Why David Shaw says working for Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh was 'like a really good rollercoaster'

On3 imageby:Clayton Sayfie07/02/22


Stanford head football coach David Shaw joined Pro Football Focus (PFF) for a Twitter Space session recently, and the topic of working for Michigan Wolverines head coach Jim Harbaugh came up. Shaw was on Harbaugh’s staffs at San Diego (2006) and Stanford (2007-10), before taking over the Cardinal program upon Harbaugh’s departure to San Francisco in 2011.

While Shaw appeared to describe his time working with Harbaugh in a generally positive light, there were some ups and downs, he noted, and he was always kept on his toes.

“My time with Jim, it’s one of those things like when you step off a really good roller coaster,” Shaw said. “You’re like, ‘Wow.’ That was exciting. That was scary. That was fun, and I need to take a deep breath. That’s what working with Jim was like.”


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Shaw and staff members never knew what they were going to get from the current Michigan coach.

“Each day there was going to be something new, something different,” Shaw explained. “Some things, you’re going to question what you do. Some things are going to reinforce what you do.

“The biggest thing I take from Jim is making sure you have a competitive environment every day. We’re always competing every day against everybody. That’s that mentality that I appreciate that I took with me and made sure that stayed when Jim left.

“We had different personalities. We do different things. But I always appreciated the competitive spirit that Jim brought everyday.”

Working for Harbaugh is certainly not for everyone, but the results have spoken for themselves. He’s hired 33 assistant coaches in his seven-plus years in Ann Arbor.

The competition is what drives Harbaugh, and he believes it makes the entire organization better. Not only does it prepare his teams for game day, but competing against each other in other ways makes the cream rise to the top.

“I even make the coaches compete,” the Michigan coach said in an interview in 2018. “And they’re the ones that don’t like it the most. They like to be — ‘Hey, we’re the coaches; we’re the evaluators.’ OK, well who got the most recruits this year? And how good were they? Anybody can just get a recruit. But you had five starters in this recruiting class? OK, you’re ranked No. 1, and you’re 10th. You’re all the way down here at 10th. Just post it, and it speaks volumes.”

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