"A lot of us never knew," says Wilson, who has joined Walsh at Stanford, "but as we've matured and thought and talked, we've understood that there was a great deal we didn't see of Bill."
It quickly began to haunt Walsh that as long as he was a part of the 49er operation, Seifert would have a hard time relating to players as an authoritative head coach. So when NBC sounded out Walsh's interest in broadcasting, it found a receptive man.
Television and Walsh did not bring out the best in each other, and Walsh quickly sensed the reason why. He wanted to teach. TV wanted to entertain. Few of Walsh's hopes about making clear a game's tactical shape, its coaches' moves, adjustments and adjustment to adjustments came to fruition. Walsh wasn't bad by anyone's standards. But he was unrevealed.
"Substance is not a major factor in broadcasting," he says. "They look for the good lines, the quote of the day."
But for two years Walsh was a game apprentice, calling his new craft an adventure. He needed it to fill the astoundingly large hole left by the loss of his old craft. He craved his game. "It was the aesthetic end of the art form I'd spent 20 years developing. My offensive system was the essence of my recognition and feeling of accomplishment, and to step away from that and have it become someone else's in a matter of hours.... I watched with envy. I watched with a sense of this being...plagiarism."
Coaching was inextricable from life. "I am a man who draws pass patterns on his wife's shoulder," Walsh says.
After two years in broadcasting, he was ready to quit. DeBartolo and Seifert suggested some sort of nebulous but well-paid consultant's role with the 49ers, and last January, Walsh said he would drive to the 49er offices so he and Seifert could try to define his place. On the way Walsh saw an entirely different light.
Stanford had lost Green to the Vikings, and Leland had let Walsh know he was welcome to the job but held out no hope because Walsh had already recommended San Jose State coach Terry Shea. Suddenly Walsh realized that if Shea would join him, and if he could attract some former 49ers—what better way of reaching out to them?—he could fill the void. Shea was touched and eagerly agreed to assume a subordinate role. Walsh was finally home.
Walsh had been fascinated by Joseph Campbell's lectures on public television on the power of myth. Walsh always seeks what moves most deeply in men. So when he was grilled by the press on his reasons for accepting the Stanford job, Walsh summoned a Campbell phrase. "This is my bliss," he said.
A day after he took the job, as he lay in bed staring at the ceiling of a Bakersfield, Calif., motel room on his first recruiting trip in 14 years, an icy thought stole in: "What on earth have I done to myself?" That question reverberated until the next day, when he convinced tackle Jeff Buckey, 6'5", 290 pounds, a 4.0 GPA who had eliminated Stanford from his list, to change his mind.