His demeanor, humble. His leadership, extraordinary. His brilliance, legend. The final 4th quarter has come to an end for one of football’s greatest coaches. Bill Walsh passed away on July 30th at the age of 75 after a three year battle with leukemia.
On a date that will stay with football fans for a very long time, we say goodbye to a man who did more for modern day football than anyone else; we tip our hats to a man who was a genius, but never would admit it; and we place in our hearts the memory of a man who changed a sport forever. Sorry Dwight Clark, but when the term “The Catch” is uttered, it’s hard not to think of Bill Walsh first: he was the NFL’s greatest grab.
To many, Bill Walsh is known as the 49ers head coach, a man who inherited a disaster and left a dynasty. But, in many ways, he was the head coach of an entire league. With his implementation of the West Coast Offense, football became a new game: his style was innovative, and his strategies unparalleled. He not only taught his players, but he also taught his coaches, assuring that Bill Walsh football will always exist, perpetuated in a grapevine of lessons.
In the football family tree, Walsh was the root: the amount of past and present NFL coaches previously involved with him is amazing. Mike Shanahan, Dennis Green, George Seifert, Tony Dungy, Ray Rhodes, and Andy Reid are just a short list of the coaches associated with Walsh. The players associated reads like a similar who’s who of football and include Joe Montana, Jerry Rice, and Ronnie Lott.
Finishing with a career record of 102-63-1, Bill Walsh won six division titles and three Super Bowls in just ten years as a head coach. He was named the NFL coach of year twice, in 1981 and 1984. Many of us believe the award for coach of the century also belongs to him.
Off the field, Walsh was a teacher, a writer, a broadcaster, a vice president, a general manager, a family man, and a trailblazer. He helped pave the way for minority coaches by setting up the Minority Coaching Fellowship program and he served as a force behind the World League of American Football. Walsh, to those who knew him and those who followed him, was one of the NFL’s truly good guys.
With the passing of Bill Walsh, the world of football is changed again. We can only imagine that the Heaven football league needed some guidance and he was the only man for the job.
As August turns to September and the NFL kicks off for another season, fans will remember this coach and smile. And, as Bill Walsh finds himself with the best seat in every stadium, he will look down upon his legacy and he will ultimately smile too.