“Bill Walsh: A Football Life”

A Football Life, Featured, Neil Zender, San Francisco 49ers

by Neil Zender, Producer

IF YOU THINK YOU KNOW BILL WALSH, think again. More than two decades after his retirement, Walsh still casts a long shadow over the National Football League. Especially at this time of year, as new hires climb aboard the coaching carousel and established coaches seek to prove their greatness under the harsh, unforgiving light of the Super Bowl.

In three years the man reporters called “The Genius” transformed the San Francisco 49ers from a league doormat that was regarded as “worse than expansion” into Super Bowl Champions and the Team of the Eighties. But behind the curtain, the Wizard of San Francisco’s football Oz was a tortured artist. He invented the West Coast Offense, pioneered the scripting of plays and revolutionized the ways teams prepare for games Monday through Saturday but at many points in his career considered himself a failure.

Insecure and ravaged by self-doubt, Walsh questioned whether he really belonged coaching against the likes of Don Shula and Chuck Noll. In 1982, just one year after winning Super Bowl XVI and being named Coach of the Year, he tried to quit. Perpetually afraid of decline, Walsh made it a practice to discard star players a year too early instead of a year too late. His methods were brutal – in 1988, he came close to trading Joe Montana and orchestrated a quarterback controversy between Montana and Steve Young – but they worked, creating a dynasty and changing football forever.

All these explosive revelations and the epic story of his football genius are featured in “Bill Walsh: A Football Life”, premiering on NFL Network, Friday, January 23 at 9 p.m ET.


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