Bill Walsh, 1931 - 2007
William Earnest 'Bill' Walsh, father of the West Coast offense and one of the most successful and influential coaches in the history of football died yesterday in his California home after a three-year battle with leukemia.
After a collegiate career at San Jose State that included football and boxing, Bill was an assistant football coach under Marv Levy at the University of California, then Stanford University before moving to the NFL in 1966 as an assistant with the Oakland Raiders, where he learned the fundamentals of the vertical passing game. Over the next ten years, Bill would work under Paul Brown in Cincinnati and Tommy Prothro in San Diego before becoming the head coach at Stanford University in 1977.
It was at Stanford that Bill first developed the spread offense later known as the West Coast offense, a system based on precise route-running, timing passes and quick looks by the quarterback.
In 1979, after two seasons at Stanford, Bill took the head coaching job San Francisco, where the woeful 49ers were coming off a 2-14 season. In 1980, Bill elevated former Notre Dame quarterback Joe Montana to the starting job. The 49ers finished 6-10 in 1980 and 13-3 in 1981 on their way to victory in Super Bowl 16. The 49ers dynasty was born.
In ten season as the 49ers head coach, Bill amassed a record of 102-63-1, including 10-4 in the playoffs and three for three Super Bowl wins. His assistant coaches have gone forth and prospered and nearly every coach in this lineage chart is still working and still practicing some variation of Bill's original offense.
In that offense, strict adherence to dogma is required. Games often begin with the first 10 to 15 plays scripted, receiver routes mature in sequence and the passer must check down the order to find the receiver he believes will be open, then throws to the spot where the receiver will be. Running is secondary in the West Coast offense, set up by the pass (as opposed to the Joe Gibbs style in which the pass is set up by the run) and the running back often stays back to block before running a swing pattern as the safety valve receiver. The West Coast offense and its variants require quarterbacks and receivers to be in sync and to anticipate each others needs, and the Joe Montana-Jerry Rice and Steve Young-Jerry Rice tandems are among the most productive in NFL history.
Bill Walsh was inducted into the Professional Football Hall of Fame in 1993. The basic principles of Bill's offensive scheme are now considered a standard part of football.
Bill Walsh was 75.
Joe Montana and Bill Walsh in 1984 from here.