The word out now is that Walsh is gridiron Merlin, a give-me-a-hundred-pounds-of-steel-wool-and-I'll-knit-you-a-stove kind of guy. But Walsh has had quarterback failures, though he doesn't like to give out names. He knows that to be successful a quarterback must have more than good coaching. The physical attributes needed—a cannon arm, great strength, etc.—are the least necessary assets for success, he says. "I need intelligent people, people without hang-ups that make it difficult to communicate. I don't mean players must have genius IQs. But they need quick, resourceful minds. Joe is exceptionally good at spontaneous decision-making. Kenny is very bright. Every successful quarterback I've had has been very sharp."
Walsh felt so good about Anderson's mental and physical development that when he left Cincinnati in 1976 to coach at San Diego, he took films of Anderson with him to use as teaching guides. Walsh showed them to Fouts at a time when "Fouts really needed help." Fouts has since become the most prolific passer—measured in yards gained through the air in a season—in NFL history. When Walsh moved on to Stanford, he showed the films to quarterbacks Guy Benjamin and Steve Dils, who each went on to lead the NCAA in passing for a year. At San Francisco Walsh showed the reels to Steve DeBerg, who set an NFL record for most pass completions in 1979, and then to Montana.
"Kenny and Joe have similar traits," says Walsh of the two quarterbacks he has worked with longest. "Both will move under pressure, find receivers and hit them when things look worst. Both will hold the ball and not throw big interceptions. Especially Kenny. I think Joe is the quarterback of the future, an active player who may not always run but who always presents the threat of running. And I think Kenny is the best downfield passer we've seen in recent years."
Montana takes such praise with a smile. Anderson accepts it with a grin, too. "Before the game even starts, Walsh is giving me the old snow job," he says.
But Walsh is quite sincere. Oh, maybe it's a way of patting himself on the back—lauding his progeny like that—but, after all, if Dad can't talk up the kids, who can? It must be a nice feeling knowing that whoever wins the big game, your boy can't lose.