Walsh Back With 49ers, This Time as Assistant
Jan. 24, 1996
SANTA CLARA, Calif. (AP) _ Bill Walsh wants to finish out his career the way it started _ as an assistant coach.
The 49ers were happy to oblige him, with a nudge from some of his former players.
In the process, San Francisco showed it could still compete with Dallas and Pittsburgh _ for attention, if nothing else. The 49ers' announcement Tuesday succeeded in diverting some of the Super Bowl limelight to what they're doing to try to get back to the championship even as the Cowboys and Steelers prepared for Sunday's Super Bowl at Tempe, Ariz.
The Hall of Fame coach, who guided the 49ers to their first three Super Bowl titles in the 1980s, rejoined the team Tuesday as an administrative assistant to the coaching staff. Walsh will specialize in the offensive system he developed into an NFL powerhouse, but it's uncertain whether he'll be on the sidelines or in the press box during game days.
``I'm here to be a mechanic,'' Walsh said. ``That's how I started, as a technician. I'm returning to my roots.''
Walsh, 64, said he has no ambitions for his old job as 49ers head coach, which his onetime defensive coordinator, George Seifert, assumed upon Walsh's 1989 departure. At this point in his career, he just wants to teach the game.
``I'm working for George now,'' Walsh said. ``There is no agenda. I'm not preparing to launch myself off into space somewhere, into some other city or some other venue or some other role. I'm going to enjoy this.''
Seifert, who quashed a 1992 plan to bring Walsh back as a consultant, said he was more confident and secure in his own position now _ Seifert has won two Super Bowls as head coach _ and welcomed Walsh in his new role.
``If there are some bruises with regards to egos, so what?'' Seifert said. ``Because ultimately what we're trying to accomplish here is to put together the best football team possible, and if that means Coach Walsh is part of this again, then that's what we're going to do.''
Seifert insisted it was his idea to bring Walsh back as a mentor and adviser to offensive coordinator Marc Trestman, but a source close to the team said the move was initiated in part by a group of players.
The group, which included stars Steve Young and Jerry Rice, was unhappy over Seifert's offensive meddling. The tinkering included the first play call in the 27-17 divisional playoff loss to Green Bay, when Young passed to Adam Walker, playing with a broken thumb. Walker fumbled and the Packers' Craig Newsome returned it for a touchdown.
Club president Carmen Policy did not return a phone call Tuesday night seeking comment on the influence of the players in Walsh's return.
During an earlier news conference, Policy said the notion of bringing Walsh back was discussed extensively last weekend in meetings with team owner Eddie DeBartolo, Seifert and Clark. The discussions centered on what went wrong during the 49ers' season, which ended when the defending champions were upset by the Packers.
``The conclusion we all came up with was at this moment in all of our lives it was very comfortable. We all felt it would work,'' Policy said.
Seifert said part of it was a reaction to the way the 49ers' offense stumbled in the playoff loss to the Packers and a season-ending loss to Atlanta that cost San Francisco the top seed in the NFC.
He also said the move shouldn't be seen as a loss of confidence in Trestman, whose top-heavy pass play calling was dictated by injuries in the offensive line and the loss of two running backs _ Ricky Watters to free agency and William Floyd to injury.
``It takes a complete package to be successful, and personnel are a good part of it,'' Walsh added. ``I think Marc Trestman suffered because he didn't have the firepower some of the other coordinators had. ... Green Bay had more firepower, to be honest with you.''
Trestman said initially he was taken aback by Walsh's return but is now comfortable with the idea.
``When George came to me initially, I was shocked that Bill would want to do this, but the more I thought about it the more enthusiastic I got,'' Trestman said. ``He brings so much to the table. I'm really genuinely excited about this.''
Policy said Walsh would not be involved in personnel decisions, which will remain with general manager Dwight Clark and other front-office officials.
Walsh, a member of the Hall of Fame, has not coached in the NFL since 1989. He left the 49ers for a three-year stint as a television analyst. He also operated quarterback camps and worked for the NFL in an advisory role in the past year.
He spent the previous three years in a second tour as Stanford University coach before resigning in 1994. Walsh passed up a chance to work with the 49ers as a consultant and took the coaching job at Stanford in 1992. The school gave Walsh his first major head coaching job in 1977.
Retired quarterback Joe Montana, who won four Super Bowls with the 49ers, including three with Walsh, said the reunion of Seifert and Walsh was beguiling but didn't think there would be friction.
``I don't know of any problems between them,'' Montana said. ``I think things will work out. Bill installed the whole offensive system. It's evolved some over the years, but he can still get it back to the basics.''
Added former 49ers center Randy Cross: ``You got a great offensive coach like that with 20 years experience and he wants to get back into coaching. Do you want him on your side or the other side? I think it's a great move for the 49ers.''