Bill Walsh was a student of football. Through his long career assisting other professional coaches and his work at the college and high school levels, his knowledge of the game was professorial—his experiences broad and deep. He studied the game’s history, its coaches, and players. He used stories of military generals and battles to make his points. He absorbed knowledge. He assimilated the work of others. Then he contributed his life’s work to the evolution of the game. His magnum opus was the San Francisco 49ers of the 1980s.
Based on his cerebral approach to the game, Walsh was called “Genius.” It was a mixed blessing. When his team did well, the media and the public would concur that Walsh certainly was a genius. But when the team did not live up to expectations, the term genius was voiced with cynicism and used mean spiritedly.
Walsh served as assistant coach for two seasons under John Rauch of the Oakland Raiders, eight seasons under Paul Brown with the Cincinnati Bengals, and one season for Tommy Prothro of the San Diego Chargers.
Bill Walsh coached San Francisco from 1979-1988 and posted a 102-63-1 record including Super Bowl victories in XVI, XIX, and XXIII. Walsh created the NFL’s Minority Coaches Internship and Outreach Program to help foster the advancement and success of minority coaches. Walsh was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1993 and he was named the AP, UPI, Sporting News, and Pro Football Weekly NFL Coach of the Year in 1981 and the UPI NFL Coach of the Year in 1984.
Walsh also had an eye for talent that focused on what athletes could do and make them more confident and consistent in those efforts. Walsh developed several excellent quarterbacks—work that was coupled with a strategy to spread the field using a more calculated passing game. Borrowing on other innovative offensive-minded strategies that used the pass liberally, he developed what is called the West Coast Offense. Walsh was also intense, determined, and competitive.
Copyright 2014, Sporting Chance Press
Sporting Chance Press is the publisher of Pillars of the NFL: Coaches Who Have Won Three or More Championships a book that examines the football lives of the top ten NFL coaches and much of the history of the NFL.