Monday, July 30, 2007

Passing of the First Genius

Everyone remembers their first team. They recall the first player they loved. They remember the first jersey they ever had. I vividly remember my first coach.

Bill Walsh was my first coach. He walked the sidelines with silver hair of a fox and the smarts to match. When Walsh walked your sideline you knew you were ahead before the game started.

As a seven year old I watched him when he lead the Stanford Cardinal to back to back bowl games. First it was the Bluebonnet Bowl and next the Sun Bowl. He was magical. He had the answer to every situation and was a step ahead of the game.

My memory tells me he used to bring Darin Nelson out of the backfield in motion to the sideline and then send him on a streak down the sideline. At that stage defenses weren't ready for those type of moves and mismatches were exposed all over the field. After playing for Walsh, Nelson left Stanford as the all time NCAA total yardage gainer. Walsh believed that a 5 yard gain on a pass to the running back was as important as the 5 yard run by the back and Nelson was the recipient.

He took his magic to the sidelines of the despondent San Fransisco 49ers. He quickly took a culture less franchise that was 2-14 and brought them to life. He gave them the edge. Where some coaches have brought a toughness with their persona, Walsh brought a genius. Roger Craig was his piece that he figured out how to use better than anyone before him. Craig a powerful fullback/running back from Nebraska, would play the fullback for Walsh and one year lead the NFL in receptions.

Walsh made you believe the guy on your sideline was truly smarter than their guy.

To understand what Walsh did to the game of football simply look into Seattle. Mike Holmgren is a disciple of Walsh. Tyrone Willingham is a product of the minority coaching program that Walsh built and Willingham learned under Walsh and Dennis Green, another Walsh disciple.

Walsh's influence changed how the game was played, how coaches were taught, how coaches were viewed and what people expected.

My first coach was the best that ever coached.

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