Reflections on my relationship with a coaching legend
Posted: Tuesday August 21, 2007 4:26PM; Updated: Tuesday August 21, 2007 4:26PM
When I was an assistant coach with the Minnesota Vikings in 1986, the San Francisco 49ers asked permission to interview me for the quarterbacks coaching position under Bill Walsh. The Vikings turned them down and my chance to learn under Coach Walsh was put on hold.
Then, in 1989, I was the offensive coordinator of the Cleveland Browns and had the good fortune to cross paths with Coach Walsh in a TV production meeting when he was an analyst for NBC. I had a number of questions for him and was amazed at his patience. His responses were different from any coach I had ever spoken to. His ability to communicate the science of the game in a unique and articulate fashion was incredible. After leaving the meeting I humbly asked him if I could come out and visit with him when time permitted. He was extremely gracious in hoping I would look him up.
In 1995, that turned into reality when I became the 49ers offensive coordinator under George Seifert. To train for the job I watched tapes of Coach Walsh installing the West Coast offense, followed by Mike Holmgen's and Mike Shanahan's presentation of the offense. It was an incredible experience for me to get into their minds as well as listen and watch Bill teach this offense with his incredible salesmanship, detail, and a dry sense of humor.
In my first year the Niners we lead the NFL in passing and were second in total offense. Then the organization brought Bill back as a consultant to the team. Some members of the media seemed to think Bill was brought back to run the offense and oversee George Seifert's coaching staff. I refused to believe that was the case, but there were many in the business who advised me to resign the day I heard Bill was coming back.
I viewed Coach Walsh's arrival differently. I enjoyed working for George Seifert and my wife and I loved the Bay Area. I believed owner Eddie DeBartolo simply thought Bill could be a tremendous resource to the organization. I looked at it as the opportunity of a lifetime and now there would be daily access to his knowledge.