solution.

Brian Kelly has had the superior horses in this game since 2012, but he’s 2-4 over that time. Preparation, execution, and in-game adjustments have all been lacking, even in seasons that they’ve been excellent against other marquee opponents. Whatever the mental block is against this team, he needs to figure it out already. Whether that can be addressed this year will go a long way toward defining how good of a year it will be.

By |2018-09-24T15:16:46+00:00September 26th, 2018|Football|48 Comments

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dannan14MrTgonRussell KnoxBrendan RHitman Recent comment authors
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idocd
idocd

Great work!

Eric Murtaugh

Friggin’ Stanford.

gambit1077
gambit1077

Eric makes a good point.

MrTgon
MrTgon

His logic is unassailable.

burger23

I hate Stanford. Hate hate hate them. From the blackest pit of my soul, I hate Stanford.

gambit1077
gambit1077

Stanford week depth chart – Williams off of double-secret suspension, Kmet moved off of injured, Kraemer not listed as injured despite not playing last week due to a tweaked ankle, Franklin moved to injured (freshman DT, not expected to play much). Also my attempts at guessing who will return kickoffs continues, this week’s pick is Michael Young.

https://docs.google.com/spreadsheets/d/1Tuz1FdIW9k2JGIFk7CiWwDHx_hvHRoIqHSMGVQRiGBM/edit?usp=sharing

Orlok
Orlok

I should really use this more often when viewing the game. Thank you!

nd09hls12
nd09hls12

This is tremendous work. I think big picture, ND’s best-case scenario is that we win this game for a few straight years and Stanford’s questionable recent recruiting starts a bit of a downward spiral for them. I’d posit that the single most important thing for ND to be a legitimate top-5ish program would be if we could basically monopolize the nerdier elite athletes, and we’re certainly not going to be doing that right now when both we and Stanford are both next-tier-ish programs.

It would be nice to have Paulson Adebo right now, though.

gambit1077
gambit1077

I am not incredibly open to Stanford people talking about the academics of their student athletes due to their late drop policy which comprises something close to 100% of the reason that their athletes remain eligible. ND suspends or straight up loses athletes who can’t pass calculus as a freshman compared to a policy that doesn’t count any low grade against a kid. It’s ridiculous.

hooks orpik
hooks orpik

Excellent read. The athletic department would do well to make life easier on the student-athlete if the ultimate (and perhaps sole) goal was being the best football program possible. But as we’ve seen from travel and scheduling sometimes other factors like the #brand is in play as well.

IrishTexan
IrishTexan

Excellent article, Brandon. This is why I always come back to this site for great, in-depth writing that I would expect from a pay site.

(Do I get a free 18S Premium package now?)

All your points are solid but long term, I’m most concerned with the academic issues. Why do we hamstring ourselves by making the players take – let’s be honest – a harder load than the average single major student, while also having what amounts to a full time job?

nd09hls12
nd09hls12

I still don’t understand why ND categorically won’t consider giving credit for playing a sport. Yes, I realize that other extracurricular activities can be a huge time sink as well. But those are more voluntary and generally less regimented that varsity athletics. Back in my day, at least, football players would get up at 5:30am every weekday and have their entire day scripted until 8 or 9. Meanwhile, while taking a not-easy academic schedule, I *maybe* worked 30 hours a week inclusive of studies. Seemed to me that they had it way harder than I did.

(note: it’s totally possible there are rules against it; I have no idea)

juicebox
juicebox

This is a huge point. It isn’t just academically harder for a football player at ND than at Stanford, or tOSU. It is harder academically for a football player at ND than for a regular ND student.

gambit1077
gambit1077

I think you may be exaggerating a bit here. Athletes get no-additional-charge access to summer courses and most athletes only take ~12 credit hours during their sports season in addition to having access to a significant support system that proactively works with them. Graduating in 3.5 years is taking 12 hours per semester including summers (4 autumns, 3 springs, 3 summers) and then you can mix and match as desired all the way down to 6 hours during your sport season.

Being a student-athlete at ND is harder than being an athlete at tOSU. Being a student-athlete at ND is harder than being a student at ND. But being a student-athlete at ND doesn’t make the student part more difficult for you than other students.

juicebox
juicebox

It’s a huge time commitment. I was friends with athletes and they were under such crazy time stresses during the season. It was definitely more difficult for them to balance school, sports, and college shenanigans. And they weren’t even on real spots teams.

The fact that a huge percentage of athletes use the tutoring seems like a pretty significant indicator that it is harder for them than the general population. Possibly related to them getting admitted because of a sport, when they might not have otherwise, making it more difficult to complete classes geared towards a pretty over achieving student body. This part at least is no different than Stanford.

hooks orpik
hooks orpik

Kelly Bryant officially transferring from Clemson. 4th QB out the door there since January. Imagine ND fans if that was Brian Kelly! @not only can he not develop ’em, he can’t even keep em@

Which I guess if you have Trevor Lawrence, that’s the focus…But hoo boy they better hope for no injuries.

Irishchamp23
Irishchamp23

Did he give a reason why he’s doing this now?

Either way he has to sit out next season, right?

juicebox
juicebox

The back and forth between him and Dabo (not directed at each other but at the twitterverse) went something like this.

Bryant – I can’t believe I lost the starting job. I’ve never done anything to deserve losing it.
Dabo – This isn’t middle school, I made a tough decision based on performance.

This was all filtered through Bleacher Report updates (barf I know), so I’m not sure how accurate those statements are, but it does seem like Dabo actually said something along the lines of “this isn’t middle school.” Can you imagine if BK said that?

IrishSprings
IrishSprings

Very interesting, great work. Only tangentially related but, ND and Stanford content in some recent Freakonomics podcasts which do a deep-dive on the 49ers as a sample sports organization. Mike McGlinchey included in the follow-up episode of lightly-edited interviews.

I have a long commute.

Football was a verb
Football was a verb

Great article.

I’ve never understood the 4 vs. 5 year thing at ND. In my state, the major public universities (both excellent) regularly graduate non-athletes in 5 or even 6 years. You are making it so much harder on the athletes.

My guess is there’s fear it would lower the graduation rate. Maybe. You could also make the opposite argument.

IrishTexan
IrishTexan

My theory is that the 3.5 year plan is totally directed towards keeping the grad rate up. Think of all the guys who we’ve had leave “early” but who actually have graduated. Otherwise, anyone leaving after 3 years would hurt our grad rate that we’re soooo proud of.

Orlok
Orlok

Wait, I thought graduate rate was calculated including transfers, counting them depending on whether they eventually got a 4 year degree wherever they ended up. Is that not the case?

Scarponi
Scarponi

In academia there are different grad rates, the most common is the 4-year grad rate, which only looks at who graduated within the first 4 years of beginning attendance. Graduate in 4.5 years and the 4-year grad rate counts you as not graduating. (Departing transfers are also not counted, though incoming transfers would be.) I think for most schools the 6-year grad rate is much more telling, but it’s not usually as strongly emphasized at most schools.

juicebox
juicebox

The NCAA even has a few different grad rates. Most of those just remove a person from numerator and denominator if they transfer in good standing. I believe it is GSR that gives people 6 years to earn a degree.

There’s a bunch of calculations and every school uses whichever one makes itself look best.

spider-man
spider-man

Great article — we needed an excellent analysis of these two programs!

Orlok
Orlok

Really appreciate this, as I share the (common?) view that showing dominance over Stanford will help improve our recruiting – though as you demonstrate, that’s currently less an issue than I thought. In any event, I love the in-depth look at the structural advantages and disadvantages of the situation. So thank you!

With respect to the 3.5 vs 5 year graduation, I have a possibly naive question: isn’t there some upside to putting guys on 3.5 year plan?

I can see the downside – some guys who we’d want to keep can’t handle the accelerated academics and we lose out on them.

But I also see upside – by forcing guys to graduate in 4 years, we get rid of guys (by graduating them, which is the right way) we don’t want on the team faster, creating more openings for new talent.

So in that sense, maybe we shouldn’t complain as much about the 3.5 year track?

Irishchamp23
Irishchamp23

Yea good point there is that upside but I wonder whether that is really worth it. Who would we be able to keep who is good versus who we’d have to keep?

Besides ones who can may just set themselves on a 3.5-4.5 track so they could do a grad transfer if they aren’t playing.

nd09hls12
nd09hls12

Couldn’t we just put 5th year guys on non-football scholarships if we didn’t want them on the team?

Orlok
Orlok

I think the only additional scholarship football can give is via medical hardship, and even Saban – who uses this aggressively – can’t deal with everyone that way.

But I’m no expert. I’ve just never heard of a football team being able to give non athletic scholarships.

nd09hls12
nd09hls12

Even if they’re not on the team any more?

Orlok
Orlok

Don’t you think it would look suspicious to the NCAA? Like maybe were cheating the 85 scholarship limit? Pretty sure this is not allowed.

juicebox
juicebox

I’m with you on this and have always thought it should be a thing. If you can get cut in HS football, why not get cut in college? I mean you can, it happens all the time, just not at ND. If ND offers you a scholarship to play football, I expect them to let you graduate for free, no matter how good you are. So if you stink, you should be able to transfer, or leave the team, but finish school for free.

Hitman
Hitman

Excellent article and analysis. I was unaware of the late drop policy. I agree with everyone in favor of the 5-year plan. All students, not just athletes, seem to be trending toward that anyway.

juicebox
juicebox

I don’t know if Shaw is a 3:1 better coach than Kelly, but I think he has to be at least 2:1. I think he is sneakily maybe the best coach outside of the big 3. Stanford has the 4th most wins since 2010, only behind Bama, Oregon, FSU. I think doing that at Stanford is more impressive than anyone else in that next like 4-8 tier.

I think his obnoxiousness, smugness, and overall face punchability detracts from the national recognition he deserves as one of the absolute best coaches in college football.

MrTgon
MrTgon

Great article. For the record (someone’s keeping a record somewhere, right?), as insightful as your analyses always are (and they are), you also have a killer writing style. Just wanted to put that out there. Your articles are always fun to read.

One disagreement: The 2017 bad pick leading to a short-filed touchdown and the dropped return leading to a short-field touchdown were 100% player mistakes. While I agree with your larger point in this article (as well as all the small points), I don’t think a colorable argument can be made that the coaching staff somehow failed to properly coach Wimbush or Sanders thereby causing those turnovers. I see the temptation to blame the coaching, per the logic that, while a single mental breakdown by a player is generally just a player error, consecutive, train-wreck-causing brain-farts by multiple players are coaching errors. But, I just don’t see it here. Wimbush through a horrible pick at the wrong time, because, well……… that’s what he does, regardless of how much or how well he’s coached (and I’m a Wimbush apologist). That seems fairly obvious now.

Indeed, I’d be willing to go so far as to say that Kelly and his staff might deserve CREDIT for his/their ability to keep ND in that game, despite Wimbush tying one of Kelly’s hands behind his back. Wimbush’s passing woes had been exposed before that game and Stanford was/should have been ready to take advantage. And yet, for a good portion of the game, they really didn’t do much damage – Kelly and Co. found a way to somehow hold the ship together with a crap-load of duck tape covering the gaping hole in the hull where Wimbush’s arm was supposed to be. Until, of course, the tape gave way, and Wimbush did what he does.

CJ Sanders just plain-ol’ muffed a kick-off. Period. It’s annoying but, let’s be honest, it pretty common; it’s a tougher job than people give it credit for and if that was the only mistake, we probably wouldn’t be blaming the coaches.

MrTgon
MrTgon

duct* (dear God that’s an ugly one)

dannan14
dannan14

Not really that ugly…i mean, there’s a brand of duct tape called duck tape.

MrTgon
MrTgon

There’s an ugly duckling joke in there somewhere