Bill Walsh (American football coach)

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Bill Walsh (American football coach) : biography

November 30, 1931 – July 30, 2007

In addition to drafting Joe Montana, Walsh drafted Ronnie Lott, Charles Haley, and Jerry Rice. He also traded a 2nd and 4th round pick in the 1987 draft for Steve Young. His success with the 49ers was rewarded with his election to the Professional Football Hall of Fame in 1993.

1981 championship

The 1981 season saw Walsh lead the 49ers to a Super Bowl championship; the team rose from the cellar to the top of the NFL in just two seasons. Four important wins during the 1981 season were two wins each over the Los Angeles Rams and the Dallas Cowboys. The Rams were only one year removed from a Super Bowl appearance, and had dominated the series with the 49ers since 1967 winning 23, losing 3 and tying 1. The 49ers’ two wins over the Rams in 1981 marked the shift of dominance in favor of the 49ers that lasted until 1998 with 30 wins (including 17 consecutively) against only 6 defeats.

In 1981, the 49ers blew out the Cowboys in week 6 of the regular season. On Monday Night Football that week, the 49ers’ win was not included in the famous halftime highlights. Walsh felt that this was because the Cowboys were scheduled to play the Rams the next week in a rare Sunday night game and that showing the highlights of the 49ers’ win would potentially hurt the game’s ratings. However, Walsh used this as a motivating factor for his team, who felt they were disrespected.

The 49ers faced the Cowboys again that same season in the NFC title game. The game was very close, and in the fourth quarter Walsh called a series of running plays as the 49ers marched down the field against the Cowboys prevent defense, which had been expecting the 49ers to mainly pass. The 49ers came from behind to win the game on Dwight Clark’s memorable TD reception (The Catch), propelling Walsh to his first Super Bowl. Walsh and the 49ers defeated Cincinnati in the Super Bowl, which was played in Pontiac, Michigan. Walsh would later write that the 49ers’ two wins over the Rams showed a shift of power in their division, while the wins over the Cowboys showed a shift of power in the conference.

Prominent assistant coaches

Many of Bill Walsh’s assistant coaches went on to be head coaches themselves, including George Seifert, Mike Holmgren, Mike Shanahan, Ray Rhodes, and Dennis Green. After Walsh’s retirement from the 49ers, Seifert succeeded him as 49ers head coach, and guided San Francisco to victories in Super Bowl XXIV and Super Bowl XXIX. Holmgren won a Super Bowl with the Green Bay Packers, and made 3 Super Bowl appearances as a head coach: 2 with the Packers, and another with the Seattle Seahawks. Shanahan would win Super Bowl XXXII and Super Bowl XXXIII during his time as head coach of the Denver Broncos. These coaches in turn have their own disciples who have utilized Walsh’s West Coast system, such as Houston Texans head coach Gary Kubiak. Kubiak was first a quarterback coach with the 49ers, then offensive coordinator for Shanahan with the Denver Broncos. Dennis Green trained Tony Dungy, who won a Super Bowl with the Indianapolis Colts, and Brian Billick with his brother-in law and linebackers coach Mike Smith. Billick won a Super Bowl as head coach of the Baltimore Ravens. Mike Holmgren trained many of his assistants to become head coaches, including Jon Gruden and Andy Reid. Gruden won a Super Bowl with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Reid served as head coach of the Philadelphia Eagles from 1999-2012, and guided the Eagles to multiple winning seasons and numerous playoff appearances. In addition to this, Marc Trestman, current head coach of the Chicago Bears, served as Offensive Coordinator under Seifert in the 90’s. Gruden himself would train Mike Tomlin, who led the Pittsburgh Steelers to sixth Super Bowl championship, and Jim Harbaugh whose 49ers would face his brother, John Harbaugh, whom Reid himself trained, and the Baltimore Ravens at Super Bowl XLVII, which marked the Ravens’ second World Championship.

Bill Walsh was viewed as a strong advocate for African-American head coaches in the NFL and NCAA. Thus, the impact of Walsh also changed the NFL into an equal opportunity for African-American coaches. Along with Ray Rhodes and Dennis Green, Tyrone Willingham became the head coach at Stanford, then later Notre Dame and Washington. One of Mike Shanahan’s assistants, Karl Dorrell went on to be the head coach at UCLA. Walsh directly helped propel Dennis Green into the NFL head coaching ranks by offering to take on the head coaching job at Stanford.