Shaw succeeding in shadows

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Shaw succeeding in shadows

Theres been no jarring chord changes, no dissonant notes. David Shaw blends right in, like soothing background music.

Like Sade perhaps, Shaws pregame listening of choice.

As Stanford readies for its biggest game of the year on Saturday evening against Oregon, the focus is on Andrew Luck. Of course. Stanfords Heisman trophy candidate is the face and personality of the team.

And when the focus isnt on Luck, its on Shaws predecessor, Jim Harbaugh. Just down the road and performing the kind of alchemy on the 49ers that he worked at Stanford, Harbaughs presence still looms over the Cardinal program.
RELATED: Oregon-Stanford -- what you need to know

Where the focus is definitely not is on Shaw, who is working in the shadows. But Shaw is making a bid to become just the third rookie head coach to win a national title, in his first year as Harbaughs successor.

Easy right? Taking over an established program and just letting it roll along on autopilot. But thats totally discounting what Shaw has done.

Hes become the George Seifert of the college game -- taking over from a superstar coach, the beneficiary of a great quarterback, but having the huge responsibility of keeping the program on track. Screw it up and youre ruined forever. Keep it going and you get no credit.

When Harbaugh left he not only took his oversized personality to the 49ers he also took Stanfords offensive and defensive coordinators. He left behind a program with high expectations, the most high profile player in the country and a culture that hasnt exactly cultivated big-time college football (and can we just say, during this week of Penn State horrors, hooray for that?).

It could have all gone very wrong in the hands of the wrong coach, say a Buddy Teevens or a Walt Harris.
RELATED: Stanford's unsung hero

But Shaw -- to quote his favorite entertainer - is a smooth operator. Hes made the transition seamless. Hes felt no need to assert his own ego. He doesnt mind the shadows. Doesnt mind the BCS politics. Doesnt ask what anyones deal is. Doesnt appear to have an enthusiasm unknown to mankind. Isnt the constant subject of speculation about what his next job will be.

He just wants to win, and thats what hes been doing. The Cardinal has won 17 straight games, the longest winning streak in the nation. The last loss was to Oregon -- in Eugene -- on Oct. 2, 2010.

Shaws approach is one of balance and perspective. So on the eve of the biggest game hes coached to date, dont expect Shaw to be any different.

I personally dont change, he said Tuesday. If something funny happens in practice, I laugh. If something happens that I dont like, I address it.

Though he seems as laid back as a mellow jazz station, Shaws players have let it be known that hes quick to get on them. And he has their back. On Tuesday he sharply defended Luck against Phil Simms contrarian blather that Luck isnt making NFL throws.

He hasnt been looking closely enough, Shaw said. To say he cant make NFL throws is comical.

Shaw doesnt feel the need to rail against the injustices of the BCS -- thats not really the Stanford way (though it would be the Stanford way if an computer engineering major could figure out how to hack the BCS computers).

TOMPKINS: Ducks-Cardinal promises a shootout

It has absolutely no bearing on what happens on Saturdays, Shaw said. The BCS matters when all the regular season and conference championship games are over. Up until then, its a TV show. An entertaining TV showThey can put us at No. 3, they can put us at 2, they can put us at 10. Weve still got to play Oregon.

The hype will be enormous Saturday. The nations football focus (different than the nations scandal focus) will be on the Stanford campus.

But Shaw will keep it in perspective. Hes got two things going for him: hes the son of a coach so game day has been a lifelong reality not just a hyped up product. And hes a Stanford product so a sense of balance is ingrained in his nature.

This campus does a great job of keeping your perspective, Shaw said. He talked of the businesses that are being created on campus. He spoke of one doctor he talked to who is working on a cure for rare disease.

Stanford-Oregon is not high on his list, Shaw said with a laugh.

The focus is on Stanford this week. But Shaw will still find a way to step out of the spotlight.

49ers Mailbag: A Shanahan-Shanahan show?

49ers Mailbag: A Shanahan-Shanahan show?

The outcome of the Atlanta Falcons’ NFC Championship game on Sunday against the Green Bay Packers will determine how quickly the 49ers can move in securing Kyle Shanahan as the team’s next head coach.

If the Falcons lose, the 49ers will have a second meeting with Shanahan early in the week, during which team executives Jed York and Paraag Marathe would be expected to finalize the deal.

But if the Falcons win and advance to the Super Bowl, the early part of Shanahan’s week would be spent game-planning and preparing to face the AFC representative. The second interview with the 49ers would be scheduled for Friday.

Shanahan is also expected to be involved in the 49ers’ hiring of the general manager.

Now, let’s dip into our 49ers Mailbag to answer some questions posted on our Facebook page:

Q: Do you think Mike Shanahan will have any role in the team?‬ (Robert Allen Swenor)
A: Mike Shanahan, of course, is the father of presumptive 49ers head coach Kyle Shanahan. Aside from that, it does not appear as if Mike will have an official role with the club.

A question that must be asked is this: Does Kyle Shanahan benefit from having his father in the building? The answer is, probably not.

Of course, this is not to say the elder Shanahan will not have some level of influence with the 49ers.

If the 49ers close the deal with Kyle Shanahan, as both sides expect right now, Mike Shanahan will undoubtedly be a valuable resource to his son. I’m sure Mike Shanahan will attend some practices in training camp and during the regular season. He will always serve as a mentor to his son.

Q: Do you think that the 49ers are going after particular D-coordinators based on their own desires or are they quietly doing it on behalf of Shanahan's request?‬ (Eddie SF Torres)
A: Whenever someone interviews for a head-coaching position, that individual presents a wish list of the assistants he plans to pursue to join his staff.

The 49ers have gone after Vic Fangio and Gus Bradley to serve as the defensive coordinator on the next staff. The Chicago Bears declined to allow Fangio the opportunity to leave. Bradley decided on joining the Los Angeles Chargers instead of the 49ers or Washington.

The 49ers feel confident Shanahan will become their next coach. It's also safe to assume Shanahan expressed his wishes at defensive coordinator – and, perhaps, other coaching positions on his future staff.

Q: Should the team draft a QB or get a free agent?‬ (Greg Luthy)
A: Both.

One of the interesting things about both of the two serious head-coach candidates is each lined up neatly with a quarterback. In the case of Josh McDaniels, it was easy to connect the dots on a possible trade for New England backup quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo.

Obviously, Kirk Cousins is the quarterback who could be available for the 49ers to add with Shanahan in charge. Shanahan coached Cousins for two seasons with Washington, during which he made just four starts.

Cousins has emerged in the past two seasons. He made $20 million last year on the franchise tag. And he would make at least $24 million this season under the same tag.

If Washington places the exclusive franchise tag on Cousins at a higher one-year price, he would be completely off the market. But, otherwise, there would be room for the 49ers to sign him at the cost of two first-round draft picks or negotiate a trade with Washington.

It seems obvious the 49ers would at least inquire about the chances to acquiring Cousins.

So, back to the original question, expect the 49ers to add a veteran quarterback or two in the weeks after the beginning of the new league year on March 9.

Then, seven weeks later, there’s the NFL Draft. Which veteran quarterback(s) the 49ers acquire will determine their needs in the draft.

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Falcons' outcome to determine 49ers' interview schedule

Falcons' outcome to determine 49ers' interview schedule

The 49ers will hold their second interview with Atlanta offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan as early as Monday, a source told CSNBayArea.com on Sunday morning.

If the Falcons lose Sunday in the NFC Championship game against the Green Bay Packers, the 49ers are tentatively scheduled to interview Shanahan on Monday and Tuesday in Atlanta, the source said.

If the Falcons win and advance to the Super Bowl, the 49ers’ second interview with Shanahan would wait until Friday. The early part of the week would be devoted to planning for the Super Bowl.

The 49ers would have until the Sunday the week before the Super Bowl to hold a second interview with Shanahan, who originally met with 49ers executives Jed York and Paraag Marathe on Jan. 6 in Atlanta.

Shanahan is the only 49ers coaching candidate remaining among the six individuals who interviewed to replace Chip Kelly. All signs point to Shanahan to become the team’s next head coach. Atlanta coach Dan Quinn announced to his staff that Shanahan would be taking the job, the NFL Network reported last week. The 49ers are prohibited from officially hiring Shanahan until the Falcons' season is over.

Shanahan is also expected to have a major influence in the 49ers’ hiring of a general manager to replace Trent Baalke, whose firing was announced shortly after the 49ers finished the season with a 2-14 record.

Minnesota assistant general manager George Paton appears to be the front-runner for the position. Paton, like Shanahan, first interviewed with the 49ers on Jan. 6 in Atlanta.

Of the 49ers’ original candidates for the general manager position, Arizona vice president of player personnel Terry McDonough is the only other individual who is still in the mix. The 49ers have not ruled out bringing in other GM candidates to interview, a source said.