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RIP, Bill Walsh

Back during the heydey of Bill Parcells' first great New York Giants teams, roughly 1985 through 1990, our greatest rivals were the San Francisco 49ers of Bill Walsh. As a Giants fan, my fondest memories of are the times we beat the Niners -- the drubbing we gave them in the playoffs on the way to our first SuperBowl, the 15-13 squeaker we won in San Francisco on the way to the second SuperBowl, when we frustrated the Niners' dreams of Threepeat, and (especially) that incredible regular season game where Mark Bavaro carried Ronnie Lott and ten other 49ers halfway down the field on his back. I'm sure there were some equally exciting games where the Niners prevailed, though of course I don't remember THOSE as fondly. Still, those were great games between two great teams.

Despite the rivalry, I could never hate the Niners the way I hate the Cowboys (as a Giants fan) or the Patriots and Dolphins (as a Jets fan). Bill Walsh was just too classy, and so were his teams. Joe Montana, Jerry Rice, Dwight Clark, Ronnie Lott, so many more. They weren't my guys, but they were great players, and easy to root for. And I did root for them, whenever my own guys weren't in it. I was cheering as hard as anyone when Montana threw and Dwight Clark made the Catch, to knock the hated Cowboys out of the playoffs. And that drive against the Bengals in the SuperBowl was pretty special too.

Bill Walsh was the most innovative football coach of our time. He redefined the game, especially on offense. He always seemed to be a great guy too. His players loved him, and with good reason. I remember the first Niner SuperBowl against the Bengals, where he got to the hotel ahead of the team, dressed up as a bellhop, and unloaded their luggage for them.

You'll never see Evil Little Bill do that.

Rest In Peace, Bill. You did good work and left your mark, and that's all that any man can hope for.



( 68 comments — Leave a comment )
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Jul. 31st, 2007 06:35 am (UTC)
Redefined the way for sure - classy, strategic, and potent. Thanks for posting this George - the 49ers created their own legacy and the right way. Bill will be missed - truly an end of a groundbreaking era.
Jul. 31st, 2007 06:50 am (UTC)
Well said. I'll even forgive him for creating the West Coast Offense, which bugs me because now every time some coach implements a system with even the slightest element of a short passing game, it gets dubbed a West Coast System, like the sum total of Walsh's innovation was "Throw the ball five yards instead of 50."

I'm an AFC lad through and through (GO BRONCOS!), so I don't have any visceral hatred for the NFC teams, but I think I'd still like Walsh's teams even if I rooted for a team from the weaker conference.
Aug. 2nd, 2007 10:09 pm (UTC)
Don't forget when Walsh coached the AFC was the weaker division (15-1 from 1982-97). Hmmm, what was the score of the Niners WC O against the Orange Crush D of Denver... oh yeah, 55-10...

As for the WC O, it was a little more complex than pass it 5 instead of 50yds. Though the Bears have been running the ineffective offense you describe for several years!

The WC O is like the Crane technique (Karate Kid), when done properly "no can defend".
(no subject) - sealbee - Aug. 3rd, 2007 04:10 pm (UTC) - Expand
Jul. 31st, 2007 09:13 am (UTC)
I was watching NFL Network today, where they had film of him talking about quarterback mechanics. he was pretty brilliant. I have to say that, even though I am a Cowboys fan.
Jul. 31st, 2007 10:55 am (UTC)
The late 80s 49ers teams were a classy bunch indeed. But I certainly enjoyed the 49-3 drubbing they took from the Giants in the playoffs -- it was the first (and one of two) NFL playoff game I got to see in person, thanks to my grandfather's season tickets.
Jul. 31st, 2007 11:28 am (UTC)
*pours one on the ground*
Being native to Northern CA, I watched a lot of Niners football during the 80s. Sad day, indeed. RIP.
Jul. 31st, 2007 01:19 pm (UTC)
Bill Walsh was a great man, but I am not sure why you needed to take a shot at another great man to justify the first one.

I can't understand the hatred of Belichick. The only reasoning I can think of is the that he is 10-3 against the Jets since 2001. Sour grapes? Because I know a smart man like yourself wouldn't blame Bill for the mess after the 1999 season, and Parcells' "retirement". Would you want to take over a team essentially as a puppet for Parcells with the ownership up in the air?

The Late Walder Frey's grudge is like a mummers fart compared to yours!
Jul. 31st, 2007 07:20 pm (UTC)
I'm a reformed Belichick hater. My hatred was unjustly placed at his feet because he happened to be the head coach when Art Modell decided he was moving the Browns. It took me 10 years to stop blaming Belichick for not making the team good enough and realize that Modell would have done it no matter what. Someday I'll find that man and fling a pile of flaming dog poo on his doorstep.

That said, I can understand why a Jets fan might have some modicum of loathing for a man who resigned on a cocktail napkin less than 24 hours after being named head coach. I mean really, "I resign as HC of the NYJ" isn't exactly something that'll endear you to anyone.
Evil Little Bill - grrm - Jul. 31st, 2007 07:54 pm (UTC) - Expand
Re: Evil Little Bill - doza13 - Aug. 1st, 2007 04:40 pm (UTC) - Expand
Re: Evil Little Bill - deleuzian06 - Aug. 2nd, 2007 01:13 am (UTC) - Expand
Re: Evil Little Bill - senorb - Aug. 11th, 2007 06:47 am (UTC) - Expand
Re: Evil Little Bill - frysdog - Aug. 15th, 2007 03:59 pm (UTC) - Expand
Re: Evil Little Bill - deleuzian06 - Aug. 18th, 2007 09:17 pm (UTC) - Expand
Jul. 31st, 2007 02:10 pm (UTC)
I am saddened by this. Although his 49ers eventually became smug and beat my equally smug Giants too many times, Bill Walsh was always something of a hero to me.

Why? Because he was real smart. Although brilliant coaches existed before Walsh, in my consciousness, he was the first coach who did not embody the grizzled, beat-em-up, military mentality that comes with the position.

Instead, Walsh was the cool, competent genius who crafted a new offense from scratch. The NFL of the 70s was a static place. You ran the ball and you threw deep. Teams employed deep threats down the field and a power running game. This was the status quo (except for Air Coryell in San Diego, which had alot of the deep threats and little of the running game.) Walsh create a new offense, a West Coast Offense that saw a way to do add the benefits of a running game (time of possession, manageable downs) to the passing game. This helped make it possible for teams to start to break away from the run-first mentality. If it wasn't for Walsh showing the NFL how a passing game need not be the big-risk portion of a playbook, then the current offenses of Indianapolis, New England, and Philadelphia (not to mention the Run-N-Shoot, Oakland a few years ago, Minneosota and other pass-friendly offenses) may never have existed. Walsh didn't just create a new offense, he initiated a culture change. With Walsh receivers became bigger, more surehanded, better able to run the quick slant and bounce off tacklers. Running backs were prized not just for being strong, but being able to pass protect and catch passes out of the backfield. QBs didn't need to have rocket arms as reading coverages, moving in the pocket and accuracy were more important. Teams didn't have to beat the crap out of each other until the blood ran out, now they could systematically and efficiently move down the field, a machine adjusting all the fly, brains beating brawn.

I always prefer the coaches who create new things, not just demand the old things. Dungy and his Tampa-2, Belichick and his "kitchen sink", Urban Meyer and his option, D'antoni and his "7 Seconds or Less and many others remind me that sports isn't just a place for the brawny and "tough", its for the bold, daring, ingenious and the (guess what?) still tough.

I'm hoping that that someone in the new generation of coaching will have the same amount of courage, smart and bravery that Bill Walsh had.
Jul. 31st, 2007 03:13 pm (UTC)
I have friend who is a die hard 49ers fan who is probably on suicide death watch over this. Plus he has had a rough stretch for years since the niners have sucked for a while now.

I have always been a Redskins fan since little Bran climbing castle towers and such....oh wait that wasnt me. Im still a skins fan though.
Jul. 31st, 2007 03:44 pm (UTC)
Farewell Mr. Walsh
The football world has lost one of the great masters. May he rest in peace and hopefully wherever he is he is doing what he loves and teaching in some way.
Jul. 31st, 2007 05:09 pm (UTC)
He was one of the greats. :(
Jul. 31st, 2007 05:37 pm (UTC)
Bill Walsh is one of a handful of coaches that helped institute the modern style of football. The West Coast Offense will be part of the NFL for many years to come, and more coaches would do well to emulate the way he interacted with his players.

I am a die-hard Patriots fan, but I am also a Giants fan (ever since the Superbowl when they beat the Bills). Dallas and Phily can bite my shiny metal ass, but the 49ers, under Walsh, were different, and they always had the grudging respect of their opponents. The current sad state of that storied franchise is all more more painful because of what they once were under one of the best coaches to stalk a sideline.

Rest well, Coach Walsh. You will be missed.
Jul. 31st, 2007 06:07 pm (UTC)
Bill was one of the greatest football coaches ever, and he often lived up to the "genius" and "professorial" stereotypes applied to him. One thing people often didn't realize, or didn't know, was just how HARD he was. He was a collegiate boxer, student of military history, and very demanding of his own players.

In many ways, he was the perfect balance to be an NFL coach -- the cerebral play-caller combined with a no-nonsense drive to win. He would always prefer to cut a player a year too early instead of a year too late, but at the same time few coaches are revered as highly for the honesty and respect he showed his players.

On top of all that, he was universally regarded as a gentleman off the field.

RIP Bill Walsh.
(Deleted comment)
Aug. 2nd, 2007 10:15 pm (UTC)
Agreed go Niners!
Jul. 31st, 2007 06:49 pm (UTC)
Bill Walsh was a gentleman
My wifes uncle played for the 49ers during the good years in the late eighties. He died in the mid nineties and Walsh, Montana, and Rice all made appearances and wrote very personal letters to the family. It was very obvious that his players were more than numbers. He adopted them into his family. He will be missed by many.
Jul. 31st, 2007 09:00 pm (UTC)
Ingmar Bergman R.I.P.
Ingmar Bergman, may your memory be eternal. May you lie in green fields, and may perpetual light shine on you.

The Seventh Seal
Wild Strawberries
The Virgin Spring
The Magician
The Hour of the Wolf
Smiles of a Summer Night (made into the musical "A Little Night Music")
etc. etc. etc.

If you want plot, characters, internal discovery, and in some cases Medieval fantasy and reality, look at some of these old films. There would be no world of "Ice and Fire" without them. Ingmar Bergman was 89 years old, and made most of his movies when he was a young adult.
Aug. 5th, 2007 08:47 am (UTC)
Re: Ingmar Bergman R.I.P.
i loved, "the seventh seal." he knew how to make the most out of films & use black & white effectively. they don't make films like that anymore. imagine what he could've done for "winterfell," "the wall," & beyond... i found out about his death on the show that is on after, "the daily show w/jon stewart." steve [i forgot his last name] had a cool,funny montage on ingmar bergman. i can imagine ingmar bergman playing chess w/death instead of max von sydow.
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