Posted by Jerry Hinnen
When Stanford hired David Shaw yesterday to replace Jim Harbaugh as the Cardinal head coach, we wrote that while Shaw's many positives no doubt outweight the negatives, selecting him over fellow Cardinal assistants Greg Roman and Vic Fangio dramatically increased the likelihood that one or both would follow Harbaugh onto the San Francisco 49ers' payroll.
And unfortunately for Shaw and the Cardinal, we've already gone past the point of "likelihoods" and onto "certainties." Where Roman is concerned, the Mercury News is reporting it's a done deal , with only an announcement from the Niners left to make it official. That news has been confirmed by the San Francisco Chronicle , who have added that a team source with the Niners believes Fangio "is the guy" where Harbaugh's defensive coordinator position is concerned. The only thing standing in the way, they report, is the hammering out of Fangio's contract.
Assuming Fangio (at right) does indeed join Harbaugh and Roman by the bay, the next question becomes: how badly does this damage the Cardinal's run at a Pac-12 championship (or more) in 2011?
Neither's departure qualifies as a surprise -- both have spent most of their coaching careers in the NFL and only came to Stanford at Harbaugh's request -- but with the coaching carousel starting to slow its spin, mid-January isn't the best time to go looking for both a new offensive and defensive coordinator. Roman and Fangio will leave behind some big shoes for Shaw to fill, too; while Shaw held the official title of "offensive coordinator," Roman (the "assistant head coach for offense") by all accounts had a great deal of input into the offensive game-planning, and Fangio only turned in one of the best defensive coordinating jobs in the country this season.
Finding coaches of their caliber at this late date is going to be quite the first test of Shaw's head coaching aptitude. Their departures won't be enough to slow down the freight train of hype that will carry the Cardinal into 2011 -- Andrew Luck will see to that all by his lonesome -- and as long as Shaw isn't a disaster, Stanford should have enough momentum to challenge for league honors regardless. But they won't help the Cardinal handle those expectations, certainly, and maintaining the foundation laid by Harbaugh beyond 2011 just got much more difficult.