An Excellent Hire at Stanford
Stanford got it right.
Athletic Director Bernard Muir and a search committee that included one of the school's greatest players, Andrew Luck, found the right man to lead the Cardinal program going forward, Sacramento State head coach Troy Taylor.
Taylor, a former Cal quarterback, checks all the right boxes. He's a winner, a great offensive coach, develops his players, recruits well and, from everything I've heard, is a good guy.
Taylor's won everywhere he's been, having posted a 30-8 overall record at Sac State, including a perfect regular season and No. 2 national ranking this year, and three Big Sky conference championships. Earlier in his career he produced record-setting teams and a state championship at Folsom H.S.
He can turn around a losing program. Sac State had three two-win seasons in the four years before Taylor arrived.
He's a brilliant offensive coach, inspiring visions of former Stanford innovators like Bill Walsh, Chuck Taylor, John Ralston and Clark Shaughnessy. His Air Raid spread offense has been impossible to stop at all levels. It's also exciting to watch--replete with trick plays, halfback passes, reverses and the like. It might even inspire long-suffering fans to return to Stanford Stadium.
At Sac State, Taylor's teams have consistently ranked among the nation's top offensive units. Even when they lost, they scored at will, including last Friday night's 66-63 loss in the national quarter finals when they gained over 700 yards.
Earlier, Taylor's Folsom H.S. team won the state championship with a 68-7 victory and set state offensive records four straight years. As offensive coordinator at Eastern Washington, he directed the nation's best offense, averaging 529 yards and 401 passing yards per game, setting all-time FCS records in the process. Then he served as offensive coordinator at Utah, playing a major role in the Utes' first Pac-12 Southern Division title.
Taylor can develop players. Sac State didn't have any four or five-star recruits. He developed star running back and Big Sky offensive player of the year Cameron Skattebo. He defied convention by expertly alternating two quarterbacks. At Eastern Washington, he coached Cooper Kupp, last year's NFL Offensive Player of the Year and Super Bowl MVP. And at Folsom he developed Jake Browning, who set a national prep record with 91 touchdown passes and became the All-Pac-12 quarterback at Washington.
Taylor can recruit. He knows the Pac-12, the Bay Area, and the state high school football network. He was a four-year starter at quarterback at Cal from 1986-89 and led the Pac-10 in total offense as a senior. He coached four years at his alma mater, one year at Colorado and two at Utah. He's well connected throughout talent-rich California.
He clearly believes in the importance of academics. After all, he went to Cal. "The opportunity to lead the finest student-athletes in the country is truly a dream come true," he says. "I believe that Stanford football is perfectly positioned to become champions on the football field while maintaining our world-class reputation for academic excellence."
He is also, according to an old friend of mine who has known him for years, "a good guy who treats people with dignity and respect."
Now that Stanford has its man, the university must give him a fighting chance to succeed. The transfer portal/NIL era has changed college football dramatically, and Stanford has been slow to adapt.
Without compromising its admissions standards, the Cardinal needs to provide more access to transfers. It also must facilitate corporate and donor collectives to provide funding for NIL compensation.
With a little help from the administration, Taylor will be able to successfully follow in the footsteps of another former small college coach, Jim Harbaugh, who came to the Farm from the University of San Diego, and another Cal graduate, John Ralston, who led Stanford to two of the greatest victories in school history, the '71 and '72 Rose Bowls wins over Ohio State and Michigan.
Note: Our annual Bowl Viewing Guide will be posted later this week, along with a tribute to the late, great San Francisco Bowl Game.