Monday, July 30, 2007

Humble Genius Bill Walsh Dies of Leukemia

Bill Walsh

When it comes to coaching in the NFL, Bill Walsh was the best to ever do it. My favorite head coach by far. He led some of the greatest teams in pro football history, making it look easy as he went along.

His teams were the most disciplined, most professional, most powerful that I have ever ANY pro sport. And they had some of the best players on and off the field. The only coaches who come close in terms of class, professionalism, and execution, would be Pat Riley or Phil Jackson in the NBA.

Walsh changed the whole game of Football.... his teams would destroy opponents so bad that the league had to eventually switch to a different defensive posture, in order to match what these new offenses were doing. Of course he had help from the greatest QB & greatest receiver of all-time. For example, the man-to-man defense that was still popular in the 1970's & 80's, is rare today. That's because Joe Montana, Dwight Clark, Steve Young, Roger Craig, John Taylor, Jerry Rice and others....would eat that defense up. Other teams began adopting the Bill Walsh, Joe Montana, West Coast style...and the game became much faster. Defenses had their hands full. As a result, various types of zone defenses are now the dominant defensive schemes in the game today, replacing the one on one. This is why blowouts are a lot less common today. Zone defenses compromise by giving up 5 or 10 yards per play, while reducing the opportunity for big plays....keeping more coverage down field. Teams also realized that they needed faster defensive backs & defenders with better hands, in order to keep up.

He also utilized everything on the Field... turning Tight Ends, Fullbacks, and Running Backs into primary receivers on certain plays....confusing defenses even more. To this day, I believe that Roger Craig is the greatest all-purpose running back in NFL history, although he never made it to the Hall of Fame (which is a travesty). There were better runners... there were better blocking backs, there were certainly backs who had more touchdowns...but none could do everything (block, catch, run, and even throw & lead) like Roger Craig. And few ran with the kind of energy and heart that Craig did... he shares that category with Jim Brown and Walter Payton. But this was part of Walsh's legacy. This kind of all-purpose Running Back is still in use in todays game with people like Edgerrin James, former Running Back Marshall Faulk and others.

I sort of lost interest in the game after Walsh, and his players left the scene. The NFL got boring after they left. lol. They set the bar so high that it was hard for other teams to ever reach it.... I have yet to see a coach or team execute with the kind of grace shown by the 80's-early90's 49ers. No team was more professional on or off the field. Watching them work was like watching poetry in motion.... that sounds like a cliche...but this is what it was really like for me. No other teams have even come close to what they did...the way they did it. Walsh brought the L.A. Lakers style "showtime" to the football field. I can recall several games when he would toy with opponents with his play calling. His unorthodox formations and strategy would confuse the Hell out of opposing coaches.

The NFL declined after Walsh left the stage.... at least for the fans IMO. Mainly because defenses have pretty much caught up to todays offenses as I mentioned, and because of the nonsense from many of today's players. The player culture has gone downhill. With all of the money being thrown around, players don't have much of an incentive to work hard, dedicate themselves to their craft, etc. The NFL has become one big giant party for players coming out of college... Players used to want to stay with teams to become a part of a family...and stick around in order to win the big game. Now the primary focus is on money. It is rare today for a solid core group of guys to stay together for 10 years or even 5 years. With all the big money and the trades... players are constantly shuffled from team to team. Few dynasties or fun rivalries can form today. And teams also have a hard time jelling into anything special....because players are not together long enough.

But Walsh left a huge legacy...with all the coaches (and people in general) who he influenced. His impact is immeasurable.

1 comment:

rikyrah said...

He really was a class act.

They really do die in threes.

Ingmar Bergman
Tom Snyder
Bill Walsh

RIP Gentlemen.