Thursday, March 13, 2014

As Draft Approaches, Remember Bill Walsh's Idea on Talent

In Patrick McCaskey's new book, Pillars of the NFL, the football lives of the top 10 coaches in NFL history are explored.  By now most of their approaches and ideas are in some ways standard throughout the NFL.  However, there are still a few differences that might be discerned by another look at how they operated.  In this post, we look at one.

When Bill Walsh began building the 49ers, he wanted a mobile quarterback who could make good decisions and throw accurately.  In the third round of the 1979 draft, Bill Walsh drafted Joe Montana.  Montana was a superb quarterback for Notre Dame, but he was thin and he was inconsistent.  Scouts ranked several quarterbacks ahead of Montana in the draft.  Walsh was able to snag the Hall of Famer in the third round.

What induced Walsh to draft Montana?  

 At the age of 47, Walsh became head coach and general manager of the San Francisco 49ers on January 9, 1979.  The 49ers were 2–14 the previous season and they had several poor seasons prior to that.  Walsh constantly developed his roster and built his team with draft choices.  He was selective and he was not afraid to trade several draft choices to put him in a position to get the one or two players he wanted.

At the same time, Walsh earned a reputation for making the most of his players’ talent.  His teams were disciplined and well trained—often thought to be overachievers.

Walsh wanted to construct an advanced football system that used a large playbook and precise movements and contingencies.  He needed players who were physically skilled and had the intellect to carry out his plans.  He acquired many remarkable players over his seasons in San Francisco.  

But one thing that led him draft Joe Montana was Walsh's idea that inconsistency in college was not a game breaker.  Rather than look at a top talent and walk away because the player was not the best every game, Walsh was more likely to assess the players talent and visualize how that player would perform as a 49er consistently.  He saw Montana's talent, his competitive spirit, his desire to win and Walsh thought ahead.  Walsh could do this because he also had confidence in his own abilities to get the best out of his quarterbacks.  Was he gambling when he drafted Montana--sure, but he was a third round acquisition.  Walsh was a very smart man. His selection of Joe Montana was one of the greatest draft choices of all time.
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