Books | Sports

February 1, 2009

The Burdens of a Gridiron Genius

Bill Walsh led the 49ers to greatness and beloved status in San Francisco, and revolutionized the NFL, while struggling to meet his own enormous expectations.

Mickey Lambert

Before Super Bowl XLIII, the NFL coaching merry-go-round was already in full swing. Teams are looking to turn the page, to find a leader who can inspire his players, outfox their opposition, and guide them to victory—preferably sooner rather than later.

The 49ers were in that position in 1979, when, reeling from the disastrous reign of former general manager Joe Thomas, greenhorn owner Eddie DeBartolo, Jr. hired Bill Walsh to serve as coach and general manager. In hiring Walsh into this two-pronged role, DeBartolo was looking for the kind of leader who could transform the team from top to bottom. What he got was a man who transformed the entire NFL, from the ways that offenses are run to the way that coaches coach. In making the decision to hire Walsh, DeBartolo had taken a giant step toward cementing the 49ers' future as the team of the '80s.

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Article by Mickey Lambert

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