This is not Jim Harbaugh's Stanford program, and David Shaw is not a Jim Harbaugh clone.

He's Harbaugh with a smile, actually.

He's looser, friendlier and far less frenetic, for sure; but Shaw quickly emphasizes that he can be as edgy as he needs to be for the good of his football team.

There's some Harbaugh-style bite in there, in other words.

In fact, the complicated Harbaugh-Shaw overlap became a subject of some Stanford gossip during the NFL lockout.

That's when a restless Harbaugh was spotted hanging around his former Stanford players a few times -- enough times to get people talking.

Coincidentally or not, around then Shaw called Harbaugh into his (and Harbaugh's former) office for a closed-door chat.

After that -- as the story goes -- Harbaugh wasn't seen as much around Stanford.

David, did you encourage Harbaugh to cut down on his Stanford visits?

"Absolutely not," Shaw told me after Cardinal practice Tuesday. "Jim came and watched us work out in the winter -- no problem.

"The 49ers have their physicals here, right across the street. He came in, and when he came in, he came up, we talked for a little bit."

Shaw, a longtime member of Harbaugh's staff, said he continues to have a good relationship with Harbaugh and Harbaugh's family and that Shaw attended a recent 49ers game at Candlestick Park.

"I told him when he has a bye week, if he wants to stop by and say hi, great," Shaw said.


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The larger point is that Shaw is no lightweight, whether or not he remains best buddies with Harbaugh.

The apocryphal closed-door story perhaps exaggerates some of the necessary stages of transition, but they're real stages.

For this to be fully Shaw's program, it's better for the former guy -- now the 49ers' guy -- to move along a bit.

If it were Shaw doing the insisting, then more power to him, literally.

As Shaw says, the Cardinal players know that he's in charge and that he will not tolerate recurring mistakes.

To that point, though Stanford is 3-0 heading into this bye week without facing many nervous moments, Shaw says he's laser-focused on problem areas.

Edgy, you might say.

"It's just my personality," Shaw said. "I think the guys know I'm a slow burn.

"I can be lighthearted and turn right back around and tell a guy he'd better get his job done or I'll put his butt on the bench."

Indeed, Shaw was terse Tuesday when asked to talk about the loss of star linebacker Shayne Skov for the rest of the season, pointing out that he has answered the question enough times.

Stanford has backups he believes in. Stanford will move on, without panic. Next question.

"There's no favoritism -- I like them all," Shaw said later of his team. "I get along with them all; joke and laugh with them.

"And at the same time, I'll say, 'Hey, you know what, you're not going out there because you didn't do it right. He did it right. So he's going out there.'

"It's nothing to do with my personal feelings for them or my relationship with them. It has to do with the fact that we're going to play the best guys on game day."

Even with Andrew Luck? Isn't your Heisman-favorite quarterback in a slightly different situation here?

"I'll crack a joke with Andrew and he'll crack one back with me," Shaw said. "And if he makes a mistake, I'm going to tell him he made a mistake.

"(Offensive coordinator) Pep Hamilton's the same way. ... It's honest, it's open. It's just us coaching with our personalities.

"The guys knowing that just because I might smile doesn't mean I'm going to back off."

Which brings us back to Harbaugh and the Cardinal switch-over.

Shaw emphasized that this is not the normal coaching transition.

Harbaugh started the run of recent success at Stanford, hired Shaw long ago, knows all the players and is still very much in the area.

"So it's not like I took over something that was bad and now have to cut off all ties with the other coach," Shaw said.

"Nope. He lives right over there. ... It's a unique situation, because we are so close. It's also unique because he left because he wanted to and things were still going well."

Now it's up to Shaw to keep it that way, or, if possible, exceed anything else a Stanford program has ever achieved.

That's not about Harbaugh, Walt Harris, Buddy Teevens, Tyrone Willingham, or anybody else. It's about David Shaw, his team, and whatever he needs to do to lift everything as high as possible.

Read Tim Kawakami's Talking Points blog at blogs.mercurynews.com/kawakami. Contact him at tkawakami@mercurynews.com or 408-920-5442.