Is race the real reason David Shaw won’t leave Stanford for the NFL?


With five head coaching positions suddenly vacant Monday, at least a handful of professional football franchise owners are whetting their lips at the prospect of luring Stanford head coach David Shaw.

During Monday’s Rose Bowl media day, press focus was more on willing Shaw to departure than the task at hand for his seven-point favorite squad. “I have not and don’t plan on interviewing with anybody,” he said when asked if he would jump to the pros to join San Francisco’s Jim Harbaugh, Seattle’s Pete Carroll and Philadelphia’s Chip Kelly — all playoff-bound Pac 12 expats running hybrids of the Bill Walsh’s West Coast offense, just as Shaw does.

The biggest problem and perhaps the sole prohibitor for Shaw’s entry to the National Football League is the one thing he does not have in common with Harbaugh, Carroll and Kelly.

At Stanford Shaw is a football coach — and a damn good one. At 41, he is the front-runner for a third-straight Pac 12 coach of the year honor. His cumulative record is 34-6 with the Cardinal and this year he led his team to its third-consecutive BCS berth.

In the NFL, Shaw becomes a black football coach.

Perhaps more than any professional league, the NFL has fought harder against an image of racial inequality amongst its higher ups and racism within its ranks. As a result, it has singularly defined itself — by race.

For all its self-anointed success in its overcompensation, the league is still the drunk at the bar calling everyone within earshot alcoholics.

Amidst controversy and scandal, from Richie Incognito’s racist rants (against one of Shaw’s former players), to the flavorless cut-aways of Saltine-skinned owners looking ghostly white flinty and lipless as rotting corpses perched in their skyboxes, to player inferences that divisions and racial tension exist and persist as a daily fact of life in the league, the NFL is a victim of its own rules and regulations and even its own spin-doctoring.

So far, the league’s biggest reactionary trope, the Rooney Rule, has either been rendered ineffective as a work-around, or at worst, backfired.

Established in 2003, the rule named after Dan Rooney, owner of the Pittsburgh Steelers and chairman of the league’s diversity committee, requires NFL franchises interview minority candidates for head coaching and front office gigs; oftentimes, minority coaches will be spirited through the hiring process within days or hours of the announcement of a team’s actual hire rendering the rule obsolete in its hoop-to-jump-through application.

If there has been a slight uptick in minority coaches and front-office staff in the NFL, the percentage of minorities in charge does in no way reflect the populace of its athletes nor has it kept pace with the general workplace population.

In fact, there has been a regression of sorts the last couple years. In 2013, approximately 70 percent of the league’s players are black, yet right now only two of the its 32 teams have black head coaches.

This time last year, the NFL had eight head coaching spots to fill and by the time the hiring was done — not one new coach was black.

On Monday, five NFL coaches got the axe including the Minnesota Vikings’ Leslie Frazier, who is black. As of today, only Mike Tomlin of Pittsburgh, whose job may be in jeopardy after the Steelers failed to sneak into the playoffs, and Marv Lewis in Cincinnati, whose Bengals won their division, get to give pre-game speeches.

Though more than 30 percent of NFL assistants are black, many are not skill position coaches which fast track to jobs in the booth and eventually to trolling the sidelines with a headset and Sharpie.

The league touted its own inefficacy, or at least averageness in attempting to address the issue advertising its C+ grade for gender hiring practices from an annual report released by The Institute for Diversity and Ethics in Sport last year. If there is a bright spot, the report also noted six black general managers run front offices, and yet, the NFL takes a strangely demoded if not segregationist tone in its own verbiage calling Baltimore Raven’s GM Ozzie Newsome “the second GM of color” to win a championship.

Though Shaw is a Stanford alum, he has had a solid glimpse of life in the league with almost a decade of immersion in the NFL — first as an offensive quality control coach with Philadelphia starting in 1997, then with Oakland as a quality control then quarterbacks coach. He also worked for Baltimore as quarterbacks and wide receivers coach.

Shaw was lured away from the professional ranks in 2006 when he followed his coaching mentor Jim Harbaugh to the University of San Diego, then back to his alma mater 2007.

He succeeded Harbaugh in 2011.

Shaw eschewed a move to the pros last year after signing a multi-year contract extension at Stanford. Currently, he’s the top paid head coach in the Pac 12 pulling in about $2.5 million a year, four million less than what Chip Kelly took home this year as a rookie coach with Philadelphia.

“You never say never, of course, but I love it here. My wife loves it here. Our kids love it here. I’ve yet to find a better job,” Shaw said after signing his latest contract, “than right here at Stanford.”

…These words may not be just to appease the Shaw’s bosses on The Farm. His current employer, after all, is a world-class institution that puts a premium on achievement, not skin color.

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