Beyond “Genius”

30 07 2007

by eldanimal

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Three-time Superbowl champ. Hall of Famer. Inventor of the West Coast Offense. Bill Walsh, the man simply referred to as “the Genius”, passed away today at the age of 75. Walsh had been battling Leukemia since diagnosed in 2004.

Walsh attended San Jose State University where he played wide receiver and was a collegiate boxer. He coached high school and college football until the age of 45 when he received his first NFL assisant job with the Oakland Raiders. Walsh went on to spend seven seasons as an assistant with the Cincinnati Bengals, who’s head coach Paul Brown, prevented Walsh from obtaining a head coaching job in the NFL. After serving as the head coach for Stanford for a season, Walsh was named head coach of the San Francisco 49ners in 1979.

With San Francisco Walsh went on to win three Super Bowl championships in 1981, 1984 and 1988. Walsh invented and perfected the West Coast Offense with Joe Montana at quarterback running the horizontal passing game. He was twice named the NFL coach of the year and finished with an overall career record of 102-63-1.

Walsh served as head coach at Stanford a second time from 1992 to 1994. He later took a front office position with the 49ers from 1999 to 2004 before returning to Stanford as the special assistant to the athletic director in 2005 where he also taught classes in Graduate Business School.

Walsh’s impact on the game went far beyond his championships. He mentored several head coaches including Mike Holmgren, Jim Fassel, Dennis Green and George Seifert. As well, the Walsh coaching tree of West Coast Offense deciples emcompases several of the top coaches in the NFL today including Andy Reid, Mike Sherman, Jon Gruden, Mike Shannahan, Jeff Fisher, Brian Billick, Jack Del Rio, Tony Dungy and Lovie Smith.

In a league in which New York Jet’s coach Eric Mangini was dubbed “Mangenius” for getting his team to the playoffs, Walsh’s nickname, “the genius”, simply feels inadequate today. He is a true legend which no nickname, speech or obituary can really do justice. In a modern sports culture focused on who the next big star or great dynasty, we should not ignore those of the past. Without Hank Aaron, Barry Bonds homers would not dominate headlines or interrupt broadcasts. Without Joe Montana, there may not be a Tom Brady. However, to imagine football without Bill Walsh would be like to imagine basketball without a hoop.

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